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ESPN Arthur Blank - State of the Franchise


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Here is for the lazy:

ATLANTA -- The 377th wealthiest person in America leans back in his chair, tugs ever so slightly at the monogrammed cuff of his crisp white dress shirt and then does a swan dive on his football sword.

Arthur Blank

Falcons owner Arthur Blank thinks his team is poised for success.

Yes, says Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, he believed Michael Vick when the quarterback first assured him he wasn't involved in a massive dogfighting operation.

No, says Blank, despite a supposed close relationship with Vick, he had no idea the face of his franchise was killing dogs.

Yes, says Blank, in retrospect he screwed up by trusting Vick enough to give him a 10-year, $130 million contract in December 2004.

No, he says, he won't desert Vick after the quarterback serves his prison sentence. In fact, Blank sent him a letter of encouragement several weeks ago and says he would be willing to vouch for Vick if another NFL owner called for a recommendation.

Yes, he says, Bobby Petrino's 337-day reign of terror as the Falcons' head coach in 2007 was ultimately a Blank brain cramp.

No, he says, he doesn't apologize for doing employment dances with Bill Parcells, Bill Cowher or Pete Carroll before settling on his current management and coaching team.

Blank says all of this during an interview at the faux French chateau that houses the Arthur M. Blank Family Office. The complex comes with a gated underground parking garage, artwork out the wazoo, and enough quality sports memorabilia to keep eBay busy for years. The chateau is so imposing you half expect to see people wearing ascots and carrying brandy snifters.

A little more than 11 months ago, Blank's franchise was in danger of capsizing. On Dec. 10, 2007, Vick had just been sentenced to 23 months in prison for his role in a dogfighting ring. On Dec. 11, Petrino, despised by his players, quit with three games remaining and bolted to the University of Arkansas. The Falcons finished the season 4-12.

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Now look at them. They're 6-4, in play for a postseason berth, and Demi Moore keeps asking for tickets to their games. Maybe she sees what we see: a rookie quarterback (Matt Ryan) who looks like he's going to play in this league a very long time, a running game (Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood) to die for, a head coach (Mike Smith) who doesn't have a generalissimo complex.

Or maybe Demi and Ashton are just killing time while she films a movie in Atlanta. Whatever. The Falcons and Blank are headed in the opposite direction of the Vick/Petrino era, and that's a good thing.

"It's kind of like Moses," says Blank. "Led a lot of folks through the desert, out of the desert. I think they've done a pretty good job. It took Moses 40 years. It's not going to take these guys 40 years. We were in the desert, no question about it. But we're out now."

Blank, 66, made his bones and his fortune in the hardware business. He co-founded Home Depot, sold his interest in 2001, and took over the Falcons in 2002. He knew how to run a business, but he wasn't prepared for the media scrutiny that comes with owning an NFL franchise, for the swings in emotion he felt following a victory or a loss, or for the costly reality of injuries to his players. At Home Depot he never lost a chief financial officer to a torn ACL.

I watched him work the Georgia Dome sidelines before last Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos. This was Demi territory. Mover and shaker territory. There were advertisers. Former Falcons players and coaches. Deep-pocketed friends of the franchise. Blank did the hummingbird thing, moving from one person to the next.

The man is no dummy. Some NFL owners big-time their security detail. Blank, whose lead security man is a 24-year veteran of the Secret Service, always makes sure to thank the local cops. He stops to say hello to the officiating crew. He chats with Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. He ducks into the locker room before kickoff to wish his players well.

He's a people person. His head coach is a people person. His general manager, Thomas Dimitroff, is a people person. Dimitroff, who drafted Ryan with the No. 3 overall pick, is the guy who got a lump in his throat when the rookie's first regular-season pass of his pro career went for a 62-yard touchdown. At last, everybody is on the same page, or at least on the same chapter.

Petrino hire, bad hire. I had to sign off on it and I did sign off on it. So I've got to take responsibility for that. Take responsibility for the decision, and responsibility for the folks who made the decision as well. They work for me. He's not a bad person. He's a good guy. Good family, etc. But just a bad hire. You know, obviously should have stayed in college.

--Falcons owner Arthur Blank

"You go through life, you make mistakes," says Blank, whose Flushing, N.Y., accent sticks out here in the land of Southern twangs. "If you're smart, you learn from them. If you're not, you make the same mistakes over again. I've learned from the Petrino hire. I've learned from the Michael Vick situation."

