The Atlanta Falcons hosted their annual State of the Franchise event yesterday evening at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center and invited season ticket holders to attend. From photos with Freddie Falcon immediately upon arrival, to fr...
The Atlanta Falcons hosted their annual State of the Franchise event yesterday evening at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center and invited season ticket holders to attend. From photos with Freddie Falcon immediately upon arrival, to free food, to discounted merchandise, it was clear that the Falcons, as usual, took great care to provide a great experience for fans.
Wes Durham, the "Voice of the Falcons" on the radio, served as the master of ceremonies for the event, and Falcons president and C.E.O. Rich McKay, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith all spoke at the event.
McKay spoke a great deal about the new stadium, and the thought process behind it--so much so, in fact, that it deserves its own post. Here, I'll recap primarily just what the brain trust said about the direction of the team, their personnel moves this offseason, and their focus on the coming season. Fans had some really excellent questions for McKay, Dimitroff and Smith as well, which I will also cover in a separate post.
Rich McKay talked about the previous season, and what a great year it was, and acknowledged that, while the team did get to that next level in 2012, they have a couple more levels to go. He commented on fan energy in the Georgia Dome in 2012 being significantly better, saying that fans are succeeding in making the Dome uncomfortable for opposing fans. He thanked fans for "rising back up," following the loss in in the NFC Championship Game.
McKay also brought Dimitroff and Smith on stage for applause after listing their accomplishments over the past five seasons--five consecutive winning seasons, four playoff appearances, three consecutive playoff appearances. Remember, McKay was in Atlanta--and was the GM--during the catastrophe that was 2007, and everything that led to it. McKay said that Dimitroff and Smith took at team that had no credibility and turned them into a team that is second in the league for total number of wins over the past five years (McKay apologized for not being first) and is first in the NFC for total number of wins in that five-year period.
Thomas Dimitroff took the stage to a standing ovation. Dimitroff spoke about their focus on retaining their own players, emphasizing that, if they draft well, retaining their players should be a priority. Dimitroff mentioned the four starters who were cut--Dunta Robinson, Michael Turner, John Abraham and Tyson Clabo--and said that the Falcons made those moves partially for salary cap reasons, but also to get better as a football team.
On Tony Gonzalez, Dimitroff said that when he initially brokered a deal with Gonzalez in 2009, he was holding his breath that the Falcons would get one season out of him. Looking back, that's hilarious. Needless to say, Dimitroff, like everyone else, is delighted to have Gonzalez back for his fifth season with the Falcons.
Dimitroff showed some film of free agent acquisitions Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora, to give the fans a glimpse into their thought process for the signings. He also reiterated what we already know--these are guys that fans can be proud of on and off the field.
For Steven Jackson, the Falcons like the power he runs with--Dimitroff said he has one of the best, if not the best, motors in football. They also like his versatility as a receiver.
On Umenyiora, Dimitroff said, and showed on film, how Osi has good instincts and a nose for the ball. He emphasized that Umenyiora knows what it takes to win championships. The film on Osi had one play that the crowd loved, featuring Umenyiora absolutely destroying Drew Brees, and Dimitroff played that one again, much to the crowd's delight.
As far as the draft, Dimitroff said that they knew for certain that they would not be able to get Desmond Trufant--a player they were very focused on--anywhere from the mid-twenties to 30, which is why they partnered with an ally, Les Snead in St. Louis, to move up to get him. Trufant, per Dimitroff, is a good sized corner who
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