Falcons owner Arthur Blank addressed the elephant in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.
After the team dropped to 1-7, coach Dan Quinn’s future was a topic of discussion and Blank admitted that it was a “fair question.”
The Falcons were expected to contend for the NFC South title, but find themselves in last place heading into their bye week.
“It’s a very fair question,” Blank said when asked about Quinn’s future with the team. “I would say, much like the coaches said, I am extraordinarily disappointed in the season. Nobody would have anticipated 1-7 and the lack of consistency. Today was a prime example of that. Down 24-0, if we could’ve just played the second half, we would’ve won the game, but it doesn’t work that way.”
Quinn, after a successful stint as Seattle’s defensive coordinator was hired as the Falcons head coach on Feb. 2, 2015. He took the team to Super Bowl LI, but it’s been downhill since they took that 28-3 lead.
It does not appear that a coaching change in imminent.
“We’ll take the next couple of weeks and during this bye period of time and evaluate where we are,” Blank said. “Whatever decision we have to make, it will be made for the right reasons for the long term. We certainly have a lot of intelligence on this coaching staff.
“Besides Dan (Quinn), we have three other head coaches and we’ve got three general managers in the building beyond Thomas (Dimitroff), so actually four in the building with Rich McKay.”
Raheem Morris, Mike Mularkey and Dirk Koetter are the former head coaches on Quinn’s staff. Ruston Webster (Tennessee) and Phil Emery (Chicago) are the other former general managers on the staff.
“The knowledge base is there, but the performance is not,” Blank said. “This is a performance-driven business. I understand that and they understand that as well.”
Blank promised a sweeping evaluation.
“We’ll continue to look at everything we can and make the right decisions when we have to make them,” Blank said. “I’m not bashful about making those decisions. In almost 20 years, I’ve had to do it almost five times now. I understand the responsibility that I have to the fans and to the sponsors and our players and coaches, etc., to put a winning team on the field. We’re still committed to that a thousand percent and that’s not going to change.”
Blank, who has owned the team since 2002, knows that change is on the horizon.
“We are going to do something,” Blank said. “We’re going to continue to think really hard and evaluate everything that we can do as an owner and as a senior management team and figure out if there is anything we can do to make some decisions here earlier and here later that would help the process, but we have no plans of making any changes right now.”
Blank has been appalled at how the team has fallen behind. The Falcons have been outscored 144 to 50 in the first halves of games this season.
“It’s very painful,” Blank said. “It’s very painful, because not only am I an owner, I’m the steward for the fans. I’m the custodian of things on their behalf. I feel their pain, I truly do. I see their pain and I understand what they’re going through.
“It’s bewildering how we can play that way in the first half and completely different in the second half. That’s kind of been typical of the year. We just haven’t had the kind of consistency to win games.”
The Falcons are essentially eliminated from the playoffs at the halfway mark of the season.
“It’s just not acceptable at any level,” Blank said. “We’ll have to continue to think about what’s the best thing for the franchise and the team on a long-term basis and we’ll do that.”
Fans have been voting by not coming to the games.
“It’s very painful,” Blank said of the empty seats. “I understand that. I’ve always been here, I’m going to be in my seat. Hopefully, the great majority of our fans will as well. I think they understand our ownership has been committed for almost 20 years now in doing the right things for the franchise.
“I look at our record over that period of time compared to the prior 36 years and it’s extraordinarily good. Even for this staff, it’s hard to imagine, but we played as a Super Bowl team a couple of years ago. The year following, when we weren’t supposed to be competitive, we were five yards away from playing for the NFC Championship game.
“In the last year, we’ve had a number of injuries, as we all know. That’s all history. It’s nice to understand that and appreciate that, but this is a ‘now’ business and it’s a ‘now’ game, so we perform good."
Blank doesn’t plan to make any sentimental decisions.
“I think you need to keep in mind, it’s not a reason or another, but it is a fact, the players, they love Dan Quinn,” Blank said. “They’re playing hard for him. Results aren’t there and I understand that, and they understand that as well.
“You all heard about Julio’s (Jones) comments this last week. I happened to be in the locker room and in 20 years, I’ve never heard a player talk that way with that emotional content and that fervor and that feeling about their responsibility and their own accountability. I think he touched a lot of players and the whole staff in doing that. That has to convert to a different record.”
But even after Jones’ speech, the Falcons went out and did the same thing. Fell behind, tried to rally and came up short.
“I think the players have not lost confidence in the coach and the coaching staff and they’re playing (with) high energy, they’re committed, they’re practicing hard, they’re working hard,” Blank said. “They’re as befuddled I think as we are, as the coaches are, but I don’t think they view it as a lack of confidence in the coach and the coaching staff. I think they’re very committed to working for him and doing whatever they have to do. Hopefully, it will be enough. We’ll see.”
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