The Atlanta Falcons are one win away from having five consecutive winning seasons. That is almost mind-boggling when one considers that the Falcons could not scrape together back-to-back winning seasons during their first 40 years. And they owe all this to one man: Bill Parcells.
The End of a Regretful Chapter
In what may have been the ugliest year for any NFL team ever, the Atlanta Falcons suffered both on and off the field in 2007. The Mike Vick scandal and the Bobby Petrino midnight exit stole most of the headlines, but it was Bill Parcells who delivered the final slap to Falcons owner Arthur Blank's face.
While rumors still abound about how things actually went down, here is what we know. In an effort to stabilize his free-falling franchise, Arthur Blank offered full control to NFL coaching legend Bill Parcells. On December 18, 2007, Bill Parcells and Arthur Blank agreed in principle to a contract. The following day the two met to work out details of the contract. Parcells then told Blank that the Miami Dolphins had made Parcells a new offer. From there the deal between Blank and Parcells fell through.
After all of the humiliation that Arthur Blank and his organization had been through, he was jilted at the altar after having already said, "I do."
Blank Thinks Outside the Box
Once the 2007 season was over, Arthur Blank completely changed course in his decision making. Instead of trying to win the press conference, he sought stability. First, he chose a bright, young member of the New England Patriots front office to be the new general manager. Thomas Dimitroff was virtually unknown, but Blank was impressed by his NFL scouting background.
Dimitroff then led a coaching search with unusual results. With a few recognizable names swirling in the mix, Dimitroff chose the Jacksonville Jaguars' unheralded defensive coordinator, Mike Smith, as new head coach.
The 2008 NFL draft was the final step in the offseason metamorphosis. Going against the advice of both pundits and fans, the Atlanta Falcons selected quarterback Matt Ryan in the first round. The rest, as they say, is history. And also the future.
The Parcells Plan
Anyone covering the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 also had to keep an eye on the Miami Dolphins. As Parcells' arrival in Miami made a huge splash, one could only assume the results would be a "what might have been" for the Atlanta Falcons.
Parcells proceeded to secure Tony Sparano as the Dolphins new head coach and Jeff Ireland as general manager. His draft plan in 2008 followed the lines of what many had either hoped or expected for Atlanta. He used the first pick in the 2008 draft to sure up the offensive line and had a "draft steal" with his second-round selection of quarterback Chad Henne.
Hindsight is 51-21
Both the Dolphins and Falcons had outstanding initial results with both finishing 11-5. From there, the paths went opposite directions. The Falcons have compiled their best record ever (51-21 at present) and are continuing a quest for greatness. The Falcons have gone from laughing stock to one of the NFL's most stable franchises.
In Miami? Not so much. Parcells left Miami after three years. Sparano and Henne were dismissed a season later after three straight losing seasons. The Parcells experiment failed, and Miami is rebuilding yet again.
Be Grateful Atlanta
Bill Parcells was known for turning around franchises. In the end, the Atlanta Falcons may be his quickest rebuilding job ever. And simply because he said, "No."