Blank savors Falcons’ present, future

Falcons owner Arthur Blank dances on stage with his players after a 44-21 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Falcons owner Arthur Blank dances on stage with his players after a 44-21 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, meeting with the Atlanta media Thursday to discuss his Super Bowl-bound team, predicted similar news conferences in the years ahead.

One of his major takeaways from this special season, Blank said, is that the Falcons are a young team well-positioned for a long run of success.

“My goal initially (as owner) was to have a sustainable winning organization, one that would be important in the NFL conversation every year,” Blank said. “In my opinion, I think we have reached that level this year.

“We have an opportunity now to play in the final game of the year and hopefully get the positive outcome we’re looking for. But the bigger goal is that I think we’ll … be back in this room having this conversation a number of times in the years to come.”

The Falcons, who face the New England Patriots on Feb. 5 in Houston, are in the Super Bowl for just the second time in the franchise’s 51-year history and the first time in Blank’s 15 seasons as owner. And Blank admitted he has learned over the years how difficult it is to reach the big game and how injuries and other unforeseen events can derail long-term plans.

But he feels even better about the team’s future after reading Wednesday night that quarterback Matt Ryan hopes for the same career longevity that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has had.

Blank called it “one of the best articles that I read in probably the last year.”

“Tom is 39 years old. Matt is 31,” Blank said. “So, God willing, we keep Matt Ryan healthy for another eight years, we’re going to be in a good position, with everything else we have on the roster and the leadership that we have.”

But even as the future excites him, especially with the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium slated to open this year, Blank embraced the advice he got in recent days from Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II about how to approach the Super Bowl.

“The message I got from (them) is treasure the moment, treasure the time, treasure it for your franchise, for your coaches, players, fans, sponsors, everybody connected to the organization,” Blank said in the media session at his Buckhead offices. “Because you really don’t know when it’s going to happen again.

“This is a very tough business. Parity is built into the business. … There are injuries, a lot of things that come into play, that would keep you from getting back there again. So when you have the opportunity to do it, not only compete well but enjoy it.”

Blank said Kraft and Rooney told him the buildup to the Super Bowl “is going to get crazy, nuts” but will be a “very positive” experience he should enjoy. They advised him to“try to pace yourself.”

“I haven’t done so well on the pacing side so far,” Blank said.

Blank admitted he didn’t necessarily enter this season with a strong premonition that his team would end it at the Super Bowl.

“Did I think it would come this year?” he asked. “I wasn’t quite sure.”

He gave much credit to coach Dan Quinn, praising his abilities to lead, communicate and evaluate players.

“My observation is he not only cares about talent evaluation, but he’s really good at it,” Blank said. “We have had some coaches who think they’re good at it but aren’t so good at it. In this case, Dan loves doing it and he’s very good at it as well.”

Blank said his expectations for this team grew when the defense came on strong late in the season, complementing the prolific offense.

“I saw our defense was growing,” Blank said. “To me, privately, in my heart, that told me we had a chance. But I wasn’t going to say that publicly.”