2008 wasn't an easy time for the Falcons. Their franchise quarterback was headed to prison. Their coach quit 14 weeks into a dismal season. Theirs fans were dreading a complete collapse and the accompanying rebuild.
Amidst all that chaos, Arthur Blank stood tall, leading the search for a new general manager, head coach, and quarterback. That eventually led to the hiring of Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith, as well as the drafting of Matt Ryan. Along the way, there was a front office debacle featuring none other than NFL legend Bill Parcells.
Most of you should remember this; just a quick refresher for those that don't. Basically the Falcons had what Blank considered to be a "deal in principle." Parcells was set to become the Falcons' VP of Football Operations. Then Parcells got cold feet, backing away for a variety of reasons. According to Parcells' new authorized biography, race issues had an effect.
Parcells went on to leverage the Falcons interests and was uncomfortable with Blank's desire to make team decisions with its African-American fan base in mind.
I'll be careful how I characterize this. I've not read the book, but given the excerpt, it seems like Parcells wanted to treat race as a non-issue. Blank felt like it was inevitably going to be an issue. That doesn't necessarily mean Parcells is a racist. It suggests he didn't understand the Falcons fan base.
The merits of Parcells' proposed approach aside, you can't ignore how your fan base breaks down. That's an especially complicated approach in a city like Atlanta, even more so at that time. No matter what you think of Michael Vick, the guy was hugely popular. He is also African-American. Blank, I'm sure, rightly assumed that race would matter. Parcells didn't want to deal with that. That is, of course, his prerogative.
To be sure, it wasn't the only reason Parcells backed off. In my mind, it all worked out. We ended up with Matt Ryan and the Dolphins ended up with Jake Long/Chad Henne.
Discuss! But please, be respectful in the process.