ATLANTA -- Falcons owner Arthur Blank would have preferred to see his own team competing inside Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium this Sunday, but Blank firmly believes a return trip to the Super Bowl could happen sooner than later for the team.
Perhaps even next season.
Asked Monday what it would take for the Falcons to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first time, Blank told ESPN, "You don't worry about winning. You worry about getting back, and then you worry about winning.
"We obviously can recover from all these injuries we had this [past] year, which was definitely a factor. And I think the changes with the staff will make a difference. Our activity in free agency and the draft will make a difference. With the quarterback that we have, and the young defensive stars that we have, and some of the talent that we have on offense with Julio [Jones] and [Devonta] Freeman returning, I think we'll be in very good, competitive shape next year. It's a long season, but I like where we are."
The Falcons finished a disappointing 2018 campaign with a 7-9 record, sparking significant changes. Coach Dan Quinn fired offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, and special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong at the end of the season. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter returned to the Falcons as offensive coordinator, Quinn appointed himself as the defensive coordinator, and former Washington Redskins special-teams coach Ben Kotwica was hired for the same position in Atlanta. Quinn also hired one-time Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey as the tight-ends coach.
The Falcons' most significant pending free agents are defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and running back Tevin Coleman, although general manager Thomas Dimitroff said re-signing Jarrett is a top priority right now. Keeping Coleman seems unlikely after the Falcons already signed Freeman to a five-year, $41.25 million extension ($22 million guaranteed) through 2022.
Blank emphasized how important it is to have a franchise quarterback in 2016 MVP Matt Ryan, a player he believes is more than capable of leading the Falcons to a title.
"It's hard to win in this league without a franchise quarterback," Blank said. "We think we have one of the best. We couldn't be more excited about that. I love that for 11 years, he's been incredibly consistent. He's a great leader on the field, off the field. He works hard, harder than anybody else. He understands his responsibilities and has developed wonderful leadership skills. And he has all the talent to take us where we need to be."
Blank also expressed firm confidence in Quinn as the 48-year-old heads into his fifth season with a 36-28 overall record and 3-2 playoff mark.
"He's a great leader of men," Blank said of Quinn. "He has a great vision. He's brutally honest with himself and with the staff and the players. He's not going to compromise his values, and he supports the values of the organization. I couldn't be happier having him as our coach."
During a group interview session, the first question asked to Blank was if he was over the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in a 34-28 overtime loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
"Yes. I've fully recovered from that," Blank told the group. "That's history. So, we've learned from history, we live in the present and we plan for the future."
We'll see if that future includes a Super Bowl title.