What a Difference a Year Makes
The Falcons have done like the old song says and put their troubles behind them. 2007 was perhaps the most tumultuous season in Atlanta's 40-some-odd year history, but owner Arthur Blank may finally have some stability within the rank and file of his franchise.
It was less than a year ago when Blank became the NFL's most destitute and pitied owner. His star player and face of the franchise—Michael Vick—was headed for prison and his coach—Bobby Petrino—had walked out on his team before the season ended.
Vick's crimes put the Falcon brand front and center in hundreds of animal-rights protests, and Petrino's desertion was the ultimate insult to one of the game's good-guy owners. In the wake of these shattering events, Blank was searching for any piece of high ground that he could find.
He courted Bill Parcells, only to be left at the altar in a bidding war with the Miami Dolphins. He interviewed others only to be turned down as well. Blank and his Falcons were in no-man's land. They had hit rock bottom, and no easy solutions were in sight.
But Blank's luck was about to change.
The first move was to find a football man that could bang all of the dust and dirt out of the rugs. Blank, still aiming high, hired Patriots' executive Thomas Dimitroff to be his new general manager.
From there, Dimitroff took over. He brought in the veteran Jacksonville Jaguars' defensive coordinator, Mike Smith, to be the head coach. He then signed RB Michael Turner, who was LaDanian Tomlinson's backup in San Diego, to spearhead the running attack.
The coup de gras was drafting Boston College QB Matt Ryan with the third overall choice this past April. The Falcons also shed themselves of potential problems by cutting many players and shipping DeAngelo Hall off to Oakland for a package of draft picks.
Halfway through this 2008 season, the Falcons have already surpassed their win total from last season and may even compete for the playoffs. As a football fan, I believe this is the story of the year thus far.
Here was a team, as dead as a team could be, that picked itself up and reinvented itself in a matter of months. The Falcons have gone from the franchise model no one wants to be to the model every team strives to be.