An Open Letter To The Falcons

Wesley Hitt

"None of us are smarter than all of us. You can have two people with Ph.D.'s and I'll take a room full of 100 plumbers and we'll come up with ideas just as good as yours, if not better." -Randy Eaton, Athletic Director, Western Carolina University

Dear Atlanta Falcons Organization,

My name is Caleb Rutherford. I am but a student, lost in the shuffle of being another face to another teacher. Each day, I strive to learn something new; something I can apply to my life before I hit the real world.

The man I quoted above, Randy Eaton, quite possibly has the best leadership style I have ever personally seen. He believes that all people, regardless of rank, should be able to be heard in an organization because ideas that come from a large group of people can defeat the ideas of a couple of intellectuals due to, literally, the amount of brain power being used. No two brains can out-think one thousand people, except maybe Einstein and Hawking.

Today, I have some advice for you. That's right, a 24-year-old student has some advice for some much more successful people than myself.

Lately in one of my classes I've been studying cognitive dissonance, or the conflict behind beliefs differing from actions. One way to reduce the dissonance is to give yourself selective exposure or, in essence, put horse blinders on.

I think that there is some of that going on with this team, and I'm here to tell you, in the words of Chicago Bears legend Mike Ditka...

Stop it!

One of the things I've noticed among fans is that they get upset when someone else plays "Armchair QB/GM" like they're mentally incapable of knowing some way to improve things on the team, which, in my eyes, is completely false.

If I were to take the knowledge of every single Falcons fan and pit it against the knowledge of the Falcons' coaching staff in a football game with equal talent, who would win?

The fans would, and that's the absolute truth. The more eyes you train on something, the more opinions you have of the same subject. However, when you block out a large portion of that knowledge for whatever reason, those are opportunities and ideas that are left untapped, some of which come from some very smart people.

That's not to say the fans individually are smarter than the Falcons' organization. It would be foolish for me to make that assumption, as there are some very gifted minds on the team, from owner Arthur Blank down to the players. I consider all of them to be very intelligent. Digesting a complex offense is no easy task.

I'll admit I don't know exactly how a football organization such as the Falcons operates. I would love to learn, but unfortunately for me that time is still some distance away.

My advice to the team, whether you do this or not, is embrace the outside. Sports media doesn't respect the Falcons, but whether they do or not shouldn't bother anyone.

People like Bill Barnwell of Grantland on ESPN.com, for instance. He wrote this about how things tend to go wrong with the Falcons against the Saints. Barnwell's a pretty smart man, and that's a set of eyes not inside the Falcons organization. He also brings up some good ideas; ideas that would otherwise probably never make it inside the organization. So why tune those things out? It's free advice, even if you don't take it!

ESPN has some great football minds on their programming. Herm Edwards and Mark Schlereth are two of my favorites because you can tell they've got a good feel for the game of football.

So when one of those two speaks, why not listen? Why not listen to outside opinions? Someone on here asked, "What about Harry Douglas?" Well, what about him? Why not use him more? Is he not getting open? If not, whose fault is it? His? Matt Ryan's? Coach Smith's? Dirk Koetter's?

You know what makes the Packers so great? They have about 600 receiving threats on the offensive side of the ball. Jennings, Driver, Crabtree, Finley, Cobb, Nelson, Green (RB), and probably a couple more that even I don't know about. They also have that one rookie, #11, I think.

They're so great because they all get used. I'm not a Packers fan and I know all those receiving threats. An outsider unfamiliar with the Falcons might know about Roddy, Julio, Gonzo, and maybe Quizz.

So what about HD? What about Palmer? (He gets his fair share, I think) What about Snelling? When you give these people opportunities, it almost feels like you're setting them up to fail. They have one bad play and don't see the football for the rest of the game. Is it that severe? I think not, but...

My last piece of advice for you is sift through the hate.

There will be fans of the Falcons' and other teams who are just angry haters. Perhaps even some media people as well. They're not the ones you need to listen to.

You need to sift through the hate and look for the people who may have a good idea or two floating around out there. This is the Internet. You can find all kinds of opinions without looking too hard. Then you need to examine those opinions and figure out which ones have merit. After discovering those, go back and examine if those opinions are true or not.

I know there are fans here who watch the All-22 game replays. They could probably point out things that you might miss, even if it's just, "On the 3rd and 5 play with 12 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter, Stephen Nicholas bites just enough on a play action to get beaten, even though their run game has been stuffed all game long."

I know the coaching staff stays busy, so little things like that may go unnoticed, but it could provide something for Nicholas (the play above was fictional, used only for example) to learn from while the coaching staff does something else. That's team improvement with little effort.

I see a lot of the same from this team that we saw in 2010, and I feel like some of the mindsets have become stale. For instance, Barnwell mentioned that going for two in the one situation was very favorable, yet Coach Smith said he didn't even bother to look at the two-point sheet until there's 7 minutes to go in the game. Why is that? Shouldn't a two-point conversion be considered for every touchdown, if only for a couple seconds?

I am but a student, both of the game of football and of life, but I hope that this message reaches somewhere into your organization that I know and love. If not, well, I gave it a whirl anyway.

Thanks for your time, your consideration, and most of all, existing,

Caleb Rutherford

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