Blank takes his lumps on both.

"Petrino hire, bad hire," he says. "I had to sign off on it and I did sign off on it. So I've got to take responsibility for that. Take responsibility for the decision, and responsibility for the folks who made the decision as well. They work for me. He's not a bad person. He's a good guy. Good family, etc. But just a bad hire. You know, obviously should have stayed in college."

Petrino Xeroxed his players a goodbye note before skulking off to Arkansas. He isn't missed. But Vick's involvement in dogfighting caught Blank, a supporter of local Humane Society efforts, completely by surprise and nearly knee-capped the franchise. After all, it was Blank who had giddily signed Vick to that 2004 extension.

"Retrospect, it's a bad decision," says Blank. "The time we made the decision … everybody in the organization felt that Michael was going to be a lifer in Atlanta and would be our franchise quarterback. Obviously [we] weren't aware of all these other issues, as the world wasn't aware of them. People with him every day weren't aware of them."

They are now. That's why Blank, before he signed off on drafting Ryan and agreeing to a 6-year, $72-million deal, learned everything he could about his prospective quarterback's background, character, family, associates, personality and community ties.

"With Michael, when Michael was in Atlanta, everything was pretty good," says Blank. "When he disappeared, that's when trouble began."

Blank was close to Vick. Or at least, he thought he was. He put his trust in Vick, and has the scorch marks to prove it. So does he feel betrayed?

"I wouldn't say 'betrayed,"' says Blank. "I think Michael probably betrayed himself. At his heart, I don't think Michael is a bad person, I really don't. I think basically he's a good guy, a good person. He did very bad things, but I think he was a product of his environment he grew up in. The neighborhood pressures. Friends. Family. A variety of things went on in his life. He was unable to cut the umbilical cord effectively from those roots, even when he came to the NFL.

"… He's got to take personal responsibility for not only what his friends did when they were together, but for what he did. Because he had his hand in a lot of that as well. And he has [taken responsibility]."

Blank initially believed Vick's version of the truth when the dogfighting allegations became public. But that didn't last long.

I would certainly encourage another owner to look at him in a very serious way ... I would be first satisfied that Michael is going to live differently than he's lived in the past.

--Blank

"I certainly believe in redemption, second chances, sometimes third chances," says Blank, who has continued to correspond with Vick during his jail time. "Hopefully, Michael won't need a third -- but he'll need a second -- and he'll be back playing professional football at some point."

If NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reinstates Vick after his scheduled release from prison next July, Blank says "I would certainly encourage another owner to look at him in a very serious way." He adds, "I would be first satisfied that Michael is going to live differently than he's lived in the past."

But if a new and improved version of Vick does play again, Blank says the quarterback has the ability to be "a very powerful role model."

In the meantime, Blank and the Falcons live differently than they've lived in the past. New coach. New GM. New quarterback. New hope.

"That doesn't mean we're living in the land of milk and honey, but it means we see it and we're moving in that direction," says Blank.

I smell movie rights. Interested, Demi?

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Crashingbird, I was just about to paste the words along with a subtitle - for our lazier readers (no jab Crashingbird) - then lo and behold I looked one post down. Awesome, man! I am thoroughly impressed!

Aside from that, talk about laying yourself out there - ultimate vulnerability in this article. I have a whole new appreciation for the man that owns my favorite team in the whole world.

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It was an "ok" read I thought. Kind of the "same ol' same ol'" but not bad.

And you are welcome tandy!

It's not easy to admit that you made bad decisions and put your team in a state of total disarray. I thought he took full responsibility. Not sure many could have. I just can't hear Jerry Jones or Al Davis taking it on the shoulder for their mistakes.

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just opened some more blinds on Arthur Blank. I pretty much knew who he was , by his interviews, watching him before every game, at trainging camp I waved at him and he walked right over and singed my football and actually carried on a conversation with my brother and I.

I admire how he carries all responsibilty and keeps a positive lookout.

"we're out of the desert" Go FALCONS!

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I read the article. Mr Blank seemed aloof. It could've been the author's style or

editing. I dont know... I'm bothered a little by it.

