Empty Words and the Atlanta Falcons

Todd Kirkland

We're at the point in the season where the rhetoric becomes bothersome.

Warning: Strong opinions ahead. Opinions have been known to cause unpleasant disagreements.

Mike Smith has made mistakes. Thomas Dimitroff has made mistakes. Regardless of that, they've been at the helm for four playoff seasons, a conference championship berth and plenty of big moments. As grim as this year has been, the Falcons have been in good hands with Smitty and the Comrade, and I go on record once more saying I doubt either of them will be fired after this year.

I think it's prudent, as a rule, to not clean house after one poor year, especially one heavily fueled by injuries. At 2-5, we're not even halfway through the season, either. I think as long as the team genuinely recognizes the issues that got them here, they're going to be primed for a quality offseason and a bounce-back year in 2014.

One thing Smith and Dimitroff aren't good at, however, is avoiding the kind of comments that infuriate a fanbase during a poor season. Smith in particular has long been a fan punching bag for his evergreen pressers and unchanging commentary on the team's fortunes, regardless of whether the Falcons just won narrowly or lost by multiple scores. You have to be careful how much stock you put in comments because they don't necessarily reflect what's going on behind the scenes, but given the way this year has unfolded, I think it's fair to do some dredging.

Here's some of the highlights from the last couple of weeks:

  • Mike Smith says this: "We don't want to throw the ball 61 times a game, I can assure you that," coach Mike Smith said. "That's not what we're built to do. We're built to run the football when we have to."

    This couldn't possibly be more inaccurate. The ground game is 32nd in the NFL this year. The line is one of the worst run-blocking units in the entire NFL. The Falcons averaged a yard a carry last week on the ground against the Cardinals. When healthy, this team is built to sling the football around, not run it. That's glaringly obvious.

    Really, Smith says things like this all the time. One out of every three times I watch him comment on a game, he'll say something like "well, you guys have your stats" or "I'm sure there's stats for that." I can't be the only one who finds it more than a little unsettling that Smitty doesn't appear to include stats in his calculus.
  • Thomas Dimitroff says this: "As an organization we have three reasons why we do not believe in in-season trades," Dimitroff said. "There is often times a reason why some players are available via trade in-season, and that does not always fit with our team-building philosophy."

    I wasn't in favor of making any big trades at the deadline, but when your team is floundering badly, you probably don't want to call attention to the fact that your team-building philosophy is pretty rigid. Character concerns and poor performances in a seven game sample should not necessarily disqualify you from getting a player, and being willing to swap picks aggressively during the draft but totally unwilling to do the same thing at the trade deadline seems a little bizarre.

    It also rankles a bit that we hear about this team "evaluating everything" and watch nothing change, or when Dimitroff talks about his confidence in the players and coaches as if things are just suddenly going to get better after the 2-5 start without the team shaking things up. I realize that's pretty par for the course with NFL teams, though.
  • Mike Smith says they never considered trading Tony Gonzalez. Rhetoric is rhetoric, but "never considered?" Why not leave a little mystery just in case someone blows you away with an offer? You wind up looking inflexible if no trade gets made, and like a complete liar if one happens.
  • Mike Smith says he supports taking away scores when players taunt. This isn't specifically Falcons-related, but I instinctively oppose anything this stupid.
Ultimately, what happens on the field matters much more than anything Smith or Dimitroff say. It's just disheartening when everything coming out of Flowery Branch sounds more or less the same as it did a year ago after losses, when those losses were much easier to take.

Your thoughts?

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