For a time, the Atlanta Falcons took a major public relations hit. Not only was Michael Vick sent to prison after pleading guilty to felony conspiracy in interstate commerce and the aid of unlawful animal fighting, the team's newest head coach, Bobby Petrino resigned after only 13 games to take the Arkansas head coaching job. Mike Zimmer, who isn't very good with names, only remembers him as the "gutless bastard."
Needless to say, perspectives described in a very nice way, the Atlanta Falcons were in bad shape. The story of their rebound, surrounded by one hire and an owners desire to change, could be a lesson for the Cincinnati Bengals.
With the Falcons drowning in adversity in 2007, owner Arthur Blank wanted to start over with a new general manager, head coach and quarterback. Hiring Thomas Dimitroff to oversee football operations, the Falcons rebuilding project began. During the first year on the job, Dimitroff and Blank hired Mike Smith, who was the former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator. The team drafted Matt Ryan at quarterback and signed running back Michael Turner during free agency. The following year, Dimitroff traded the team's second-round pick for tight end Tony Gonzalez, who was voted into the 2010 NFL Pro Bowl.
The three years prior to hiring Dimitroff, the Falcons went a combined 19-30. In the three years since, the Falcons have made the playoffs twice with a collective 33-15 record.
Dimitroff won the Sporting News NFL Executive of the Year Award, the second time and the past three years.
"I am thrilled for and proud of Thomas and his staff," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said "Winning this award twice in three years is validation and recognition of Thomas’ many contributions not only to building a winning team over his first three seasons, but his unwavering focus and vision for this team’s future. He is truly deserving of this award."
Of course, expecting the Bengals to follow an example like the Falcons is a dream. The team had every opportunity to rebuild from scratch this year. Marvin Lewis had an expiring contract and by all indications, the franchise quarterback has no intention to play for the Bengals, even if he's not traded. And you know about the team's general manager situation.
Instead, the Bengals re-hired Marvin Lewis, have no intention on trading Carson Palmer and a general manager in Cincinnati is simply not going to happen. We're not going to say that these moves are the wrong ones, especially with too many unknowns about the Collective Bargaining Agreement. But you also see the difference between an owner that's mad with improving his team and an owner that's typically satisfied with the status quo.