That he had to learn that you can in one moment lose your #1 or #2 go-to guy

due to an ACL injury really is disturbing. I mean, we all knew that he wasn't

a football insider, but... ****. What else doesn't he know yet? For that matter,

what's he doing differently now that he understands that a major player, or two,

or three, or (see Denver for additional numbers) can go down for a season, or

a career...

I'm not an NFL insider, but these things I think most anyone who has been involved

in the sport AT ALL knows WELL. Without debth, you're dead. Without a team

concept, you're dead. One flash-in-the-pan player doesn't make a team; regardless

of skills. Worse, that one player, with a bad attitude, can destroy any efforts to

have or keep that team concept (refer to Meangelo).

Mind you, the team right now is head-and-shoulders above where we were

12 months ago. My question is: What did he learn from those lessons? What

did he come away with? Was the hiring of Dimitrov and Smith wild-***-luck,

or does he get it now?

Honestly, I'm hoping the article was just written badly and the aloof thing was

an accident.

-The Dawg

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I read the article. Mr Blank seemed aloof. It could've been the author's style or

editing. I dont know... I'm bothered a little by it.

That he had to learn that you can in one moment lose your #1 or #2 go-to guy

due to an ACL injury really is disturbing. I mean, we all knew that he wasn't

a football insider, but... ****. What else doesn't he know yet? For that matter,

what's he doing differently now that he understands that a major player, or two,

or three, or (see Denver for additional numbers) can go down for a season, or

a career...

I'm not an NFL insider, but these things I think most anyone who has been involved

in the sport AT ALL knows WELL. Without debth, you're dead. Without a team

concept, you're dead. One flash-in-the-pan player doesn't make a team; regardless

of skills. Worse, that one player, with a bad attitude, can destroy any efforts to

have or keep that team concept (refer to Meangelo).

Mind you, the team right now is head-and-shoulders above where we were

12 months ago. My question is: What did he learn from those lessons? What

did he come away with? Was the hiring of Dimitrov and Smith wild-***-luck,

or does he get it now?

Honestly, I'm hoping the article was just written badly and the aloof thing was

an accident.

-The Dawg

What is he doing? He's admitting that he shouldn't be making the football decisions and hiring a Football guy to make those decisions (Ie: TD). He's stepping back and letting the GM and the Coaches run the team. He's doing what he should be doing. Loving his team, and taking care of business, and letting the Football guys run the football side. There are a few other owners who could learn from this as well, if they could man up and admit that business is business and football is football and you may need to have different folks be responsible for the marriage of the two.

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I pretty sure that it was saying he learned from his mistakes, that's why it went on to discuss that he found out as much as possible about Matt Ryan, and his surroundings. "That's why Blank, before he signed off on drafting Ryan and agreeing to a 6-year, $72-million deal, learned everything he could about his prospective quarterback's background, character, family, associates, personality and community ties."

Don't think that makes him aloof.

If I were to call him anything, I'd go with business savy.

If it weren't for him, we'd still have those teal green seats and that awful purple accent. We probably wouldn't have Flowery Branch, and the Falcons wouldn't have near the ammenities they have now.

When I watch other NFL post game interviews, and behind a player you'll see some bump *** woodgrain lockers, it's cheesy. Then the falcons have these nice modern team color lockers.

I appreciate what this man has done for this team.

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he's given them the best, over and over and over, and I don't expect him to stop till he's got a Supebowl ring.

That was his promise to us when he bought the team. I'm glad to see that every year he's making changes in that direction. granted there has been some bumps and holes in the road, he's always been there like AAA to pull us out.

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I pretty sure that it was saying he learned from his mistakes, that's why it went on to discuss that he found out as much as possible about Matt Ryan, and his surroundings. "That's why Blank, before he signed off on drafting Ryan and agreeing to a 6-year, $72-million deal, learned everything he could about his prospective quarterback's background, character, family, associates, personality and community ties."

Don't think that makes him aloof.

If I were to call him anything, I'd go with business savy.

If it weren't for him, we'd still have those teal green seats and that awful purple accent. We probably wouldn't have Flowery Branch, and the Falcons wouldn't have near the ammenities they have now.

When I watch other NFL post game interviews, and behind a player you'll see some bump *** woodgrain lockers, it's cheesy. Then the falcons have these nice modern team color lockers.

