Blank says Falcons are playoff team again (and maybe more)

Arthur Blank says his optimism about the Falcons this season is based more on facts than hope. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Arthur Blank (right) says his optimism now is based more on facts than hope. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Having owned the Falcons for eight fluctuating seasons, Arthur Blank has come to a reasoned conclusion: It’s easier to predict success in business than football.

“Once we got things rolling at Home Depot, we never had an undue sense of urgency about opening our next store because we knew once we go there, that we’d be successful,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way in sports. It’s a game, and leagues like the NFL are designed for parity. At HD, if a guy breaks his leg, sometimes he still shows up for work. In football, his season is over.”

Given that backdrop, as well as experiencing everything from spineless and self-immolating head coaches to a derailed former quarterback, it would be understandable if Blank were gun-shy about making predictions. But when asked if he believed the 2010 Falcons were a playoff team, Blank responded like a self-made billionaire who had just been asked if he believed in capitalism.

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“Yes,” he said. “Didn’t take long for me to answer that, did it?

“My aspirations for the franchise is that we be one of the five, six or seven really important teams in the NFL that everybody watches every year, like the Colts, the Steelers, the Packers. We’re very close, if not already there.”

The Falcons open training camp Friday morning in Flowery Branch. In just over five months, expect them to play in the postseason.

This is not a franchise where grand projections come easily. But coming off consecutive winning seasons — even if the 9-7 record a year ago could be seen as a step back — says something about long sought-after stability. Offseason additions to the defense (Dunta Robinson, Sean Weatherspoon), a slimmer running back (Michael Turner) and a quarterback (Matt Ryan) whom some believe will make the often-seen jump in Year 3 says something about direction. The arrow still points up.

The Falcons will be players this year. They’re in the same division as the Super Bowl champions (New Orleans), but some prognosticators already are picking them to win the NFC South. Maybe they have reached that “important” status the owner spoke of.

Blank has felt good before.

After the 2002 season, when the Falcons upset Green Bay in the playoffs. (The next year, Michael Vick broke his leg.)

After 2004 when they went to the NFC title game in Jim Mora’s first season as coach. (Mora turned out to be less a franchise cornerstone than a sinkhole.)

After 2006, when Blank and then-general manager Rich McKay took a leap on a college coach (Bobby Petrino) who was thought to be just the guy to rejuvenate Vick. (The quarterback never made it to the season; the invertebrate of a coach bolted after 13 games, later to be seen making appropriate pig noises at a midnight news conference in Arkansas.)

This is different, he said.

“In the past, I think my optimism was based more on hope,” Blank said. “This time it’s based more on facts. The work has already been done. [General manager] Thomas [Dimitroff] and Smitty [coach Mike Smith] have done an outstanding job over the first three years, building this roster together. It’s all been very well calculated, well thought out. This isn’t like five-card draw [poker] where you can just put all your cards back and get new ones and then expect things to work. There needs to be a vision.”

Blank said he’s not waking up in the middle of the night after a dream, screaming, “Super Bowl!”  But he sees the Falcons as being in the hunt.

“If you’re in the playoffs, the answer is, yes, you have a chance,” he said. “Obviously there are a lot of factors. Injuries. Home field. How are you playing. But we just want to give ourselves that chance.”

Facts, not hope, indicate they’ll have that chance.

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Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

49 comments Add your comment

uga_b

July 29th, 2010
1:34 pm

In the past this team was mercurial, but now, I feel it is more sustained direction. Blank echoes these sentiments.

uga_b

July 29th, 2010
1:34 pm

old bird

July 29th, 2010
1:39 pm

Jeff, I also consider the return to health of Jerry, Williams and Moore to be great additions to the defense. By the way, I hate to play editor but I do have a journalism degree, I think you meant undue instead of undo.

old bird

July 29th, 2010
1:40 pm

I just read my last sentence. Feel free to edit my punctuation and sentence structure.

First...3rd responder

July 29th, 2010
1:48 pm

Enter your comments here

FELIX

July 29th, 2010
1:51 pm

THIRD!!!!! WOW

waynester

July 29th, 2010
1:59 pm

I like the way you politely pointed out that we have seen this ALL before with this franchise but all cynicism aside, I share Blank’s optimism. A cultural sea-change of the kind being attempted by Blank is a long-term undertaking but we’re already seeing the first fruits. It’s exciting seeing the metamorphosis happening more quickly than expected….

POAD

July 29th, 2010
2:03 pm

Falcons have to get a few winning sesons back-to-back before they can be more than just making the playoffs.

Real American

July 29th, 2010
2:10 pm

Bless his heart.

POAD

July 29th, 2010
2:12 pm

If you ain’t first you are just poking fun.

F-105 Thunderchief

July 29th, 2010
2:20 pm

“We’re very close, if not already there.”

Uh, sorry, Art, will take years of sustained success to be there.

