Arthur Blank: “No question we have a better team”

Paul Newberry, the fine Associated Press writer and a native Atlantan, has this thing he does when we start wondering how the local NFL team managed to mess up this time. He points to the Falcons’ logo and says, “It’s the bird. Don’t underestimate the power of that bird.”

By now, we’re all familiar with this trail of tears. This is the franchise that: Led Dallas by 10 points with 3:05 to play and lost a bitter playoff game; hired Marion Campbell as head coach — twice!; drafted Aundray Bruce; saw the NFL’s leading citizen arrested on the eve of Super Bowl XXXIII; saw its franchise quarterback go to jail and its coach leave for Arkansas in the dark of night.

And then, the iron-clad capper: After 43 years in operation, the Falcons still haven’t had consecutive winning seasons.

More and more people are writing nice things about the Falcons than at any time since … well, 2005, when they were coming off an NFC championship game appearance and were 6-2 at the midpoint and still couldn’t break .500. And this, speaking as someone who has learned not to underestimate the negative power of that bird, makes me nervous. I wondered if I was alone in this angst, so I asked Arthur Blank, who owns the club. Speaking from his ranch in Montana, he said:

“I get nervous, like every fan does, but history has nothing to do with it. There’s no question we have a better team in 2009 than we did in 2008. That said, we do have a tougher schedule, and you always have to be concerned about an injury to the wrong player. But I love our coaching staff and I love our general manager. We’re in a very good place.”

Agreed. I like the Falcons’ management more than I ever have. But still … this is a franchise steeped in the art of the cosmic letdown. Example: In Blank’s first season as owner, the Falcons made the playoffs and beat Green Bay and were widely tipped as a Super Bowl team the next year. Then the franchise quarterback broke his leg.

Blank now: “I don’t think there’s any jinx. That doesn’t enter my mind. I know we’ll be very well prepared and we’ll play with a lot of energy. Now whether that translates [to a winning season], I can’t know. But the press we’re getting seems to be appropriate, and when the season is over I hope people will say, ‘We should have given them even more praise.’

Will the Falcons have a winning season?

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“As an organization, we were facing a lot of questions last season we don’t have now. We didn’t know how our new coaching staff would work together. We didn’t know if Matt Ryan was going to be a terrific NFL quarter in Year 1 or Year 3. We didn’t know if Michael Turner could carry the standard of being a starting running back. We didn’t know if Sam Baker and Curtis Lofton and Harry Douglas could play. We have positive answers to all those questions now.”

Blank doesn’t offer a prediction, but he is by nature an optimist. A year ago we were wondering if the Falcons might go 1-15. “The only person who thought we’d go 1-15 was Kim Schreckengost,” he said, laughing and referring to his longtime aide, who was listening on the other line. “Arthur Blank and Mark Bradley knew that team wasn’t going to go 1-15.”

Indeed, the famous fretter Bradley picked the 2008 Falcons to go 5-11. They went 11-5. This time he’s saying they’ll be 10-6, winners for a second consecutive season. But he’s crossing his fingers. He has learned not to mess with the bird.

159 comments Add your comment

The Grinch

July 10th, 2009
11:17 am

Agreed, Mark; barring major injury they should have another winning season. People shouldn’t be disappointed, however, if we don’t equal last season’s success. I do think this team is better, but the sked is ruthless. If we go 11-5 again and win a playoff game we deserve to be talked about with the big boys.

Greg From Marietta

July 10th, 2009
11:17 am

Bring on the Season!! I’m suffering from Football withdrawal.

Marcus

July 10th, 2009
11:20 am

MB,
I feel you. Every team I pull for (ATL franchises and my alma mater, Florida A&M) I always approach the season with cautious optimism, never underestimating an opponent, and always wary of intangibles and unforseen circumstances that could undercut expectations.
Good interview.

Mrs. Chanandler Bong

July 10th, 2009
11:30 am

While I don’t think we’ll see the kind of “break-out” year we had last year, I think we”re still looking at a winning season and and what I hope is the beginning of long-term success.

