Owner Arthur Blank is optimistic that the Falcons made all of the right moves to make a quick turnaround and compete for the Super Bowl title this season.
In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Blank discussed the upcoming season, the revamped coaching staff and how the team plans to catch the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.
Here’s what Blank had to say:
Q: Where are you at with the anticipation for the 2019 season?
A: My aspiration has not changed. It’s all about championships. It’s all about rings. It’s all about having a competitive team. It’s all about having a team that year-in and year-out will be competitive. We obviously weren’t as competitive last year as we wanted to be. A lot of that was related to injuries.
Q: Were you pleased with the offseason moves?
A: I love what we’ve done this offseason from a free agency and a draft standpoint. I think we addressed the things we needed to address in a serious way. I like the way we’ve been through training camp, I’ve like what I’ve seen, not everything, but a lot of what I’ve seen during the (exhibition) season games. So, I feel good about where we are, but we start out 0-0 and we’ll have to see where it goes from there.
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Q: Will the revamped coaching staff help coach Dan Quinn?
A: I like the coaching changes we made, which included bringing back Dirk Koetter, were good. Bringing back (Mike) Mularkey was good. (Ben) Kotwica is going to be a good addition for our special teams. I like the fact that Dan is going to call signals on defense. In 2016, when we went to the Super Bowl, our defense played dramatically better when he took over those responsibilities. I think you’ll see more pressure on the quarterbacks from our defensive line. So, I feel as good as I can feel without having played any games. Obviously, we have to stay healthy.
Q: The players and the fans are excited about Quinn’s takeover of the defense. Do you share that enthusiasm?
A: “Absolutely, Dan, that’s really his background. His calling. That’s kind of the essence of inner religion if you will from a football standpoint. He knows exactly what he wants to do in his mind. I think for him to call the plays he knows his players well, his knows his team well. For him to be able to call those plays the way he wants to and not having re-filtered and re-prioritized in a different way I think is going to be very positive for the team.
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Q: The fans love the food pricing. Were there any other fan experience enhancements for the stadium this season?
A: “It’s food pricing, but it’s beyond food pricing. If you have food pricing, but if you don’t have the quality and quantity and you don’t get the service, it’s not as good. The fact that we’ve been voted No. 1 the last two years in the NFL and Major League Soccer for the food and beverage fan experience is incredible. In fact, the stadium has been voted No. 1 throughout the United States and is about ready to receive an award in Spain for the best football stadium, soccer stadium in the world. I think those are all credits to our staff and our crew and the effort that they make everybody feel at home there. We’ll continue to look at ways (to improve). We changed to a cashless environment and that has increased the speed of the service that we have. It’s allowed us to be more flexible on pricing and make those decreased prices move quickly. We’ll continue to listen to our fans. Steve Cannon, Rich McKay and others, they are all traveling out to the West Coast to see what they are doing in (Las) Vegas and what they are doing in Los Angeles. ... We want to continue to invest in the great fan experience.
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Q: As far as the NFC South is concerned, what have your football men told you that they need to do to catch the New Orleans Saints?
A: We have to focus not on what the Saints are doing, what Carolina is doing or what the Bucs are doing. We are going to focus on ourselves. I know that if we play to our capabilities on a consistent basis with the kind of passion and the execution, the energy that coach (Quinn) has asked them to do and they want to put forward, that we will be successful.
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Q: But the Saints have won the last two division titles ...
A: Obviously, it’s a very competitive division. If you look around the NFL there is not a division that is not competitive. So, the Saints have a tremendous amount of quality in their players. They’ve got one of the great all-time quarterbacks. They’ll certainly be formidable. They have a great coach who’s got a creative mind and does a lot of good things both offensively and defensively, but mostly offensively. I’m referring to Sean (Payton). So, we’ll have to be at our best. But I expect that to be the case. I know the coach expects that to be the case as well.
Q: How important is it for the long-term future of the team to make wide receiver Julio Jones a Falcon for life?
A: I’ve said this publicly and privately to Julio and Julio has said the same thing to me, both privately and publicly. We expect Julio to be a Falcon for life and we have no reason to think that’s going to change at all. The negotiations continue to move along in a positive way. It’s a big contract and it’s complex and what have you. It takes a little more time than we’d like. Probably a little more time than he would like, but I know we are in a good place.
Q: Do you anticipate it being done before the start of the season?
A: I would hope so, but I don’t know that. We’ll have to let things take their course. I know that we are definitely in serious negotiations. It’s our goal and their goal as well to get it done before the start of the season.
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