NOLA

July 29th, 2010
2:22 pm

‘cons still drinking that jim jones koolaid.

Arthur used to be slim and trim now look at him he is gaining weight and loking just like any old geezer.

He relishes for the good old days when he was the top dog and the dome was packed.

Now back to reality ‘cons.

Stop da presses. ‘cons are just trying to sell tickets. the only way you will make the playoffs is to beat the who dat nation and that will not happen.

The Saints are battle tested and perform during crunch time. ‘cons collapse during crunch time.

Thanks for playing during 2010. There is always next year. :)

Sonny Clusters

July 29th, 2010
2:26 pm

We read that Arthur Blank likes Dairy Queen but has trouble with the narrow cups and that nose. An NFL owner with stuff on his nose is hard to take seriously.

Kane337

July 29th, 2010
2:26 pm

If the Falcons can get that first round playoff BYE they really got a good shot to make some noise. With their schedule and if relatively healthy (like in 2008) I think they can do it.

Kane337

July 29th, 2010
2:28 pm

N – New
O – Orleans
L – Loses
A – Again

NOLA

July 29th, 2010
2:28 pm

At HD, if a guy breaks his leg, sometimes he still shows up for work. In football, his season is over.”
—–

Poor Arthur, he is exhibiting signs of old-timers (I know it is alzheimers) disease. Does he realize that there are backups and you are supposed to coach up your backups.

The owner makes excuses for his organization no wonder the fans have a ton of them.

Someone tell him injuries are part of the game. Poor Arthur, I hope he is able to go out and get fresh air occasionally. :)

Kane337

July 29th, 2010
2:28 pm

Oh, saw someone else post that a while back. Worth repeating.

mountain_jim

July 29th, 2010
2:41 pm

in the payoffs

Ryder

July 29th, 2010
2:48 pm

Now back to reality is right NOLA, because that cupcake schedule you had last year will be gone and you will get smacked right back to your typical 8-8. Atlanta almost took you guys out with a backup QB. You won’t be nearly as lucky this year.

Remember bama your boys come into our crib late in the season and will get that behind handed to them!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajc sports editor, Myron Abernathy and Jason Gorman, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: Arthur Blank says #Falcons are a playoff team (and maybe more). #SuperBowl http://bit.ly/cfCqtw [...]

Paul

July 29th, 2010
3:05 pm

The progress by this team has, heretofore, been impressive and engendered hope. Alas, this is an Atlanta sports franchise. Hope walks a plank in this city. as the Braves squander their once great lead, the Falcons begin training camp…three months after the Hawks forgot to show up in round two.

Let’s chat in December.

dbird1

July 29th, 2010
3:13 pm

Geoff

July 29th, 2010
3:24 pm

i like Blank’s direction for this franchise, its good to know he wants to be one of the top 5-8 teams that people talk about every year.

Blue Fender

July 29th, 2010
3:41 pm

No
One
Likes
A**hol*s

Gritz Blitz

July 29th, 2010
3:44 pm

I believe. I believe. Let’s get this season started. Go Falcons!

PaulieOldschool

July 29th, 2010
3:49 pm

I’ve been supporting this team since the late 70’s. In good times, and there were a few then, there was always a sense of walking on a tightrope–when was the team going to fall off? I am so impressed with the quiet confidence that flows from TD through Smitty to the players. It’s as close as I’ve ever seen this team come to a feeling of “we can win every Sunday.” I like that in a team. People here have long said that they would support a team that played hard every game, gave it all they had every game, even if they lose occasionally, that’s the kind of team to have. People, we have that kind of team right here, right now in River City. Get Spoon signed and let’s go FALCONS!

Los Angeles

July 29th, 2010
3:52 pm

God almighty, if Blank read these idiotic blogs, he’d probably give Atlanta a good ole MV7 middle finger and move this team to a city who appreciates his and his team, right here in Hollywood.!!!

Bring the Falcons out here Authur, and earn five times the money you can get with that wishy-washy fan base . . .

NOHater

July 29th, 2010
3:56 pm

NOLA, you are exactly the reason no one outside of NO pulls for the ‘Aints. Maybe somebody blows up the levees next time for real!

Jeff Schultz

July 29th, 2010
4:36 pm

Uga_b: Agree, and congrats: It’s not every day a reader works “mercurial” into his comments. You’ve raised the bar, sir.

Jeff Schultz

July 29th, 2010
4:37 pm

Old — I due. I mean, I do. I’ll fix (if editor hasn’t gotten to it already). Thanks.

Jeff Schultz

July 29th, 2010
4:43 pm

Rescued Husband — Glad I can be your wingman.

[...] ♦  Blank says Falcons are playoff team again (and maybe more) [...]

MAD ONE

July 29th, 2010
6:10 pm

Someone please stop Blank from sucking on that Bottle!!!! 9-7 again NO PLAYOFFS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Keith

July 29th, 2010
8:36 pm

This is a well-run, well-coached organization over the last few years. It’s been fun to watch coming from Ohio and seeing the contrast all of those years as I watched the dismal Bengals both on the field and in the front office.

