I think we've universally agreed that this was quite a season.
A while back, I asked two of my esteemed blogosphere colleagues to give me their thoughts on the season behind us. In order to turn it into a mighty Cerberus of writing and reviewing, I've thrown my own faded Falcons hat into the ring. Together, we've taken a look at our own predictions and expectations and seen a shining ray for the future.
Join me after the jump for thoughts from Aaron Freeman of FalcFans, Daniel of Red White Black and Blue, and some guy named Dave. After you've read through, take the suggestion of frequent commenter Grayson and e-mail me your own reviews for a reader season wrapup that will run next week.
Aaron Freeman: My thoughts on the Falcons season are mostly positive. Now I do think there is a ways to go before it's us knocking on the door at the
lot here in Atlanta. Much more so than it has been in the past.
I think with a few more years of accumulating more talent on the offensive
and defensive sides of the ball, we could be a very, very, very good team.
I won't get too heavy into the flaws of the team, but one of the things I
liked this year was for the most part the team won games it should have
won. They weren't always pretty and I'd be lying if I didn't want us to
dominate some of our lesser opponents more, but a win is a win. I'll take
it, and I hope that continues in the future. We weren't a great team this
past year, but a good one. And I'm hoping that continues into the future.
Beat the teams you're supposed to beat, and beat some of the teams you're
not. That's the formula for success. We play hard, are well-coached, and
finally have a quarterback that really could take us to the promised land.
I don't know if the team is going to be able to have a winning season in
2009. A brand new season presents new challenges, and it remains to be
seen what those will be and if we can overcome them. But I'm certainly
optimistic. I just can't wait until we shake that 40+ year curse off our
backs. And even if it doesn't come this year, I'm fairly confident that it
isn't that far off.
Aaron writes insanenly detailed analysis over at FalcFans. Check out of his work here.
On the last day of my honeymoon I sat in a condo on the beach and told my new wife, “I just want the Falcons to get the ball back. I just want one last chance.” Because I knew that if Matt Ryan got the ball back with two minutes to play, we had a chance. Even if we didn’t score, we could at least give the Cardinals some heartburn. When little used tight end Stephen Spach caught a wide open pass for the game-sealing first down, I immediately felt anger at the loss. However, “how the hell did we give up that wide open of a pass with the game on the line?” gave way to “Man, we were so close and I just know Ryan would have gotten them down the field.”
And from thus springs hope. After a little stewing, perspective returned and I remembered how much of a miracle it was that the Falcons were one 3rd and 16 stop away from having a chance at winning a road playoff game in the final two minutes. And how crazy is it that I had the utmost confidence that a rookie quarterback could march the Falcons down the field with two minutes and no timeouts. Ravens fans couldn’t say that about their rookie QB, who I advocated the Falcons draft. Honestly fans for half the teams in the league can’t say that about their QB, regardless of experience.
So at the end of the day, all the anger and disappointment I feel about losing a road playoff game by 6 points or from narrowly missing out on the #2 seed in the NFC, translates into hope for the future when I reflect on where the Falcons were at the beginning of the year.
And to think I was being optimistic when I predicted the Falcons would win 6 games this year.
Daniel writes about Atlanta and Georgia sports over at Red White Black and Blue alongside MLT. Read his crazily optimistic 2008 season prediction here.
Dave: A skeptic all off-season long, I was visited by some whiskey-fueled hallucination and inspired to write this before the season began:
Dear Lords of Football,
O, to be a Falcons fan! 'Tis a heavy weight to bear, with season after season filled with woe. Can thy will be to ruin our beer-soaked minds? I would ask thee to hold us in higher regard, we loyal sufferers of Atlanta football.
Lords, I ask thee to deliver us from suckitude. Let us bask in the warm glow of rookies playing exceptionally, veterans exceeding expectations, and Mike Smith becoming the most plainly named coach ever to win a Super Bowl. Forgive us our shouting at the television the first time Brent Grimes gets burned, and accept our shame we beg to see Jerious Norwood actually take the field. We are only as you made us, imperfect football fans all.
Lords, let us see progress. Let us see the shining ray of hope that will keep us in good spirits through a year where mistakes and doomed games are inevitable. Let us know that there is a real chance that Matt Ryan shall bringeth the championship fever back to a city that has only fleetingly drank of it. Most of all, let us enjoy competitive games as we cheer, as always, for our team.
Oddly, the sentiments expressed here were much more on target than in any post where I attempted actual analysis. I didn't like the Matt Ryan pick, I optimistically forecast about 5-7 wins, and I predicted significant growing pains for everybody involved with the Falcons.
With the playoffs behind us, it's clear that I was the wrongest wronger who ever wronged a wrong. The Falcons exceeded every reasonable expectation and guys like Michael Turner, Ryan, Mike Smith and Roddy White were absolutely beastly. Despite a lack of help on the defensive side, John Abraham, Curtis Lofton and Domonique Foxworth were among those who impressed. Even the special teams was better than expected, with Michael Koenen steadily bettering himself and Jason Elam proving to be a steady veteran. This wasn't just a growing, vibrant team: it was a good football team.
That's why I can't be disappointed about the way the season ended, especially after the Cardinals bludgeoned everyone else in their path. While I see plenty of reason to be cautious before anointing the Falcons as a playoff team next season, I also don't doubt their ability to beat anybody in the league. I'm thrilled to see what bounty the draft brings us, and I salivate over the possibility of smart free agent signings that will further improve our upwardly mobile squad.
There's nothing for me but happiness and a pride that transcends what I've known all these many years as a Falcons fan. For the first time since 1998, people find out I root for the Falcons and want to actually talk about the team instead of laughing at me. There is joy and hope here, and I'm going to squeeze every memory out of 2008 that I possibly can.
Here's to 2009!
Dave the Falconer writes, edits and smuggles words for this here site. You might be familiar with his work.