From the day I saw my mother cry as the Falcons lost to the Cowboys in the 1980 playoffs, I've been a Falcons fan. As you can imagine, watching a team for over 30 years is loaded with ups and downs (many, many downs), but things have been pretty good since you got here in 2008. I've really enjoyed being a fan during this time, especially since wearing Falcons gear hasn't resulted in me being publicly ridiculed (well, for the gear anyways).
But the last year or so has been really rough. I know you know that. I also know that injuries absolutely decimated our team in 2013. And let's be honest, the injury bug has come back for a second serving in 2014 - taking our Baker, Hawley, Weatherspoon, Holmes, Moore and Douglas. The little bugger has also taken bites out of Roddy, Blalock, Julio and damn near half the rest of the roster. I get it - and despite what people say, when you have to go to your bench repeatedly, it hurts. I mean - good lord, we had Toilolo play at RT. That's. Not. Good.
So, I get that you've had to deal with injuries again. But here's the thing: as fans, we have been seeing things that confuse us and make us wonder if you're seeing the same things, or if there's something we're missing. And those are the things I wanted to air out here.
So, you know that Antone Smith guy? He's pretty good at scoring. We all know it. Heck, the teams playing against the Falcons know it and they still haven't stopped him. The only thing that has stopped him so far has been you. The coach. We've heard you say after every game that Antone is special and you need to get him the ball more. He's been averaging 10 offensive snaps per game. Last week, he didn't see a single snap in the fourth quarter, despite his amazing TD reception in the 3rd quarter. I get that he's probably not the best pass blocking RB on the roster, but 3 of his 5 TDs have come as a receiver. Surely, he can get a few more snaps lined up outside the tackles, no? While I don't understand the ins and outs of roster management, I do know that Antone has done everything he can to deserve more snaps on offense. I'm disappointed that you haven't made that happen in a meaningful way yet.
While we're talking about offense, I know the offensive line has seen a barrage of injuries again this year. But learning that Jake has been playing through an ankle sprain - similar to what Roddy did last year - is discouraging. I fully understand that Jake at 80% may be better than any other option on the roster right now, but at the same time, we all know that playing Roddy on that gimpy ankle probably slowed his recovery. And if this team is going to have any shot at the post-season, we need Jake as close to 100% as possible. Perhaps give Carimi a shot at LT again, while someone like Schraeder mans the right? I know none of these options is ideal, but maybe they're better than playing our LT of the future on a hurt ankle?
I don't have to tell you that the defense has been poor this year. Really, poor may not be a strong enough word, but I'm willing to tone it down to get a larger point across. The losses of Moore and Spoon have been huge, especially on a young team that needs some key on-field leadership. And it's not lost on fans that the majority of our defense is first and second year guys. And you're right - as fans or as the media, we don't know what the defensive play calls are and we aren't always sure who is to blame on the numerous explosive plays given up this year. But here's the thing: you, me and everyone else watching knows that something has gone horribly wrong on those plays. We don't need to know the specific play call to know that whatever it was, it either 1) didn't work or 2) broke down badly. Whichever option it is, it's a bad look.
While we're on defense, I know you've said that Massaqoui has "earned his snaps" based on his play in practice and this season. What I don't understand is how he didn't earn it at the end of last year, when he logged 3 sacks in his last 4 games? I know you like numbers, so it's confusing how Biermann - who is one of the worst pass rushers in the NFL according to PFF's productivity metrics - gets over twice as many pass rushing snaps as Johnny Mass, when Mass is rated in the top 10 by those same metrics? And forget the statistics for a moment, it was clear based just on the play on Sunday that Massaqoui is our best pass rusher right now. So why is he being dropped into coverage? Why is he still not consistently going after the QB? I know that as a fan I don't know the ins and outs of defense, but I do know that we haven't pressured the QB consistently this year. It seems to me that Massaqoui is one of our better options at doing so, but maybe I'm just too simple minded to get it.
Here's the thing Coach Smith: I don't want you or Dimitroff to fail. I really don't. Atlanta fans are talking about the writing being on the wall for you and TD, but I hate to think that way this early into the season. Nothing would make me happier than to see you and the team run off a streak of wins that propels the team into the playoffs. But last season - coupled with this 2-4 start - are causing me to lose hope of that happening. That saddens me, because you and Thomas have ushered in the most successful era of Falcons football. And no matter what happens from here forward, I will always be deeply appreciative for that.
I want you to succeed. I want you to win. I want you to bring a championship back to this city. That's why I'm hoping you'll hear what the fans are saying - and really, what some analysts are saying too - and make the kinds of changes that will make sure you'll be coaching this team for a long time to come. Because at this point, the alternative likely means the end of something that I'm not sure I want to let go of just yet.
A Devoted Fan