It's been apparent for weeks that the tandem of Jason Elam and long-snapper Bryan Pittman wasn't getting the job done in Atlanta.
This was, after all, a career low percentage of field goals made by Elam, who before had only dipped to 72%. This year he was making 63.5%, and while there were clearly other issues besides just his leg, something had to give. Rather than remove one piece of the equation, the Falcons embraced wholesale change.
According to the always reliable Adam Schefter, Elam and Pittman have been released. In their place, the Falcons signed experienced kicker Matt Bryant, a tough as nails guy who was injured in pre-season and hadn't broken back in with a job, and long-snapper Joe Zelenka, who handled duties for the Jacksonville Jaguars for eight years. They're both excellent choices, my preference for a younger kicker the Falcons could mold aside.
It's fair to ask if any of this would be happening if long-snapper Mike Schneck, a guy who I respect tremendously, hadn't gotten injured. It's also fair to ask if Elam's fighting some kind of nagging injury. At the end of the day, though, this was about the Falcons recognizing a problem and fixing it. If Elam had been allowed to come in to the game and had missed a critical kick against the Eagles this weekend, the backlash against the coaching staff would have been tremendous, and Bryant could have been snatched up by another kicker-hungry team around the league.
I wish Jason Elam well and want to thank him on behalf of The Falcoholic for the tremendous boost he gave us during a magical 2008 season. Let's hope Bryant really is the answer.