The Atlanta Falcons held a state of the franchise press conference Wednesday, commenting on the disappointment that was the conclusion of their 2011 season. Arthur Blank spoke first, expressing great disappointment at the way the year ended. He also said he trusts Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith to address what needs to be addressed.
Blank also confirmed the exit of offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. Smith said there's no time frame for replacing Mularkey and former defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, but said it would be done "sooner rather than later." In response to a question, Blank called the search for new coordinators "a private matter." (Some objected to this, strangely.) Blank said he expects the new coordinators to be "cold-hearted and unemotional" on roster matters.
Smith reiterated that the team's goals are higher than just reaching the playoffs consistently, no matter how rare postseason trips were before the current regime arrived. Blank described his mood as "angry" about the team's performance.
Regarding free agency, Dimitroff said only about eight of the team's 17 are likely to be resigned. As far as incoming free agents, Dimitroff said he'd prefer new players who have "positive playoff experience."
The team's inconsistency was repeatedly decried, with Smith at one point saying the team met its goal of becoming more explosive offensively, but failed to make much of all the explosions. Both Smith and Blank defended the trade for Julio Jones; Dimitroff added that the Jones deal was just part of the quest, listing better tackling and fundamentals as additional areas in need of addressing.
Dimitroff said the entire roster is being analyzed as free agency approaches, at one point turning to Blank for help remembering the expression, "there are no sacred cows." He also said the team's chemistry wasn't "in sync" this year, noting a lack of passion at times. Blank cautioned against bringing on talented free agents for the sake of bringing on talented free agents, dipping into references of bodies rejecting grafted organs.
When Dimitroff said the team needs to be more opportunistic, citing missed tackles and missed interceptions, Blank added, "or a missed block or two." It's not all the defense's fault, not by any means.
Smith named Sean Weatherspoon, Matt Ryan, Eric Weems and Matt Bosher his team MVPs, adding about the rookie punter, "we were all getting ready to run this guy out of town" before his outstanding latter portion of the season. So there are four guys who probably aren't being cut any time soon. Smith also called kicker Matt Bryant "Mr. Consistency."
Regarding Michael Turner, Smith said his number of touches will need to be evaluated in the future, but added that he felt Turner was "effective" and "solid" for most of the season.