Since Arthur Blank bought the Atlanta Falcons in 2001, they’ve been to the playoffs three times. Sure, they’ve survived the Michael Vick saga and the Bobby Petrino fiasco over that time, but they’ve also gone just 2-3 in the playoffs since losing in the Super Bowl in 1998.
Is this the year they can make a run back to the title game? The Falcons certainly don’t seem to be a sexy pick, but this will be the third year for franchise quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner could be in for a rebound year.
Now, about those pesky defending Super Bowl champs …
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank joined WCNN in Atlanta with Buck and Kincade to discuss how he moved camp to Atlanta since buying the team, building up the franchise, what could be a special 2010 season, what it’s like to chop a roster down to 53 players, why he’s accessible even when times are tough and the playoff run of a fellow Atlanta sports franchise.
On bringing camp back to Atlanta:
“We had a great relationship with Furman. It’s a wealthy university, very pretty up there, etc. But we wanted to bring camp back to Atlanta. We were up at Furman for six years, but now back in Atlanta for six years. … It really makes the camp and the players and the coaches a lot more accessible to our fans, which is really what it’s all about.”
On how he’s built and transformed the franchise:
“The road has not always been smooth. There have been potholes along the way, but I think we’ve been able to navigate our way through those potholes and around them now. … With the whole coaching staff and the players, I think the organization is in a very good place now. I’m excited about where we are and I’m looking forward to the season.”
On whether this could be a special year for the Falcons:
“I think we’ve had three great draft classes and Matt [Ryan], being in his third year, the third year is a critical year. I think it’s a year of maturity and a year of stepping up for quarterbacks in the NFL. I think that Matt feels that that will be the case this year. We have a lot of talent. There’s no question this is a better team than it was a year ago and we were 9-7 this last year. But you don’t win it by talking about it, you’ve got to go out on the field, you’ve got to focus every day and focus every week.”
On what it’s like to cut a roster to 53:
“It is. It’s very, very hard. For the coaching staff and [the general manager], it’s obviously one of the most important tasks. You build the roster up to 80 and then you’ve got to shape it down to 53. … You’re dealing with men who, since they were 5, 6, 7 years old, they’ve been the very best of the best. When you get down to that juncture and you’re trying to make a decision between Player A and Player B, potentially you’re dashing the hopes that have been built over a lifetime. It’s very important that you do that with respect, not only for the organization and the franchise, but also for the human being that you’re facing.”
On being accessible through good times and bad:
“That’s very much a part of our culture, is to be available, and frankly to be even more available when times are difficult. It’s easy to be available when things are going great. Sometimes when you’re facing adversity, some folks go off and hide someplace. We don’t think that’s the best thing to do.”
On the Atlanta Braves playoff run:
“I’m very excited. They have a young team, a very talented team. It couldn’t happen at a better time, not only for Atlanta, but for Bobby Cox, a Hall of Fame manager. To have his last year be the kind of year that they’ve had, when they weren’t picked by everybody, but have really achieved at a high level. Hopefully they’ll be able to get to that postseason and go fairly deep.”