1. Blank's Toughest Decision: Atlanta Falcons Owner and Chairman Arthur Blank held a press conference Monday to announce his decision to release Mike Smith from his contract as the head coach of the team. Blank hired Smith in 2008 and watched him go on to lead the team to record-setting numbers, unseen in the team's proud history. Blank said Monday's coaching change is the most difficult decision he's ever had to make and then identified why he chose to part ways with his good friend.
"This is about championships, rings and not only hosting a Super Bowl, which we hope to do in our new stadium, but winning a Super Bowl, whether it be played in Atlanta or any place, that's what this is about," Blank said. "That's what I signed up for, and that's what I committed to on behalf of our fans and all of our stakeholders and everybody connected to the organization either emotionally, directly or passionately, that's my job.
"Sometimes you have people you are close to personally that you care a lot about, that you go to war with, that you're in the trenches with, that you care about their family, etc. and to make those tough decisions is very challenging, and that was certainly the case with Mike Smith."
2. Falcons Staff Under Scrutiny: During his press conference, Blank was asked several times about the future of the Falcons current assistant coaches, as well as general manager Thomas Dimitroff and his staff.
"We'll go through the coaching process (and) we'll see where that takes us," Blank said. "I've said this to Thomas (Dimitroff) that every part of our football operations will be under scrutiny. This may stop, may be finished today. It may not be finished today. I don't know where we're going to end up with this. Thomas is our general manager. He will be part of our internal team that will help us look for the next coach and we'll have to see where that takes us."
3. Dimitroff Opens Up:Dimitroff was hired with Smith in 2008, serving on a team that saw remarkable success from 2008-2012. During Monday's presser, the team's current general manager was asked to comment on Smith's release and moving forward with the team.
"Smitty and I worked closely together on building this football team," Dimitroff said. "We're very proud of what we've done over the five years. The two years, obviously, have not been what we've wanted. I take a great deal of responsibility for what happens with this organization and the team building that has taken place.
"We think we have some good football players on this team. We also know that I have made mistakes, and I know that I am going to be scrutinized for it. I know that I have over the last months looked at every different aspect of our football operations as far as what needs to be adjusted as far as myself and my approach to things as well. I am responsible as much as Smitty is for this organization and the success of this organization and the downfall of this organization."
Falcons Owner and Chairman Arthur Blank, along with general manager Thomas Dimitroff and president and CEO Rich McKay, discussed the release of Mike Smith on Monday morning
4. Requirements of Next Head Coach: While Blank said early on in the press conference that he would not be discussing which coaches the team plans to contact for interviews because of the competitive nature of the business, he did define what characteristics he wants the new Falcons head coach to have:
"I think it's less important as to whether the head coach is an offensive-minded coach or defensive," Blank said. "I think the attributes for a head coach start with being a great leader, having a clear vision, being to articulate it, being able to motivate, and in every business, being able to hire the best people. In this case, coordinators, coaches, etc. and give them clear direction. This business does require creativity and flexibility, not only from year-to-year, from season-to-season but from game-to-game and within the game. So, (we want) somebody who has an adaptive mind, who can think around corners and think ahead in terms of what they may be facing."
5. The Matt Ryan Effect: Numerous times during Monday's press conference, Blank was asked about franchise quarterback Matt Ryan's play and his involvement in the search for a new head coach. Blank made it clear that while Ryan would not be involved in selecting the new head coach, his talent makes the coaching decision even more critical, hoping to maximize Ryan's talent for the next several years.
"I think the next five, six, seven years is going to be critical in terms of maximizing his (Ryan's) talent and his ability to be our franchise quarterback and be our leader on the field," Blank said. "I think this (coaching) decision is a critical one in that regard and we want to make sure we take advantage of the opportunity. He may not be a part of the interview process, but his presence in this franchise and his presence on the team and in the community is going to be very important factor for our success and in attracting what we think is an outstanding list of candidates to be potentially our head coach as we go forward."