Arthur Blank might be getting restless.
Well, he won’t say he’s outwardly restless, as that would be unprofessional. A self-made man doesn’t ascend to billionaire status without being a little restless, but it also doesn’t help him to wear that restlessness on his sleeve. To build an empire, it takes a rock-steady hand, freezer-cold resolve and bona fide patience.
In the 17 years since he purchased the franchise, Blank has weathered a lot as the owner. The rise and fall of Michael Vick. The Bobby Petrino fiasco. Years of playoff drought with a front office and coaching staff who seems to do the right thing until the wheels fall off. The firing of a franchise-best coach. Playoff heartbreak. Unfortunately, 28-3.
It’s that last one that probably got us here, the mind-numbing tragedy of Super Bowl 51 that turned a jubilant Blank fist-pump dancing over that accursed box score into a meme.
It’s always going to be the most embarrassing game result in the NFL’s history, and it’s a damned banner Blank will have to look at until he’s no longer the owner of the Atlanta Falcons.
The only way he’s going to be able to clear this, at least somewhat, from his ledger is for a Lombardi to finally make its way to the new palace he’s built in downtown Atlanta. You know, the palace that, at its opening, fans got too preoccupied touring/hanging out in to actually sit in their expensive seats and watch/cheer/create the whole ‘hostile environment.’
But again, Blank’s got grit. He came out, coolly, and put his faith in Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff to clean the mess up the team created in 2017...it’s quite a mess! In 2017, you expected a little bit of a down year and got one, but the Falcons still made the playoffs and won a game.
In 2018? Well, that was the chance. A home Super Bowl would’ve been a sweet salve for that loss. But it was not to be, and this offseason has been conducted as if many things depend on ensuring it doesn’t happen again.
The report from NFL reporting legend Peter King was as worrisome as anything that’s come out about the Falcons in ages. It’s not a signal that the franchise awaits a mad king at its helm (we’re not about to see the sacking of Dirty Bird’s Landing), but it’s a constant reminder that even a great owner like Blank was always going to have his limits. The fact that Blank took the time to walk that back is notable but doesn’t change the expectation that another lousy season will close the book on this chapter for the Falcons.
If 2019 wasn’t already a make-or-break year for the Falcons, the clock now ticks ever louder.
To be very honest, it’s not like you could blame big changes. It’s Blank’s team, after all, and he’s got 28-3 reasons for his restlessness. He’s been as patient as an owner can be, and patience isn’t guaranteed rewards.
What could happen in a failed campaign is anyone’s guess. He could hit the refresh button on the coaching staff and front office, lead the charge to trade or release high-paid players, or even start (just start) thinking about life after Matt Ryan.
That word bears mentioning again. It’s fair to say we don’t quite know the severity of “restless,” but “restless” is something that has to be cured. When you get restless in bed, you move around as much as you have to and change out things here and there until you feel comfortable again.
We don’t at all know where Blank’s restlessness lies, and he’ll certainly refute it in person, as to show the resolve and calm we’ve seen keep his franchise stable for his stretch of ownership.
But if the idea is out there, it must mean there’s something to it. If there’s smoke, expect fire. It just might be a camp fire, but 2019 might spray gasoline on it to create a flame we’ve not seen quite yet in the team’s recent history.
Whatever happens, just know the clock is now ticking for this version of the Atlanta Falcons. 2019 is going to be huge.
If we have another uneventful fall and nonexistent winter, we might be in for a hell of a spring.