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A Little Perspective

We looked horrible against the Texans last Sunday--I am unable, and unwilling, to sugarcoat it--and I’ve pretty much been in a constant state of thinly veiled fury since that game. I think, however, that we could all benefit from a little perspective on this team’s recent history and the potential that remains for this season. Brace yourself, and hit the jump.

Let me just start by saying, remember 2007? Seriously? Vick was suspended, and we had a record number of players on injured reserve. We saw a little Cristobal Rojohombre, Joey Harrington, and even Byron Leftwich at quarterback. Oh, and our "coach," the infamous Bobby Petrino, sneaked out of town following week 14, leaving notes in players’ lockers in lieu of telling the team he was leaving in any way that might be more becoming to a grown man. We finished 4-12. It pains me to even think about it.

Skip ahead to 2008. We hired Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith, moves that, in retrospect, I think we can all agree have been hugely beneficial to this team. We drafted Matt Ryan, and even though my husband and I, as I’m sure was the case with many of you, were seriously skeptical about starting a rookie, his first pass as a pro, which we all remember fondly, relieved our concerns. We finished 11-5 and secured a playoff bid. We lost to Arizona, and the Cardinals went on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. This was kind of a big turnaround from 2007.

The 2009 season resulted in a huge accomplishment for the Falcons. In finishing the season 9-7, they established, for the first time in franchise history, back-to-back winning seasons. Yeah. Two short years ago, finishing above .500 in back-to-back seasons was a pinnacle of achievement.

And last year--well, 2010 was a banner year for the Falcons. Finishing 13-3, winning the division for the fourth time in team history, securing the top seed in the NFC, and posting a third consecutive winning season were all phenomenal achievements. We sent a record number of players to the Pro Bowl. Obviously, the playoff situation, despite home field advantage, ended poorly. We’re all still bitter. But you cannot deny that last year was a spectacular regular season.

Which brings us to this season, a season filled with ups and downs, to say the least. At 7-5 following last Sunday’s hot mess of a showing against the Texans, with the below average Panthers, the abysmally poor Jaguars, the dreaded Saints, and the imploded Bucs remaining on the schedule, I have a hard time picturing any scenario in which we would not end up posting our fourth consecutive winning season. Two years ago, back-to-back winning seasons was a huge deal. Winning seasons have become a part of the culture for this Falcons team. This is significant.

We are still very much in the playoff hunt at this point. The Jay Cutler-less Bears, the inconsistent Giants and the similarly inconsistent Cowboys (minus whichever actually manages to pull it together enough to win that division) and the downward-spiraling Lions are our stiffest competition for a wildcard spot. Our remaining schedule is relatively easy, although the Panthers have lost close games against some very good teams, and the Saints are--oh, this hurts to say--legitimately good, at least on offense, and that will be a very difficult game to win on the road.

I want the Falcons to win a Super Bowl. I want them to win a Super Bowl this season. I actually wanted them to win a Super Bowl last season, when we seemed poised to make a run. I want them to win a Super Bowl every season. Who doesn’t? But, the fact of the matter is, every team--players, coaches, front office, and fans--wants to win a Super Bowl every season, and one team actually gets to live the dream. The other 31 teams end the season disappointed.

It’s just the way it is.

This four year stretch, in the grand scheme, has been fantastic for the Falcons. I don’t think you can look objectively at the way this team has performed under the guidance of Smitty and Dimitroff and not be impressed with the consistent progress and improvement. This is an inconsistent football team. This is a mistake-prone football team. But, we have a top ten defense, and the third-best run defense in the entire league. We have so much potential on offense, and they are just waiting for Mike Mularkey to figure out how to use them effectively. Despite all of our legitimate frustrations, this is a very good Falcons football team. Can you look back at the travesty that was the 2007 season and honestly tell me the current team is not a huge improvement in four short years?

So, let’s beat the Panthers tomorrow, for the love of all that is sacred and holy, and let’s embarrass Jacksonville next Thursday night. Perhaps the Jags will be motivated to hire Mike Mularkey as their new head coach on the spot, who knows. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the Monday night game against the Saints, let’s see if we can frustrate Raheem Morris enough to throw some of his own players out of the game on New Year’s Day, and let’s all ask Santa for a wildcard spot this holiday season. Remember, Green Bay barely edged into the playoffs last year as the sixth seed and ran the table. Anything can happen.