Blank hopes to reset franchise back on a winning path

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons owner Arthur Blank and president Rich McKay discussing new direction of franchise after firings of coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank had a simple directive for the team moving in a new direction after the firings of coach Dan Quinn, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica.

“(Laughs), New direction?” Blank said on Tuesday. "It’s called winning. You know, that expression from Al Davis, ‘Just win baby,’ or something like that. May he rest in peace.

“I think we need to win. That’s what our fans are counting on.”

Quinn, who guided the Falcons to Super Bowl LI, finished with a 43-42 (.506) regular-season record. He was 46-44 (.511) overall.

Blank said the loss to Carolina on Sunday was not a key factor.

“This is not a .500 ball organization,” Blank said. “This is not a .500 ball team. That is not what we promised our fans.”

After the Super Bowl, which the Falcons lost after building a 28-3 lead, the franchise went in a different direction. Blank said he took the last three seasons and the first five games of 2020 into consideration when he chose to fire Quinn and Dimitroff.

“It’s called lack of winning, so the problems we have to solve are all of the problems that keep us from winning,” Blank said. "I’d add, this is not just a response to 0-5. It’s a response to really almost three and a half years, post-Super Bowl, we are playing less than .500 ball.

“When you look at that many games over a period of time, and you adjust for injuries, which every NFL team has, we just haven’t performed to the level that we are capable of. We think our talent is better than the record that we have at this point.”

Blank doesn’t seem to have considered that the talent on his roster might be overrated.

“For a variety of reasons, we weren’t getting the results that we needed to get,” Blank said. “The time for change was now. Although, it’s difficult and sad personally, we all know that Dan is one of the most beloved coaches in the NFL. Thomas has been with me for 13 of my 20 years as an owner, done a lot of wonderful things.”

But it was time for a change.

“I would say, probably two reasons, one is that we made it clear and they made it clear, there was kind of a mutual, collateral, togetherness in a circle, that this year was going to be a playoff year or bust, if you will,” Blank said. “Dan signed up for that and so did Thomas. So did this owner and so did Mr. (Rich) McKay our president and CEO and our fans did, too. It was pretty clear at 0-5 that’s not going to happen.”

Blank didn’t want to second guess his decision to bring Quinn and Dimitroff back after the team went 7-9 last season. He got fired up about the 6-2 finish and road wins at New Orleans, San Francisco and Carolina.

“In my opinion, we had every reason to think this situation, if anything, would get better,” Blank said. "It would rollover and get better given free agency and drafting. It hasn’t. When you go back and look at the last three years plus five games, our record has been less than .500.

“That’s never what I’m about personally. That’s not what I promised Atlanta in 2001 when we acquired the franchise. It’s not what Rich is about. It’s not what any of us is about in any of our businesses. It is the best or nothing. That philosophy is true with our football team.”

Blank was perhaps trying to win back some of the fans, some of whom have defaulted on the PSL payments at the plush Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“We thought this was the right time to do it,” Blank said. “There was nothing particular about this one loss. We could have rationalized it for any one of the losses or the next one, whenever that might be, hopefully there will be no more.”

Raheem Morris, the team’s defensive coordinator, was named the interim coach.

“We felt like Raheem was the right fit,” McKay said.

The Falcons will consider hiring a search firm to help find Quinn and Dimitroff’s replacements. Blank gave his holistic view of what the new coach would look like. He doesn’t believe it has to be an offensive coach.

“We’ll look for A, a great leader, a difference-maker,” Blank said. “There are a number for coaches around the NFL who aren’t available who we all know are real difference makers. We have to find our own version of that. But if you don’t find a version of that, what you find is somebody who’s going to play .500 ball.”

Falcons' next four games

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Falcons at Vikings at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18

Lions at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday Oct. 25

Falcons at Panthers at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29

Broncos at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8

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