It says something about the Atlanta Falcons’ history that their winningest coach, Dan Reeves, has an overall record under .500 with the team. And that the second-winningest coach, Leeman Bennett, was fired after a playoff game.
But that’s the case. Now the Falcons are 3-1 in 2009 and coming off a playoff appearance in a season in which they went 11-5 under a rookie QB, a first-year head coach and a new general manager.
Falcons fans, of course, are wondering whether the team that has never had consecutive winning seasons will break the pattern. Owner Arthur Blank, in a speech (10/8/09) to the Atlanta Press Club, made his case for the fact that the team has a sufficient foundation for winning.
He said he’s focused on building a “sustainably winning organization,” and made comparisons with the way he built Home Depot, the successful home improvement chain he co-founded with Bernie Marcus. Blank noted that at Home Depot, the corporate brass focused on “what’s wrong. That is the mentality of the football team,” Blank said. After last year’s playoff run ended, the Falcons added Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez and linebacker Mike Peterson. He emphasized that the Falcons are looking at 2009 with a “humble and hungry” attitude.
Blank talked of the “shared vision” between coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff. Sounds much like the setup of the “Grits Blitz” days of the late ’70s and early ’80s, which produced three playoff teams in five years (1978, ’80, ’82). But yes, no back-to-back winning seasons.
The Falcons owner, though, also has to focus on non-football matters, and he was open about the fact that the team desires a new stadium to stay financially competitive with other NFL teams. He noted that 25 of the 31 other teams have stadiums newer than the Georgia Dome. “Our competitive edge is dulling,” he said. The Falcons have committed $53 million to making it happen, with Blank saying he expects support from the public sector. Scouting and planning for a new facility is in “early stage.” The Falcons’ lease at the Georgia Dome expires in 2020, or when bonds are paid off.
The owner is also mindful of the recession that Atlanta and the rest of the country is in. He feels that a recovery will happen, though “it will be one only a statistician could love,” meaning that it will be slow. He feels there will be some “permanent scarring” among consumers that could force the Falcons to be more responsive.
And the owner addressed the controversial matter of former Falcons QB Michael Vick. Of course, Vick is back in the NFL with Philadelphia after a prison term and a scandal that forced the Falcons’ rebuilding.
“I’m happy he’s in Philadelphia,” Blank told the press club. “I’m excited that he will be back in the Georgia Dome (on Dec. 6), and it will be interesting to see him in a different uniform. … I’m supportive of the commissioner’s decision (to reinstate Vick).”