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Atlanta Falcons: Anatomy of a turnaround (Part One)


jluk
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There's been a lot of finger pointing with the Falcons this past week.

On Tuesday the team's quarterback, head coach, and general manager received the Sporting News Rookie, Coach, and Executive of the Year awards.

And each of the award winners would take only a small amount of the credit, choosing instead to lay the credit at the feet of another.

Rookie of the Year quarterback Matt Ryan described the award as an honor and thanked all of those involved for allowing him the opportunity.

Coach of the Year Mike Smith said "all 19 guys on the coaching staff deserve the award."

Executive of the Year Thomas Dimitroff said an executive can really only help set the direction for the team.

"If the head coach is in that building, and we all know this from our past in this league," Dimitroff said, alluding to the 2007 Atlanta Falcons season (a season he watched from the vantage of the 16-0 New England Patriots),"...and he's not trumpeting the cause and carrying himself in that positive, fiery, passionate way...the whole organization is not going to fall into line with what an executive thinks."

Owner Arthur Blank, speaking on Tuesday morning on AM 790 (The Zone), announced on the air as his young quarterback walked into the room hosting the breakfast for the awardees "one of the reasons we're not going to have back to back losing seasons again just walked into the room...our quarterback, Number 2 Matt Ryan."

Notice how he said "one of the reasons."

The fact that he hired a smart young executive who hired the perfect head coach to lead this team is not lost on Blank.

The idea of the sum of the parts was never more evident than with the 2008 Atlanta Falcons.

Blank spoke of Art Rooney's philosophy for success in the NFL, saying that if you have "a really good owner, a great gm, a great head coach, and a great guy at quarterback" you can compete for long periods of time.

While Blank said he had only three of the four, he's clearly being modest. No one questions his desire to build the Atlanta Falcons organization in to something on par with what Rooney built: the Pittsburgh Steelers.

One needs to look no farther than the 2007 season and its aftermath to discover Blank's commitment to getting it right according to Rooney.

He thought he had it with Rich McKay, Jim Mora, and Michael Vick and then McKay, Bobby Petrino, and Vick but none of them worked out.

The third time is clearly the charm for Blank and listening to him speak with the pride of a father about this team and its individuals you can almost hear the relief of change and the excitement of anticipating the future in his voice.

If you spend time listening to what these men say you get less of a feeling of an employee-boss relationship and more of a partnership among four men seeking greatness.

And it's those types of relationships, and the talents of the four men--starting with Blank--,that led to the improbable 2008 turnaround of the Atlanta Falcons.

In what could someday prove to be an iconic moment in the franchise's history, Blank closed the interview Tuesday, showing, again, his passion to deliver a winning franchise to the fans of the Falcons.

Finally, we are well-positioned to have a sustainable, winning team for a long period of time. And that's what I'm most proud about...that this organization is going to be the pride of Atlanta for many years to come, win a lot of football games and hopefully bring home some rings for Atlanta.

Some rings in Atlanta must sound good to the Falcons faithful, but the team must first cross that back-to-back winning season bridge.

As they begin the process to do just that, half the league is asking "How'd you do it in 2008?" and the other half is asking "Can you do it again in 2009?"

http://www.examiner.com/x-1778-Atlanta-Fal...of-a-turnaround

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