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Forging A New Path


Much like the President of the United States' address to the nation, the Falcons State of the Franchise event is an opportunity for the Falcons leadership to come together with fans, discuss some topics openly and honestly and answer questions.

It's an elbow-rubbing kind of night. It's a fun night for fans to get unique perspective on their beloved franchise and it's a night of setting expectations and creating new ones. The 2013 State of the Franchise did just that.

The evening kicked off with president and CEO Rich McKay and of course the new stadium was a hot topic, but he began by thanking the fans. As the franchise evolves, the fanbase continues to gain recognition for the home-field advantage they create inside the Georgia Dome. McKay said the energy in the Dome this season was amazing and he understands some stadiums in the NFL are comfortable for fans and players alike.

McKay shared his pride in the Georgia Dome's ability to not make things comfortable for opponents and the sense of community created inside the dome is rivaled by only the best fanbases around the league. The Falcons want a wild fan vibe inside the dome, but also a relaxed environment for them to watch the game.

"We're trying to make it really comfortable for you and not very comfortable for them," McKay said.

One way to raise the comfort level with the fans is with the new stadium and McKay shared some of the ideas and objectives of the coming stadium that will follow the Georgia Dome. 

McKay spoke about his pride in the city of Atlanta and described the negotiations to this point as a "true public-private partnership" and said the stadium was necessary to take the Falcons and the city to the next level.

"It was time for us, in our minds, to create a long-term solution and one that really benefits the city of Atlanta," McKay said.

The ideas behind the stadium's appearance and design aesthetics are still evolving, but McKay said the architect firm that won the rights to complete the stadium did so by challenging everything, something the Falcons are continuing to try to do.

McKay said the Falcons organization wants an "iconic destination" in their new stadium, a place that fans will come to the city to see and when they do, all they will be able to say is "Wow."

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff came next and systematically broke down the offseason, covering everything from the free agent signings of Osi Umenyiora and Steven Jackson to each draft pick selection in this year's draft.

The presentations ended with head coach Mike Smith, who received the biggest ovation of the evening. Smith spoke to the crowd of fans like he was speaking to his team, making jokes and offering up motivation to everyone.

Smith covered some of the changes on the team in the offseason and the coming competition at spots along the offensive line during the offseason workouts and training camp, but he also wanted to share with the fans his enjoyment for coaching the Falcons and his pride in the quality of the guys he and Dimitroff have brought to the franchise.

Smith addressed the character of his team and the reason why character isn't negotiable in the front office of the Falcons.

"We win in the locker room first," Smith said.

Smith closed with a message to the fans. He told them how disappointed he was in the outcome of the NFC Championship. He said he continued to hear about being ten yards away from the Super Bowl last season, but, and he told the team this as well, that was last year and the past is the past.

"Listen folks, that was 2012," Smith said. "Our only focus right now is on 2013. We're not ten yards from the Super Bowl. ...We're 261 days from going to New York."

New York City of course is the host of the Super Bowl following the 2013 season and Smith said it can't come fast enough.

The night closed with questions and answers from the crowd to the leadership, a story from coach Smith about a pre-retirement-decision dinner he had with Tony Gonzalez and a lot of cheers and laughs.

The 2013 State of the Franchise further showed why the men on the stage Thursday evening call Falcons fans the best in the NFL. The event has been hosted by the Falcons for season ticket holders for the last few years and this year's was almost three times as big as last year's.

Much like the gameday experience in the Georgia Dome, the fans made the State of the Franchise experience memorable and it's clear the Falcons have a fanbase that is growing. The fans make the experience and Thursday's event signaled the beginning of a new era in Falcons football, a new year and a new season to rise up.

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