Now, on to more important things. Will Arthur Blank’s next move be purchasing the Braves? Say yes, say yes, say yes…

FALCONS SORRY

July 10th, 2009
11:32 am

AUTHUR BLANK! YOU ARE THE DEVIL! YOU NEED TO LOSE ALL YOUR MONEY FOR THE SORRY WAY YOU DONE VICK! ALL OF IT! YOU CANT GO AROUND TREATING GOOD PEOPLE LIKE THAT! VICK MADE YOU RICH AND THEN YOU STAB HIM IN THE BACK! YOU ARE GOING TO BURN FOR WHAT YOU DONE VICK AND MV7 THE MAN WILL HAVE HIS REVENGE ON YOU WHEN HE WINS THAT SUPPER BOWL TROPHY SOMEWHERE ELSE WITHOUT YOU OR ANY OF YOUR HELP OR MONEY! WE STILL GOT YOUR BACK MIKE!!!!!!

Greg

July 10th, 2009
11:33 am

It’s all about the schedule, full of really good teams (and a couple much-improved teams). Are we a better team this year? Probably. But we’ll be no better than 8-8. One has to say that our defense is, against the standard of our competition, currently below average.

Michael

July 10th, 2009
11:34 am

I really hope the Falcons make it to the SUPPER BOWL

Herschel Talker

July 10th, 2009
11:40 am

FALCONS SORRY is a racist. No question. And he likes men.

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 10th, 2009
11:46 am

Arthur Blank was rich before he bought the Falcons. That’s kinda how he could afford to buy the team.

[...] starting to wonder if I’m alone. So I spoke with the man who owns the Falcons, and if you click here you’ll discover whether Arthur M. Blank is as skittish as I [...]

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 10th, 2009
11:47 am

“We’re Dooomed” Glump

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 10th, 2009
11:49 am

Hey Michael, me too, I’m hungry. Whats on the menu.

some sense

July 10th, 2009
11:57 am

Good God, Mark…where do some of these loonies come from? Heck, MV7 can win the “supper bowl” every night.

jimmya

July 10th, 2009
11:57 am

the braves need management like this FIRE WREN

Lou

July 10th, 2009
11:58 am

FALSONS SORRY You are delusional!!! “VICK MADE YOU RICH AND THEN YOU STAB HIM IN THE BACK!” Arthur Blank was a billionaire when Michael Vick was still in high school. Arthur Blank made Vick rich by signing him to a ridiculous contract extension. Vick stabbed Blank, the Falcons, the city, and the fans in the back with his careless disregard for the law….Blank didn’t do anything to Michael Vick excpet make him rich. Vick did all the damage to himself. It’s called personal responsibility for your actions.

chzbykr

July 10th, 2009
12:12 pm

Yeah the supper bowl ; where Mike asks” would you like fries with that”.

Andyman

July 10th, 2009
12:18 pm

That was the most pathetic rant FALCONS SORRY. Vick was the one who broke the law by being the money man in a dog fighting operation, and taking part in killing some of the dogs. I’d say he did it all to himself, but I hope he wins the supper bowl too. That’s the closest he’ll get to the Super Bowl.

Terrell

July 10th, 2009
12:19 pm

FALCONS SORRY,

Please you’re embrassing intelligent guys like myself with all this he did Vick wrong, and for the record Blank was already rich. He was the co-founder of Home Depot which flourished under him. It’s more and more obvious that no matter how good this team does there will be people like you who think Mike can do no wrong and there are those who think he’s corrupt. Between the 2 extremes, there are fans (black and white and yellow, red, and maybe ivory) that are ready to move on and enjoy Atlanta Falcons’ football.

NCFalconFan

July 10th, 2009
12:19 pm

Bradley, how can I get your job?

Mark Bradley

July 10th, 2009
12:20 pm

Thanks, Marcus, but there really wasn’t much to this interview. I asked one question. Blank answered it. (He gives extensive answers.) Then we talked for a minute. Then we hung up.

roan st

July 10th, 2009
12:22 pm

I think not signing foxworth will come back to haunt them. This is the only move I have questioned since the new management took over the team. Maybe they will prove me wrong again and some of these young corners will step up to the plate. The health of Abraham and the youth of the secondary has to be the two biggest concerns that i have for this team. I wish the falcons would have went after Jason Taylor because he would have been a wonderful insurance policy for ABE. Plus I believe he signed just a one year contract with Miami.

Algonquin J. Calhoun

July 10th, 2009
12:23 pm

The Falcons will be much improved this upcoming season. Adding Tony Gonzalez was a brilliant move! The offensive unit, with Turner, Ryan, Gonzalez, White and the rest is going to be as productive and as explosive as that of the Cardinals. The defense, which played exceedingly well last season will be improved as well. The Falcons will, for the first time in their history, have consecutive winning seasons. They will also, for the second time in their history, go to the Super Bowl. Before last season, I predicted the Falcons would win at least nine games. My prognostication was in direct opposition to yours. You said the Falcons would settle for a five win season and be happy if they won that many. I based my guess on the atmosphere I saw Dimitroff and Smith constructing and that’s only gotten better. This is not a fluke team! Faith is based on things not seen but believed in anyway. It no longer requires faith to believe in the Falcons. We’ve seen them rise up out of the despair of constant losing. They are now one of the best teams in the NFL. The record this season will be 12-4 and they will go to the Super Bowl!

