A man whose favorite saying is, “There’s no finish line,” writes his emails in red and frequently has his employees walking on eggshells says it’s time for him to dial things down a little bit so he will hire a CEO.
“I think it’s a healthy time for somebody else to take the reins in terms of certain responsibilities in our organization,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank tells our Tim Tucker in a story that’s linked here on MyAJC.com.
There are some interesting comments from Blank in the piece, but this one is my favorite: “If I was disengaging from the businesses, I think it would be (difficult), because I’m not the kind of person who would do well sitting under a tree reading books all day.”
Exactly. Some thoughts on Blank’s intention to slow down and how it may affect the Falcons:
1.) I’m not buying it: I’m sure Blank, who turns 73 next month, intends to slow down. But he’s just not built that way. It will be easy enough to take a less active role in two of his for-profit businesses, the PGA Tour Superstore and his guest ranch in Montana (assuming both stay profitable). But his MLS team is a relative start-up business,, which means Blank will be preoccupied with ticket sales, sponsorships, branding, fan growth and winning. The Falcons are his lifeblood — on the field and off, especially with a new stadium on the horizon and PSLs to sell. I don’t see him any less obsessed in the future than he is now.
2.) No change in Falcons’ structure: Blank wisely says Falcons coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff will still answer to him, not the new CEO. The quickest way to unnerve Quinn, who had other head coaching job offers this past winter, would have been to say, “You’re now answering to somebody else.” Blank restructured the Falcons’ football operations before the season to have the coach and GM report separately to him. That somewhat diminished Dimitroff’s autonomy, and he likely also would not have been thrilled with a new layer being added on the flow chart between football operations and ownership.
3.) If the Falcons continue to lose, duck: It will be easier for Blank to lighten his day-to-day obsession of the Falcons’ football operation if the team wins. But if the struggles continue, there will be no stopping him. More firings, hirings and another restructuring would all be possible, with the owner as the pointman. Also, I would not want to be a PSL salesman in a strategy meeting with Blank right now.
4.) The Quinn/Dimitroff watch: If the Falcons take off under Quinn, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him gain more power, like his former boss in Seattle, Pete Carroll. That’s another call Blank would have to make. He also would have to appease Dimitroff in such a scenario. That’s not a situation the owner would sit out.
5.) Rich McKay’s future uncertain: When McKay lost his job as Falcons’ general manager, Blank chose to keep him in the organization because he valued his knowledge of the NFL, the CBA and of business in general. He also needed somebody to help land a new stadium deal. But with the Falcons’ new home now being built and Blank having a naming rights deal secure, McKay’s future role in the organization is uncertain. McKay currently reports to Blank. But in the new world, he will report to the new CEO. Would he want that — and for what job? I wouldn’t be surprised if he steps away.
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