Atlanta Falcon's owner Arthur Blank has already had a week of filled with misery, one for the ages, and it's only Wednesday.
He found out Monday that the man who was once his franchise quarterback, Michael Vick, was sentenced 23 months in prison after being convicted on charges stemming from his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. Less than 24 hours later, he received a phone call from Falcons' coach Bobby Petrino announcing his resignation.
But the somewhat frazzled appearance and the deep, soul-searching stares he displayed at his press conference Wednesday are not wholly the signs of a man who harbors bitterness towards either of the two men who have so publicly wronged him over the past few months. No, they are signs of a man who is left with one very personal and very daunting question: "Who can I trust now?"
When Blank approached Vick after charges were originally brought against him, Vick looked him in the eye and flatly refuted the reports of his involvement.
Petrino took it a step further. Somewhere in between Vick's sentencing Monday and the Falcons' game with the New Orleans Saints later that night, Blank sought out Petrino with one simple question: if the media asks him about Petrino potentially leaving Atlanta for one of the many college football coaching openings, what should he say. Petrino grabbed and shook Blank's right hand and said "Tell them you have a coach."
If the pure audacity of that lie doesn't strike you, maybe this will. The Falcons are an unmitigated mess. The quarterback to whom they gave a $100 million contract to just a few years ago proved to be consistently erratic on the field and an absolute nightmare off of it. The coach to whom they gave $24 million to come in and work with their much-maligned quarterback.
Both were given chances to admit their wrongdoings or false allegiances, but instead, each elected to act in a manner that was a slap in the face to the Falcons' players, their fans, the media and anyone else associated with the organization.
Who will fans and media and perhaps even players inevitably lay the burden of responsibility on? Blank.
Now, that might be justified. Blank's unwavering support of Vick through all of his well-documented off-the-field problems prior to his indictment. Blank assumed Petrino would honor his 5-year contract even though he signed with the Falcons just months after inking a 10-year deal to stay at Louisville.
For that, you can label Blank as gullible and it would be fair. He did buy into what Petrino was selling. Petrino's enthusiasm and vigor resonated with Blank, especially once the debacle with Vick started. Is there anyway he would have guessed that his coach whose mantra was "play all four quarters" would have checked out midway through the first quarter of his five year contract?
To whole-heartedly fault Blank for his inability to foresee this type of a departure, under these circumstances and at this point of the season would be an grievous mistake. The only one that could top it would be if Blank himself became calussed to any future dealings with the franchise he holds so dear.
Listening to Blank address the media Wednesday regarding Petrino's departure and quick embrace of the Arkansas program, you knew it shook him. You could hear it in the subtle cracklings of his voice. You could sense it in the type of somber and monotone delivery. He is a man twice beaten, and in two days no less. He is a man who in a matter of 24 hours went from feeling relief once Vick's situation could officially be put on the back burner to then being bombarded by an all-new fiery barrage of questions regarding another man in Petrino who betrayed his trust.
Blank is a man surrounded by inquiries and yet, he has no idea where to turn to for answers.
Then again, there is one he statement he has the wherewithal to make. He wouldn't wish this type of a week upon anyone.
Posted by david saunders at 11:49 AM . Wednesday, December 12, 2007