Terrell

July 10th, 2009
12:24 pm

jimmya,

The Braves do have management like this. They are getting rid of the old timers slowly but surely to give their young talent a chance to play. What has to happen is change in coach so that we won’t be seeing Bobby’s favorites out there. It took 2 seasons before Prado got his chance to start when he was clearly better than Johnson, and the same for Diaz. I do see your point however, the Braves did give Chipper a 3 year extension evern though he hasn’t been healthy the past 4 or 5 seasons, but I digress

Paddy

July 10th, 2009
12:25 pm

Falcon Sorry… I am happy for Mr Blank and proud. He treated Vick like any employer would treat a lier and now a convicted felon. He showed him the door and said never come back. A tip of the hat to Mr Blank. We as fans now can also be pround we have team players who are good citizens.

Bryan G.

July 10th, 2009
12:28 pm

I just don’t know how the Falcons are going to pull off a big year with all the holes they have on defense. They still need a shutdown corner and better linebacking. I think 8-8 is about right.

Supes

July 10th, 2009
12:31 pm

Mark,

I think 12-4 is definitely achievable. All of the people with the “schedule” crap, tell me how do you know exactly HOW good will those teams be the week the Falcons play them? You just never know! Tom Brady can blow out his knee again, then what? Will you be afraid of the “big bat Pats still?” All I’m saying is, the schedule is what it is, nothing more. You don’t play football on paper.

The Falcons will be IMPROVED on offense for sure, and let’s hope Defensively as well, if our top Defensive Players picked in the 09 draft can step up!

Last year we went 11-5, should have beated the Saints (away game) and Denver (home game), we were 1 play away from winning each game, so we could have went 13-3.

I know people look at the darn schedule and are afraid to predict anything more than 10 wins, well fine, I’m saying 12-4 right now. I guess we’ll see who’s right or wrong in six months!

Atlanta Falcons will be NFC south champs, have a bye week and host a 2nd round playoff game. How does that sound. Now it doesn’t guarantee a darn thing, we saw what happened to the Panthers last playoff season…but that’s my predicition and expectation of this 2009 Falcons team.

Skirt Chaser

July 10th, 2009
12:33 pm

While Bernie Marcus was widely recognized as the “Brain” behind Home Depot, Arthur Blank was considered the “Genitalia.”

Settled any sexual harassment lawsuits out of court lately, Artie?

Matty Ice

July 10th, 2009
12:37 pm

Mark,

I agree with your assesment of the Falcons at 10-6. Actually even 9-7 with the much tougher schedule will be an accomplishment. With the NFC South playing the NFC East and AFC East this year, I believe 10-6 would win the division. I also believe that the only playoff bound team in the NFC South will be the division winner due to difficulty of schedule.

Bottom-line, if Falcons go 9-7 or better, I think it will be a sign of improvement.

Mac

July 10th, 2009
12:43 pm

If there’s continued growth on the part of Matt “Red” Ryan and the younger, faster defense is also better, the Falcons will have a great year.

Calvin G. Sims, Sr.

July 10th, 2009
12:47 pm

Last year I more wished than predicted that the Falcons would go 5-11 which would be 1 greater than the previous year. To my great joy (and countless others) they went 11-5.

This year, I am wishing that they will go 9-7 and break the “curse.” Of course, I would love to see them actually WIN the “Supper” Bowl, but I must say, that I love this team and if they go 0-16, I will love them no less.

I can’t wait for football season (the only sport I care for) to start so that I can make nachos and watch my favorite team (two guesses – the first of which does not count) take the field.

I am nervous about the defense, but after last season, you just have to trust the judgment of those who make the decisions. I feel great about the offense, and I am sure they will keep us in EVERY game. We will probably see some high scoring games, as well.

Finally, can’t we just all get along. Can’t we just focus on our team and be thankful that this city has one of only 32 teams in the world. Everybody, take a deep breath and repeat after me:

GO FALCONS!!!

rebar

July 10th, 2009
12:48 pm

Mark, do you have to keep bringing up that loss to Dallas? I destroyed some perfertly good furniture that day. Don’t know where Ed Jones or Rick Byas are today, but I hope they’re miserable!

