Friday, October 10, 2003
Falcons owner: Stick with us, better times ahead
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- This wasn't how Arthur Blank
Michael Vick can't play, the Atlanta Falcons have lost four in a
row and there's plenty of grumbling from those sellout crowds at
the Georgia Dome.
"Hey, everything is perfect," Blank said jokingly from his
office that overlooks the Falcons' suburban practice fields.
Of course, that's not the case. The owner made it clear Friday
that he's not happy with the state of the Falcons (1-4), who are on
the brink of oblivion after a thrilling run to the playoffs in
"We're not where we want to be, that's for sure," Blank said.
"I hope the hole doesn't get any bigger."
In the meantime, he expressed support for Dan Reeves and the
coaching staff, is convinced there's enough talent to turn things
around and remains hopeful that fans won't give up on a franchise
that has never had back-to-back winning seasons.
Blank can understand the frustration after spending big money to
keep defensive stalwarts Keith Brooking and Patrick Kerney and
bring in prominent free agents Warrick Dunn and Peerless Price.
"We're not performing the way we're capable of performing,"
Blank said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We have a
better team on paper than we had last year. But you have to play on
Any time a team loses, the glare of blame immediately turns to
Reeves took the Falcons to their only Super Bowl during the 1998
season and the second round of the playoffs in 2002. But those are
his only winning seasons in the last eight.
"Unfortunately, Dan has been in this position before," Blank
said. "Fortunately, he knows how to work his way out of it."
Blank said he's satisfied with Reeves' effort if not the
results. The owner points to Reeves' achievements: one win shy of
200 career victories, twice the NFL coach of the year, three other
times the AFC's top coach.
"Dan is the head coach and he has my support," Blank said.
"No question he's struggling this year. But we all are."
The 59-year-old Reeves is in the midst of a three-year contract
that runs through the 2004 season. While Blank has shied away from
an extension, he gave no indication that Reeves won't be allowed to
finish the current deal.
"I have a lot of confidence in him," Blank said.
Clearly, the Falcons' troubles began when Vick broke a bone in
his right leg during the preseason. He has yet to take a
regular-season snap and will miss at least two more games, Blank
said. Without their leader, the Falcons are an 11-point underdog at
St. Louis (2-2) on Monday night.
In retrospect, the loss of Vick probably affected the team's
psyche. And replacement starter Doug Johnson has thrown an NFL-high
"When you lose somebody who makes the impossible possible, you
can't help but feel the impact in some way," Blank said.
Then again, Vick's injury can't be used as a crutch.
"He's not Superman," Blank said. "You've got to have backups
who can pick up the slack."
The defense hasn't been any help, ranking last in the league in
yards allowed. That wasn't what Blank expected when he made
coordinator Wade Phillips one of the highest-paid assistants in the
"What makes this frustrating is Wade told me a year ago that
the defense would be better this year than last year," Blank said.
"The players would understand the scheme and he could add more
Instead, injuries and suspensions have hurt depth at outside
linebacker and safety. Now that some of those players are
returning, Blank believes Phillips can turn things around.
While the owner takes a high-profile role, he concedes that he's
not qualified to make roster decisions or suggest changes in the
Blank does expect results from the people making those
"I would never say, 'I'm the owner, play a certain guy," he
said. "At the end of the day, if I don't like their decisions,
I'll get someone else to make the decisions."