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Falcons owner Arthur Blank on Raheem Morris hire, organizational structure and more

Blank also discusses the future of the quarterback position in Atlanta during a virtual press conference. 

Falcons owner and chairman Arthur Blank was not able to be at Raheem Morris' introductory press conference on Monday afternoon because of a minor medical issue.

Blank, having returned to full health and feeling much better, met with local Atlanta media on Friday afternoon ahead of his Super Bowl LVIII Radio Row appearances in Las Vegas.

For over 30 minutes, Blank fielded questions about the recent coaching search that spanned 18 days and 14 candidates, the organizational restructure, the future of the quarterback position in Atlanta and much more.

Here's a quick look at some of the most important -- and intriguing -- information from Blank's availability.


Why the organization landed on Morris as the Falcons head coach

A major question that circled since the moment it was reported that Morris was returning to Atlanta -- this time without the "interim" title proceeding "head coach" -- had to do with the fact that Morris interviewed for the position in 2021. It's a job that inevitably went to Arthur Smith while Morris became the Los Angeles Rams' defensive coordinator.

Why hire Morris now? What's changed? Blank answered.

On a scale of 1-10, being a cultural leader and being someone who defines leadership, Blank said Morris is a 20. That hasn't changed. What has, the owner said, is Morris' abilities as a structural leader.

Blank highlighted that he could feel that Morris took a lot from his time with the Rams, particularly seeing the relationship between head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead.

"I think he also appreciates now the importance of trying to build a coaching staff, and understanding that if you have a winning team, you're going to lose coordinators, you're going to lose position coaches," Blank explained. "... How do you anticipate that? How do you build a coaching staff that, when you go through that and your coaches are picked off and they go elsewhere across the NFL which is what should happen, how do you maintain the consistency of play on the field?

"I think he brought back a plan, which showed me that his thinking had really changed in that regard and that he had learned a lot in that regard."


Explaining the reasoning behind organizational restructure

When the Falcons parted ways with former head coach Arthur Smith on Jan. 8, Blank and team CEO Rich McKay -- without general manager Terry Fontenot -- addressed the media regarding the move. In that press conference, Blank and McKay laid out the organization structure, saying Smith and Fontenot shared control of the team, spilt in 50/50 fashion. The duo reported to McKay who reported to Blank.

When the Falcons hired Morris to be the organization's next head coach, the press release detailed a change in organization, with McKay moving off of day-to-day football operations and with Morris and Fontenot reporting directly to Blank.

Blank said the decision to make that change was twofold.

For starters, Blank announced that Vice Chairman of AMBSE Steve Cannon is in the process of retiring. With Cannon gradually taking more and more steps back, Blank needed McKay more involved in decision-making and leadership across all of Blank's businesses. Especially, Blank added, with the World Cup slated to come to Atlanta in 2026.

Another reason for the change, had to do with the experience level of both Fontenot (now three years into his first general manager job) and Morris (who spent six seasons with the Falcons from 2015-20).

"(McKay) served an important role in helping (Fontenot and Smith) transition into their roles as a first-time head coach and general manager in the league," Blank said. "That is no longer necessary with this group."

Because of this, Blank said the need for McKay's input, advise and guidance in day-to-day football operations was "not needed" any longer.

Clarity on the Bill Belichick interviews

Storied former head coach of the New England Patriots, Belichick received a first and second in-person interview with the Falcons. The first was a one-on-one interview with Blank and Belichick, while the second interview was with the Falcons entire search committee. Though the Falcons ultimately chose to hire Morris, there were questions asked of Blank regarding Belichick on Friday.

Blank felt a strong need to clarify some of the reports about Belichick and the Falcons that came out throughout the month of January.

"There were 14 candidates," Blank said of the head coaching search. "It was not any one of the candidates against Bill Belichick. It was all 14 candidates, each competing with each other. And we selected the one we thought -- for a whole variety of reasons -- was the best choice for us."

Blank added that Belichick never asked for full control of the Falcons organization. The owner said the narrative that Belichick wanted that level of control in Atlanta was "totally not true."

"He never had that as a requirement," Blank said.

Plan for the quarterback position in Atlanta

Conversations about the quarterback, of course, came up during the interview process with every candidate. Blank said there was no one the Falcons spoke to that would define the quarterback situation as anything other than "something that needs work."

"It's very clear to everybody -- all of our fans, all of you, anybody throughout the NFL -- is that this is a position that we need to figure out how we're going to get better in 2024 and beyond that as well, whether that be trades, free agency, the draft, whatever it may be," Blank said. 

Blank continued by saying there has not been a set and confirmed plan presented to him about the future decisions at the position. However, that doesn't mean those conversations are not happening.

"This is not one of these things where we can take a year to develop a strategy," Blank said. "Free agency is coming up in a matter of weeks. Draft preparation, we're in the middle of it. (You consider) all of those things in how you put that room back together again."

Blank added that the Falcons have to bring together all of the knowledge and wisdom of the new coaching staff, and coordinators specifically, "in a very short period of time."

"I would tell you quite honestly: 1,000 percent, there's not a defined plan," Blank concluded, "but it is being talked about. And it'll be talked about pretty intensely -- I would say -- over the next coming weeks."

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