I’m starting to become a fan. I jumped on board my first year here when they were….shall we say, not so great. Then the next year with Matty and a great season which exceeded everyone’s expectations. But last year I made a breakthrough. :) While dating a girl (who is now my fiance) who had family season tickets, I attended almost every home game last year…all but one actually. We are getting married in the next 3 mos. Looks like I’ll be attending a few more games…and be just a little more of a dirty bird.

famousfalcon

July 29th, 2010
9:53 pm

Enter your comments here

famousfalcon

July 29th, 2010
9:53 pm

@keith
You lucky S.O.B

Keith

July 30th, 2010
1:30 am

Keith

July 30th, 2010
1:31 am

About all you can say……except for

GO FALCONS! :)

Dawg-Hatin' Jacket

July 30th, 2010
6:18 am

Jeff, I don’t consider last year’s 9-7 a step back. When you consider the amount of injuries to key players, at worst you have to call it even. Those injuries cost us at least two, maybe three games, so you are really looking at the equivalent of 11-5 or 12-4 without them. So I think we are right where we should be.

The optimism is justified. TD and Smitty have done a great job putting together the pieces. The offense will be fine. If the defense can step up like I believe it will, and a couple of balls bounce our way, I don’t see any reason we aren’t a Super Bowl contender.

FALCONSFAN

July 30th, 2010
8:44 am

NOLA,
I hope you don’t make any excuses if Brees goes down with a blown out shoulder this year. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.

BigGAdawg

July 30th, 2010
10:56 am

MAD ONE, What an appropriate name, given your comments. Either Mad as in crazy or Mad as in angry (if you are really a N.O. fan and dread what is coming your way.)

Dawg-Hatin’ Jacket, I agree with you on the effect of the injuries. One could also attribute two of the losses to the meltdown in the kicker. Great career, bad last season. Give back two games and we are in the playoffs. In addition to those factors one must consider that we had the 4th toughest schedule in the NFL last year and several top teams had their bye week right before playing us.

Who would have thunk it? Me in agreement with a Jacket? LOL But when you are right you are right!

If we can stay reasonably healthy, especially at key positions, playoffs are for certain. How far always remains to be seen but the sky is the limit with these guys.

Singletary

July 30th, 2010
12:10 pm

Jeff, BEST EVER description of Petrino/Coach Pig Suey in my parlance; even NFL Network where Theisman said he was useless as they named him the #1 coach who should have stayed in college — yours is better

“The invertebrate of a coach bolted after 13 games, later to be seen making appropriate pig noises at a midnight news conference in Arkansas.” Still laughing.

Dwayne

July 30th, 2010
3:46 pm

Man, I was just thinking about last season. That schedule was brutal!! Four teams coming off of byes,our bye week in week four(way too early), and the fourth hardest schedule in the league but yet, we came away with nine wins with a lot of nagging injuries. I can defitnitely see 12 to 14 wins for this 2010 Falcons team. Hopefully Smitty will make all of the right decisions, which im sure he will. Those decisions being replacing Erik Coleman with William Moore, starting Chris Owens opposite Dunta Robinson, starting Sean Weatherspoon for Mike Peterson, and starting Kroy Bierman for Jamaal Anderson. If all of this takes place, then the Falcons will be very potent, opportunistic, and explosive both offensively and defensively. Shann Schiliger will be a special teams ace! Watch. Lets go Falcons!! Just think about it, Thomas DeCoud the ballhawk and William Moore the headhunter.. What yall think?

[...] ♦  Blank says Falcons are playoff team again (and maybe more) [...]

florida falcon

July 31st, 2010
7:22 am

@Keith- Welcome to the falcon family. It seems as if you are marrying into a good football family. Good thing you didn’t shack up with one of New Orleans Bimbos, they washed up everywhere after the hurricane in 05. They blew in with the hurricane (no pun intended).

nes

August 1st, 2010
7:56 am

Mr. Blank sure is optimistic, first Ryan and Turner must show they are truly over their injuries for us to make the playoffs and more. Read up on Turf toe, it ended Deion Sanders career! i hope the Offensive line just had an off-year and are ready to block on passing downs to protect Ryan, he may be one leg/foot tackle from going down again for season this time. Well, let’s all stay positive that this is the falcons year!

sam

August 1st, 2010
3:53 pm

“to a derailed former quarterback”
Wow…still taking shots at mike vick. i guess these ajc writers will never let it go.

Not a Falcons fan

August 1st, 2010
6:28 pm

It happens every year at this time. Falcon fans say this is the year the Falcons are Super Bowl Champs. This year is will be like the last 40 + years. At the end of the season, Falcon fans will be shaking their heads and saying next year. Sorry Falcon fans, this is not the year.

Vick Supporter

August 2nd, 2010
11:37 am