There is no Atlanta sports figure happier today than Falcons owner Arthur Blank. His team has four straight, including Sunday’s impressive 23-16 win over the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, and sits at 4-1 despite an early part of the schedule that many expected would crush the team.
Blank recently gave me and WSB’s Zach Klein a revealing interview for the two episodes of the “We Never Played The Game” Podcast. The first episode, during which Blank discussed his wealth and his early struggles at Home Depot, can be downloaded here on iTunes.
But the best stuff in my view comes in part II, which is now posted HERE or listen to it here:
Blank discusses his future as owner and whether he one day plans to sell the team or hand it down to his kids; the highs and lows of the Michael Vick era; how Vick’s incarceration affected him personally; and the exit of former coach Bobby Petrino.
It was during our discussion about Petrino when Blank revealed for the first time that he likely was going to fire Petrino anyway — or Petrino was going to resign voluntarily — after the 2007 season. The comments are significant because while it doesn’t excuse Petrino for lying to Blank about his plans to walk out on the Falcons with three games remaining in the season for the Arkansas job, it certainly suggests the Falcons should not have been completely blindsided.
Yes, Blank was lied to by Petrino’s. But he also made it clear that a change was likely coming after that 3-13 season.
These comments begin with Blank recounting how Petrino gave him assuranaces the day of a Monday night football game that he was remain in the job through the season, despite rumors he might leave for a college job. Blank had requested a meeting with Petrino at the Arthur M. Blank Family office the day of the game because he anticipated he was going to be asked about the coach during a television interview that night.
An excerpt from the “We Never Played The Game” podcast:
“The way he did it was unfortunate. That was sad. Because we had a meeting here in this office. It was Monday night football and there was a lot of speculation. I told him I’m going to be interviewed that night by ESPN, and I’m it’s going to be one of the questions. We had already kind of agreed that after the season was over he was going to move on. He was more suited to the college program than the NFL program. … But part of our discussion here, was, ‘Look, if you decide you’re going to leave, I’ll handle it a certain way with ESPN. If not, I’ll handle it differently. I remember him standing up and putting out his hand and saying, “You have a coach.” I said fine. And that night I was sitting in bed and I watched him do that ‘Pig Sooey’ thing from the University of Arkansas.
So while Blank planned to move on from Petrino after the season, he had assurances Petrino would finish the season out.
More from Blank: “It was just obviously wrong. If he had just been transparent up front. I clearly saw his relationship with the players wasn’t what it needed to be. Their relationship with him wasn’t what it needed to be. It wasn’t going to work out. So you finish out the season in a way that represents honor and integrity.”
Of course, that didn’t happen.
Why did Blank hire Petrino in the first place? That’s also in Arthur Blank: Part II.
Blank was raw and honest on many subjects. You can listen to the whole thing here. Subscribe to the “We Never Played The Game” podcast — it’s free! — and hear new episodes every Monday and Thursday.
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