Falcons owner: Stick with us, better times ahead

Updated: October 10, 2003, 5:36 PM ET

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- This wasn't how Arthur Blank envisioned it.

Michael Vick can't play, the Atlanta Falcons have lost four in a row and there's plenty of grumbling from those sellout crowds at the Georgia Dome.

"Hey, everything is perfect," Blank said jokingly from his office that overlooks the Falcons' suburban practice fields.

Of course, that's not the case. The owner made it clear Friday that he's not happy with the state of the Falcons (1-4), who are on the brink of oblivion after a thrilling run to the playoffs in 2002.

"We're not where we want to be, that's for sure," Blank said. "I hope the hole doesn't get any bigger."

In the meantime, he expressed support for Dan Reeves and the coaching staff, is convinced there's enough talent to turn things around and remains hopeful that fans won't give up on a franchise that has never had back-to-back winning seasons.

Blank can understand the frustration after spending big money to keep defensive stalwarts Keith Brooking and Patrick Kerney and bring in prominent free agents Warrick Dunn and Peerless Price.

"We're not performing the way we're capable of performing," Blank said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We have a better team on paper than we had last year. But you have to play on the field."

Any time a team loses, the glare of blame immediately turns to the coach.

Reeves took the Falcons to their only Super Bowl during the 1998 season and the second round of the playoffs in 2002. But those are his only winning seasons in the last eight.

"Unfortunately, Dan has been in this position before," Blank said. "Fortunately, he knows how to work his way out of it."

Blank said he's satisfied with Reeves' effort if not the results. The owner points to Reeves' achievements: one win shy of 200 career victories, twice the NFL coach of the year, three other times the AFC's top coach.

"Dan is the head coach and he has my support," Blank said. "No question he's struggling this year. But we all are."

The 59-year-old Reeves is in the midst of a three-year contract that runs through the 2004 season. While Blank has shied away from an extension, he gave no indication that Reeves won't be allowed to finish the current deal.

"I have a lot of confidence in him," Blank said.

Clearly, the Falcons' troubles began when Vick broke a bone in his right leg during the preseason. He has yet to take a regular-season snap and will miss at least two more games, Blank said. Without their leader, the Falcons are an 11-point underdog at St. Louis (2-2) on Monday night.

In retrospect, the loss of Vick probably affected the team's psyche. And replacement starter Doug Johnson has thrown an NFL-high nine interceptions.

"When you lose somebody who makes the impossible possible, you can't help but feel the impact in some way," Blank said.

Then again, Vick's injury can't be used as a crutch.

"He's not Superman," Blank said. "You've got to have backups who can pick up the slack."

The defense hasn't been any help, ranking last in the league in yards allowed. That wasn't what Blank expected when he made coordinator Wade Phillips one of the highest-paid assistants in the league.

"What makes this frustrating is Wade told me a year ago that the defense would be better this year than last year," Blank said. "The players would understand the scheme and he could add more things."

Instead, injuries and suspensions have hurt depth at outside linebacker and safety. Now that some of those players are returning, Blank believes Phillips can turn things around.

While the owner takes a high-profile role, he concedes that he's not qualified to make roster decisions or suggest changes in the play-calling.

Blank does expect results from the people making those judgments.

"I would never say, 'I'm the owner, play a certain guy," he said. "At the end of the day, if I don't like their decisions, I'll get someone else to make the decisions."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index