I always tell myself it could be worse, being a Falcons fan. Sometimes I even believe it.
Right now, we're sitting on the edge of a historic precipice. The Atlanta Falcons have never had back to back winning seasons and have rarely been run by anyone more competent than a flock of geese. When Comrade Dimitroff and Mike Smith took over the team, I think they had a lot of us convinced that the inexorable losing ways would be changing. After what many (including myself) saw as a confusing and perhaps lackluster draft, that all crashed down on us. Nothing, it appeared, had changed.
It's easy to become accustomed to losing. Yeah, you can start every season with a case of cheap beer and a hot wing stained smile, but in the back of their minds every Falcons fan knows what will come at the end of the season. Even the very best years ended with ultimate disappointment, like when the Broncos repeatedly kicked us in our collective groins in the Super Bowl. For me, the absolute kicker was when Michael Boley was arrested over the weekend. I think the only way I could be more surprised is if Jerious Norwood revealed he was a woman.
But as hard as it is for me to admit this--even though I really do want it to be true--things are changing.
Instead of landing a hotshot coach and general manager combination, Arthur Blank managed to hire respected and intelligent general manager Dimitroff and unassuming yet talented coach Mike Smith. In doing so, Blank tried to emulate the successful Jacksonville Jaguars, Smith's former team and an organization that built itself up through defensive strength and a punishing ground game. In doing so, our way-too-involved owner set off in the exact opposite direction he went with the McKay/Petrino tandem last year.
As we all got excited for the draft, these two were concocting a plan for the franchise that ended up not including a great deal of offensive or defensive linemen. In my haste to condemn them, I failed to note that this franchise can't be rebuilt in a day. WIth no options they liked past the first couple rounds at those positions, the team instead went to build with character guys who also happened to be damn good football players. Though they couldn't possibly have known it, Boley's looming legal troubles made draftin Kroy Biermann and Robert James much more defensible in the short term. Half or more of these picks may never pan out, but there does appear to be a plan here. That's a change in and of itself.
So I'm preaching patience. Not because Arthur Blank or Thomas Dimitroff or anyone else is telling us to be that way, but because it's impossible to expect anything but a sometimes painful rebuilding process. Even shorn of their Warrick Dunns and Alge Crumplers, with their Michael Vicks and DeAngelo Halls being looked at with scorn, the Atlanta Falcons are still our football team. It's an abusive, thankless relationship where we do all the dishes and get beer bottles thrown at us, but we stick it out precisely because we love this team. Let Bucs fans and Panther fans deride us (Saints fans haven't earned the right), but we'll still be there when this team finally makes us proud. There's something to be said for loyalty in the face of crushing pessimism, and that something is holy hell, you guys are tough. And we are.
So don't give up just yet, not even on this next season. It may seem weird to give two pep talks in the span of a week and change, but it's been that kind of offseason already. The important thing to remember is that eventually, all the awful memories will be replaced by something that smells an awful lot like winning.
And if it doesn't, we can always turn to alcohol.