I appreciate what this man has done for this team.

Have you ever been to Flowery Branch? Those guys have apartments there - NICE!!!! They have big screens and plush digs to stay in during training camp and during the season. Pretty nice. Then there's the training equipment - Just Wow! State of the art stuff in there - seriously. Yeah, he really takes care of the guys. It's swank out there.

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Have you ever been to Flowery Branch? Those guys have apartments there - NICE!!!! They have big screens and plush digs to stay in during training camp and during the season. Pretty nice. Then there's the training equipment - Just Wow! State of the art stuff in there - seriously. Yeah, he really takes care of the guys. It's swank out there.

Yeah yeah, of course. i go every chance I get, even to the OTA's. It's a Falcons paradise "I love it, I love it"

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I pretty sure that it was saying he learned from his mistakes, that's why it went on to discuss that he found out as much as possible about Matt Ryan, and his surroundings. "That's why Blank, before he signed off on drafting Ryan and agreeing to a 6-year, $72-million deal, learned everything he could about his prospective quarterback's background, character, family, associates, personality and community ties."

Don't think that makes him aloof.

If I were to call him anything, I'd go with business savy.

If it weren't for him, we'd still have those teal green seats and that awful purple accent. We probably wouldn't have Flowery Branch, and the Falcons wouldn't have near the ammenities they have now.

When I watch other NFL post game interviews, and behind a player you'll see some bump *** woodgrain lockers, it's cheesy. Then the falcons have these nice modern team color lockers.

I appreciate what this man has done for this team.

He is EXTREMELY business savvy!!! Even then, that's an understatement!

Mind you, I wasn't trying to rag on him... More than anything else, I think the

article missed a few key steps or pieces, and it didnt come off well.

We all hope and sorta know that he's stepped back to let football guys run

football operations. At least we all HOPE so. ;-)

What's going to be a problem for Arthur is the business that he has the

knowledge and experience in and with puts a high price on a few key

guys and markets the **** out of it/them (I'm actually referring to CFO and

Home Depot). In football, if you put all your eggs in one basket, you're

screwed. I hope he's TRULY learned from that. He said so, and the

article said so, but the article didn't say "what" he'd learned, only that

he's learned.

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Yeah yeah, of course. i go every chance I get, even to the OTA's. It's a Falcons paradise "I love it, I love it"

Do you live nearby? I envy you.

I usually go to a couple practices a year, just because of the distance and times, but I'd love to be able to go more. When I lived up in the area - I used to spend every second I could watching them practice. Back when they were in Suwanee, I used to go to the McDonald's on the hill and sit out in back to watch them. I miss the opportunity to go more now. :(

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Do you live nearby? I envy you.

I usually go to a couple practices a year, just because of the distance and times, but I'd love to be able to go more. When I lived up in the area - I used to spend every second I could watching them practice. Back when they were in Suwanee, I used to go to the McDonald's on the hill and sit out in back to watch them. I miss the opportunity to go more now. :(

I live right at 2:30 hours doing the speed limit :)

I've made it in less time, but I'm not far...

AUGUSTA, GA home of the Masters.

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Here's what I read:

VICK VICK VICK VICK VICK VICK VICK VICK

Will the state of the franchise ever be spoken about without having to include our former QB?

I believe it will be when he's completely off the roster. They're only be talk of him for another short while. Next year it won't be nearly as much. When he's completely off the roster, and playing for another team, I don't think we'll hear much more about him.

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Here's what I read:

VICK VICK VICK VICK VICK VICK VICK VICK

Will the state of the franchise ever be spoken about without having to include our former QB?

Probably not. He was our franchise QB and was involved in a highly publicized event which rocked our Organization. Even if none of the other stuff happened and he had just retired, he was still a franchise QB and he would be talked about. Just like people still talk about Montana or Young when they talk about SF. No, I'm not comparing his record, just the fact that he was our franchise QB. No need to get so crazy over it - just skip over those parts if you don't want to read it. Further, it was only last year that all that happened, why would you think it would be forgotten so soon.

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yup Furman. Hated that ride, it was like a 2 lane goat path.

What do you expect - it's Greenville. But, yeah, I remember. I remember waaaay back when, going to NC to see them in training camp - long before I ever got to go to a game. It was the closest I could get to them.

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