Clay

July 10th, 2009
12:48 pm

Let’s stop talking about the schedule. No one ever says “The Pats should be good this year, but look at their schedule! The Colts are pretty good, but the schedule is a killer!” If the Falcons win, then the only talk about the schedule will be about the bad luck of the opposite team because they have to play the Falcons…

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 10th, 2009
12:51 pm

Mark, tell the truth, you are FALCONS SORRY. You are the David Paul of the newspaper.

EW

July 10th, 2009
12:56 pm

Falcons Sorry, let vick go win that “SUPPER BOWL” wherever he wants. Maybe he should go to Cleveland, there fans have a Dog Pound there, he’d be right at home. MV7 should that ARTHUR BLANK for giving him the money to finance his dog fighting ring. I guess that’s what happens when you give someone young and dumb too much money. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree though, look at his brother, or should I say BRO so you understand, he’s a F**K up too.

EW

July 10th, 2009
12:57 pm

damn, my typing skills are falling off. MV7 should **thank**

matt r

July 10th, 2009
12:59 pm

AB, buy the Braves!

Phil McCrotch

July 10th, 2009
1:04 pm

Supper Bowl! Priceless. Too many jokes. Yeah, type in all caps there pal…we can’t hear you!! Supper bowl. What an idiot!!! I can’t stop laughing!!

DC from Conyers

July 10th, 2009
1:04 pm

Sorry Falcon’s has been smoking something that is not legal. Aurthur put all of his confidence in MV. He trusted him and treated him like a son. I so think MV ought to have a chance to proceed with a career. He has served his time for ADMITTING to a felony. I wish we here in ATL would never print his name in the ajc, I mean never. I am so sick of hearing about him. Way to much baggage with MV.

I am proud of the Falcons for being smart to hire Thomas and giving him control of the team. He is a bright young man and looks like he has made all the right decisions. The Falcons will be fine this year and years to come. The off seasons acquisitions will improve the team Aurthur is a Great owner, if you don’t believe this you have not been a fan of the Falcons to long. Thanks Aurthur and Thanks Falcons, looking forward to the season. Good luck.

falcon fan

July 10th, 2009
1:04 pm

i couldn’t agree with you more, tjhook. He(surviving home park resident)was doing well until he showed his true ignorance

FalcTech

July 10th, 2009
1:06 pm

FALCONS SORRY, Go wash your two brain cells its time for “Supper Bowl”

Greg

July 10th, 2009
1:07 pm

Algonquin J. Calhoun: the defense did NOT play “exceedingly well” last year. We ended the season ranked 24th out of 32 teams in overall defense. We were behind every team in our conference, too: Jacksonville (17), Carolina (18), and New Orleans (23). We THINK our defense will be better, but actually it’s just a wish/hope. Even if it is better, how much better does it have to be, given our schedule this year, which is much tougher than last year. We have been very tight with the free agent money, as has been mentioned. I think it likely this will come back to bite us on defense. We have no proven pass rush outside Abe. Corners? Who? Linebackers? Average.

Phil McCrotch

July 10th, 2009
1:08 pm

oh, and I love the line “YOU CANT GO AROUND TREATING GOOD PEOPLE LIKE THAT”.. Good people? Good People??!!! OMG this guy should be a standup comedian. Order me a coffin dude cause you are killing me!! HAHAHAHAH!!!

dap01

July 10th, 2009
1:09 pm

It will be nice when we can one day discuss the Falcons without mentioning Vick. He is a plague to this team.

We have very good personnel, coaches and management. That’s such a pleasant change!

Jeff Burrows

July 10th, 2009
1:17 pm

Then stop mentioning him.

Sag Pants

July 10th, 2009
1:19 pm

I “made nachos” when I absent-mindedly stepped off the curb when they delivery truck was coming through the intersection.

Mark Bradley

July 10th, 2009
1:19 pm

Mentioning who?

Buzz

July 10th, 2009
1:23 pm

Falcons Sorry is delusional . . . he probably voted for Obama as well . . . God help us.

FalcTech

July 10th, 2009
1:25 pm

Mentioning anyone from VT

DC from Conyers

July 10th, 2009
1:32 pm

Take Sorry Falcons Laptop from him!!! dc

Mac

July 10th, 2009
1:34 pm

Um, Greg. Jacksonville is not in the Falcons’ division, or even the same conference. Thanks for playing, though.