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Blank seeks to hire new coach and GM

POSTED: December 31, 2007 5:02 a.m.
FLOWERY BRANCH — Owner Arthur Blank has to wonder if the Atlanta Falcons’ run of bad news will ever end.

Bill Parcells’ rejection Wednesday of Blank’s offer to oversee football operations capped an embarrassing 10-day stretch for Atlanta.

It began Dec. 10, when disgraced quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison for a running a Virginia dogfighting enterprise he called "Bad Newz Kennels."

Later that day, the Falcons lost by 20 points to New Orleans in a nationally televised game played in front of thousands of empty seats at the Georgia Dome. Before kickoff, Blank told ESPN the team’s fortunes would change in 2008 under the leadership of "our CEO," coach Bobby Petrino.

Two days later, Petrino had abruptly resigned after just 13 games to become the coach at Arkansas, and Blank was denouncing his former "CEO" for abusing and betraying his team. In the locker room, several players used such words as "coward" and "quitter" to describe Petrino.

Last Sunday, the Falcons ruined the debut of interim coach Emmitt Thomas, losing their fifth straight game 37-3 at Tampa Bay. The next day, former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher told the Falcons he wasn’t interested in pursuing their vacancy.

Moving quickly to negotiate with Parcells, Blank was close to bringing aboard the former coach who had helped restore dignity during successful runs with Dallas, the New York Jets, New England and the New York Giants, where he won two Super Bowls.

But in a statement released by Blank on Wednesday afternoon, Parcells thought the Miami Dolphins were offering a better deal.

Blank released an overture to Atlanta fans, promising to build a championship-caliber team.

"I have stated we will leave no stone unturned in doing so, and this effort is one example of that," he said. "We gave it our best shot, and it didn’t work out."

Regarding current team president and general manager Rich McKay, who was given full power of football operations in a six-year contract signed in December 2003, Blank indicated the GM won’t be around much longer.

"We will continue down the same overall path, proceeding with plans to hire a general manager and a head coach," Blank said. "We will identify and consider every strongly viable candidate for these positions, with the goal of hiring the best. Rich McKay remains president of the club and will retain general manager responsibilities until a new GM is hired."

Though Parcells reportedly wasn’t interested in becoming an NFL head coach for the fifth time, running back Warrick Dunn and tight end Alge Crumpler said his presence in the front office likely would have brought credibility to a scorned locker room and boosted a dwindling fan base.

Both players seemed encouraged that Blank approached successful, no-nonsense authority figures such as Parcells or Cowher.

"What we need here is stability," Dunn said. "This team still has a lot of good football players, but it’s been a wasted year. Everything that could’ve gone wrong either went wrong or completely blew up. A guy like Bill Parcells has a reputation for building a structure in place so that everybody is accountable to the team."

Crumpler thought Parcells or Cowher would use an approach that his first coach, Dan Reeves, used in their three years together. When Reeves was fired in December 2003, Crumpler was relieved that his successor, Jim Mora, also had an open line of communication with veteran players. Mora led the Falcons to just their second NFC title game in his first season, but Blank fired him on Jan. 1 after missing the playoffs two straight years.

"Just tell me what the deal is, and that’s it," Crumpler said. "As older guys, that’s all we ask."



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