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Stellino: ‘Restless’ Blank better have a plan if he decides to take action

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 28: Atlanta Falcons Owner Arthur Blank speaks during the Super Bowl LIII Atlanta Host Committee Press Conference on January 28, 2019 in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Count Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank among the many NFL people who may not understand what the real goal of an NFL team is.

The goal isn’t to win the Super Bowl. The goal is to stay competitive every year, fill the stadium and if you win a Super Bowl along the way, that’s icing on the cake.

The goal is to avoid a string of losing seasons that turns off the fan base.

The best example of this is the Kansas City Chiefs, who have had two successful coaches who haven’t won the Super Bowl or even taken the team there – Marty Schottenheimer and Andy Reid – but they’ve never lost the fan base and kept Arrowhead Stadium rocking.

The flip side is what the late Houston owner Bud Adams did in 1980 after Bum Phillips lost in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion for the third year in a row. He fired him. And the team went into a decline.

By 1983, they were 2-14 and went 3-13 the following year.  Meanwhile, the Oilers eventually left town, but the Luv Ya Blue era is still beloved in Houston.

And the first Falcons’ owner, Rankin Smith, fired Leeman Bennett after going 5-4 in the 1982 strike season, ending a six year tenure when he made the playoffs three times. Smith said the team hit a plateau. By 1984, they went 4-12 two years in a row.

I bring all this up because of a report by Peter King that Blank is “growing restless” when he ranked the Falcons 17th.

I understand that. He still lives with 28-3 and last year the team struggled to a 7-9 finish, losing five games in a row to nosedive to 4-9 before winning the last three.

Quinn then fired all three coordinators and took over the defense himself, but Blank decided to keep Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

It’s probably best that Blank decided to give Quinn at least another year to turn things round rather than starting over now.

And King’s restless comment probably would have gotten little attention if Blank hadn’t responded to it not once but twice.

King noted that the Falcons are 18-17 in their last 35 games starting with the Super Bowl loss to New England. They have a $30 million a year quarterback and a receiver who is likely to be making $20 million soon.

But the restless comment got all the attention.

First, Chris Mortensen reported that Blank told him the restless comment was someone out of context.

He tweeted, “Not at all. Off base…I am always restless to be better. Good is the enemy of great.”

Blank then emailed the Atlanta Journal Constitution a statement further clarifying his remarks.

“I’m feeling good about what (general manager) Thomas (Dimitroff) and (coach) Dan Quinn have done this offseason,” he said. “We have some key guys getting healthy again, the draft picks are getting up to speed, the new coordinators are meshing well and I’m confident we’re going to be ready for training camp. I like where we’re going.”

Blank protests too much.

If the restless comment wasn’t right on, he wouldn’t have needed to make two statements about it.

And the comments made it obvious that Quinn – and possibly Dimitroff—is on the hot seat.

Blank was right in keeping Quinn this year. After all, a year ago, they were 10-6 and beat the Rams in their first playoff game before losing to the Eagles.

But another non-playoff year and Blank may be ready to pull the plug.

Still, if Blank decides to blow things up, he better make sure he has a plan in place to make things better.

Blowing things up is the easy part. There’s no guarantee a new regime will make things better.

Vito Stellino has been covering the world of sports for more than six decades, with a heavy emphasis on the world of professional football. In 1989 he received the Dick McCann Award at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, recognizing his long and distinguished career. Find more from Vito on his website

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