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Q&A: Arthur Blank discusses the return of the Quinn, Dimitroff

Falcons owner Arthur Blank and president Rich McKay discuss Blank's decision to retain coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank discussed some of the underlying issues behind retaining coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff in a one-on-one interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday.

Here’s what Blank had to say:

Q: Was this the quickest path back to winning and did you put too much weight on the second half of the season?

A: "If we weren't playing the second half of this year the way that we have played. It's one thing if you go into one game and you win a game, etc. But when you play seven competitive games, particularly in the back half of the NFL when you are really into playoff mode and teams are thinking about that. Look at San Francisco, they went from the No. 1 seed to No. 5 seed by losing the game. They had reason to play well. The Saints obviously were playing well. They were trying to secure the playoff bye and still are. Carolina at that time was still in the discussion for a playoff spot. You give great credit to the players.

“You give great credit to the coaches, coaching staff and to the head coach who did the tweaking, made the changes in his own job and his own responsibilities as well as move some other coaches around so that the defensive play-calling was different than the first half of the season. A lot of times you have leaders that are unable to do that and unable to look past their own performance. They believe, well it’s really not me. It’s somebody else. We were fortunate that Dan is reflective guy. A thoughtful guy. He’s a very self-aware person. He’s a good listener. A good learner, and I think that’s what’s made a difference in the second half of the year. I believe all of those things can be carried into 2020.”

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Q: Were you concerned about the wild streaks under Dan Quinn and the lack of consistency?

A: "It does take a while to get there. You want to have that kind of consistency. I'm glad we didn't have it this year because it would have meant the back half of the year would have been as bad as the first half of the year. But I think the ability to play at a sustainable, high level -- by and large when I go back to 2008 when we drafted Matt (Ryan) –- the team is ranked fourth in the NFC in wins and seventh in the NFL in wins. The team has reached a whole different level of being competitive than prior to that. So, I think in the long view, that sustainability, that kind of consistency has been there. But it needs to be a little more consistent during the year for sure."

Q: Coach Mike Smith’s teams stressed “football intelligence.” Coach Quinn stresses “competitive toughness.” Can coach Quinn’s teams marry “football intelligence” with “competitive toughness” moving forward? 

A: "Absolutely. I think the best coaches do that. I really believe that. I think the best coaches in the league don't play cream-puff football. They play with commitment. They play with energy. They play with, I don't want to say hostility. We are not taking prisoners. We are going to win and yet they are disciplined, so that they don't shoot themselves in the foot consistently. That's one of the areas where Dan I think has worked on.

“We had a number of penalties in the first half of the year. We were very heavily penalized in the first half of the year. Back half of the year, not so much. To his credit, he brought in officials. The officials were here for all of the practices and were calling everything. That made our players even more aware of what is going to be called. In the last game we had a few more penalties that we have had, but generally in the second half of the year the penalties have been much lower.”

Q: Is appointing Rich McKay to be over the operation a move to a more traditional NFL front office?  

A: "I think that Rich has a huge knowledge base. He's been involved in football operations for 25 years (the past 15 with the Falcons). ... He did take a five-year hiatus when he helped us get the stadium built. But during that period of time Rich has chaired the competition committee for basically 25 years. He's done a fabulous job. He's current on the game. Current with everything going on. Understands players. Understands personnel. Understands coaches and coaching given his own background, his father is a (college) Hall of Fame coach.

“So, I think his position up here and work both with Thomas and Dan will be very helpful to them both as a support system, as a sounding board, giving counsel when appropriate. He and I will be talking almost on a daily basis about things. I’m very happy that we have that resource available.”

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