Article Op-Ed

Are Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons Losing More Than Just Games?

Are Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons Losing More Than Just Games?

Author Mubarak Pasha by

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M. Khurram Baig

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The Atlanta Falcons recently announced that their new stadium is off schedule by a couple of months and that it will not be ready for the start of the Atlanta United’s (MLS soccer team) inaugural season. This news further dampens Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s vision of his new venue. The AJC reported that personal seat licenses (PSL) are not selling as well as expected. Currently, only 40% of the PSL's have been sold and 19 months remain before opening kickoff for the Falcons.

Why is there a lack of interest from this fan base? It was just eight years ago that the Falcons’ new front office was looked at as the savior of this team and the group that would finally allow this city to hoist the Lombardi trophy.

After the Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino debacles, Blank made moves that impressed everyone. He hired Thomas Dimitroff to be the General Manager and together they found Mike Smith to be Head Coach. They signed the best available running back in Michael Turner and followed through by drafting quarterback Matt Ryan. All these moves improved the previous season’s record from 4-12 to 11-5.

Eight years later, everyone except Blank seems to be calling for Dimitroff’s head, Mike Smith is no longer the head coach and the team’s record is trending in the wrong direction.

Looking back at drafts from 2008-2014, of the total 55 picks the Falcons made, only 12 are currently with the team. Notables include Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Desmond Trufant and Devonta Freeman.

From 2009-2014, the most notable players acquired via trade or free agency were Asante Samuel, Osi Umenyiora and Steven Jackson. All 3 were signed at age 30+, which is considered the start of decline for most players. All of these decisions were made by Dimitroff and, despite poor scouting and evaluation of talent, he maintained his position.

In 2015, changes were finally made and Dan Quinn was hired to replace Mike Smith. Many believed this would be Dimitroff’s last chance. After another subpar draft, poor free agent signings, and an 8-8 record, the Falcons recently announced Dimitroff would remain the general manager!

So far this offseason, the Falcons have:

-   Failed to speak to the media after a week of silence following the final game of the season.

-   Touched on “hot topics" such as the hiring of Jerome Henderson and reassignment of Raheem Morris. Changes made so far result from being a topic of interest.

-  "Bolstered" the front office with Phil Emery and Ruston Wester, who have terrible track records.

-   Announced that the new front office plans on working together to determine the best player for them to draft and if everyone cannot agree, they will simply move on to the next player and forego that talent.

-   Stated that the team will continue a similar approach in free agency by not going after “big splash” free agents.

Arthur Blank is set to open his new billion dollar stadium in 2018 and he needs to quickly give fans a reason to invest in his team. As much as he may say that he wants to win, this is still a business and the NFL is a glorified poker game for the owners. With poor PSL sales, the lack of interest is clearly showing.

Blank is rolling the dice in the hope that this group will fix this team. If that doesn’t happen in this draft and/or free agency, it may be a very costly undoing of Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons.

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