partlycloudy
Friday May 29th, 2015 6:33PM

Blank fully behind Smith, Dimitroff as they pick up pieces on 2013

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA -- Falcons owner Arthur Blank fully supports coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff and believes they'll lead his team back to the playoffs in 2014.

In his first public comments since Atlanta ended a 4-12 season, Blank said Monday that despite a major collapse in 2013, Smith and Dimitroff have earned the right to change the team's fortunes next season.

"If I felt for any version of a New York minute that we didn't have the right leadership and ability to make that happen in 2014, we would make additional changes," Blank said. "I don't think those changes are necessary because I think we do have ability, but that goal and that desire is my standard."

Blank, the team's owner since 2002, believes the Falcons could be on the cusp of a major turnaround. He compared Atlanta's six-year record under Smith and Dimitroff as favorable to the NFL's upper echelon teams.

Only New England, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Green Bay and New Orleans have had better records over the last six seasons. The Falcons, who are tied with Indianapolis for a 60-36 regular season mark, are the only club not to reach the Super Bowl.

Blank said he expects, at a minimum, that Atlanta will have a winning record and return to the playoffs next season.

"I think this is important for our fans to understand," he said. "I've made this quite public in the past. My goal as the owner, the steward and the conduit for the fans is to put rings on the fingers of our players - for Atlanta and for all of us."

Blank agreed with comments made by Smith and Dimitroff that the Falcons must rebuild their offensive and defensive lines to stop getting pushed around on the line of scrimmage.

The team fired offensive line coaches Pat Hill and Paul Dunn and defensive line coach Ray Hamilton a couple of hours after Smith and Dimitroff met with reporters last week.

After filling those three jobs, next on Atlanta's to-do list will be to identify which players the team hopes to acquire in the NFL draft and free agency.

Blank indicated that the offensive and defensive lines will be the primary focus over the next four months. He added that the entire organization, himself included, was responsible for the poor results last season.

"All decisions made related to roster changes are made with my awareness and my knowledge and my support," Blank said. "They are made by Thomas and Smitty in a collaborative way with coordinators and position coaches involved and our talent and personnel evaluators involved as well."

After earning a No. 1 playoff seed in 2012 and finishing 10 yards shy of the Super Bowl, the Falcons fell apart during a 1-8 stretch that eliminated them from playoff contention by late November.

Injuries to receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, running back Steven Jackson, offensive tackle Sam Baker, defensive end Kroy Biermann and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon proved too much to overcome.

Quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high 44 times and was hit so often that he rarely had time to set his feet and move up in the pocket to complete passes.

"The good news is we understand what the issues are," Blank said. "The bad news is it's more than one issue."

But he expects the Falcons to reclaim the NFC South next season, adding that he has "every reason to believe we'll go from last to first in 2014."
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 4 months ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 4 months ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 4 months ago )
Sports
Pits will be tight as Chili Bowl entry count hits 316
TULSA, OK - The 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire is on track to be a record smashing event, with the entry count climbing over the 300 mark for the first time to 316 entries confirming 303 drivers for the indoor spectacular happening Tuesday, January 13 through Saturday, January 17 at the Tulsa Expo Center in Tulsa, OK.
9:59AM ( 4 months ago )
Falcons fire Mike Smith after 2nd straight losing season
Mike Smith's status as the winningest coach in Falcons history wasn't enough to save his job. Owner Arthur Blank said he fired Smith on Monday because in his "heart of hearts" he didn't believe Smith could take the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
7:58PM ( 4 months ago )
New promoters in place for 2015 at Senoia Raceway
SENOIA, GA - Lease papers have been signed and a team of new promoters is in place for the upcoming stock car racing season at Senoia Raceway in Senoia, GA.
6:00AM ( 5 months ago )
Professional Sports
VIDEO: Spring sports standouts provided countless memories for area fans
It's been an incredible few months on the prep sports scene... And we've been lucky enough to see a lot of it in person.
By Bailey Pless
11:48AM ( 17 hours from now )
2015 baseball season will go down in history
The 2015 high school baseball season will long be remembered...
10:29AM ( 15 hours from now )
Falcon LB wanted for Aggravated Animal Cruelty
Atlanta Falcons linebacker Prince Shembo is wanted by Gwinnett County Police.
3:51PM ( 2 hours ago )
Ralston guns down another tournament title, sets personal bests in process
Gainesville prep golfer Spencer Ralston began his summer tournament schedule with a bang this week, winning the Orchard Hills Junior Classic in Newnan by firing an 18-under-par 126 over 36 holes.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:59AM ( 6 hours ago )
Georgia, ex-Habersham standout McCoy chosen as Nicklaus Award finalist
Georgia golfer Lee McCoy has been chosen as one of five finalists for the 2015 Division I Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year Award presented by Barbasol, the Golf Coaches Association of America announced Thursday.
By UGA Sports Communications
11:00AM ( 7 hours ago )