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Making the Case For Change In Atlanta

It's Overreaction Tuesday here at The Falcoholic, so let's overreact.

Adam Bettcher

I want to preface this post by saying that, as a human being, I personally do not wish that the livelihood of any other person be taken away unless it is truly deserved.

That said, NFL coaches and players get paid a lot of money to do what they do, meanwhile I get paid nothing for writing here and not-a-whole-lot for the job I do have. So that puts a small damper on the guilt.

I watched the game. It seems to be a trend in my life that when I get to watch my favorite teams, they suck (Sunday), but when I don't watch, they win (see: Week 3 2014 & Playoff game v. Seahawks 2012).

What I saw Sunday unquestionably pushed me over the edge of starting the "Fire Everybody" train. What I witnessed in parts of Sunday was so inexcusable as someone who claims to be both intelligent and a competitor that I think the winds of change need to start blowing real soon.

But for the sake of those who see things differently, I'll examine both sides of the argument. Both sides have strong cases, certainly.

(Note: "Fire Everybody" means at the end of this season)

The Case For

I'm starting with the case for the current regime to stay because I think it's the more difficult case to make. There's certainly some logic behind it but it depends on exactly how you look at it.

1) The offense is as good as it has ever been. This is true. The Devin Hester signing was brilliant. The Jake Matthews pick was great. The OL actually plays respectably (well, it did, prior to Armageddon Sunday) Matt Ryan has become a true offensive terror. All those things combined make for a great offense. All that being said, I don't think you need me to tell you what part of the team will be coming in the case against.

2) This regime has a history of winning. This is true. The regime does have a history of winning. We've been spoiled by our recent success. This level of suck is not new to the franchise itself. 5 straight winning seasons after never having had a winning season is a good feeling.

3) This season can still bear some fruit. We are only 2-2, but our 2 losses are as damning as our wins are...un-damning? Holy-ifying? I don't know.

4) Any given Sunday. The Bucs beat the Steelers, who beat the Panthers. Therefore, Bucs Super Bowl 2014. Right? But seriously, it looks like it could just be a matter of luck as to how many games we'll win. Or, you know, if we have 22 men left to play by the end of the year. Maybe things turn our way sooner rather than later.

5) They've nailed the crucial picks. Dimitroff has nailed all of the picks we absolutely had to have right. Granted, there have been exactly two of those. One was this year (Jake) and one was 2008. And before you tell me all of those high draft picks are slam dunks, well...let me introduce you to Google. And my friend, Gregor.

The Case Against

I could point out so many things from the game that embodies everything that has been wrong with the team since at least last I will.

1) The time management. Don't even try to feed me the "He had faith in his defense" narrative. The end of the first half was the worst thing I have ever seen. They were conceding the half to us and we gave them, essentially, 5 timeouts. Not only that, but we had not stopped them at all up to that point. Why assume your defense is suddenly going to figure it out? Where was the logic in that series of events?

I actually turned the TV off after (McKinnon, I think) lunged towards the end zone. I thought he had scored. When I realized he didn't actually score, I pretty much prayed for them to score a TD there. That would've been the proverbial nail in the coffin for me. I was so angry at what went down that I started rumbling about the Fire Everybody train on Twitter. (I came back after halftime, like we always do.)

Even if he had faith in his defense, it would've meant more to me to just let the clock run out even if they had stopped them. One's own shame is the best learning tool. Like I tweeted somewhere in there. Take your team into the locker room with your tail between your legs and thank your lucky stars you're only down 7.

But surprisingly, the defense actually stopped the Vikes (somehow) and then stopped them again, giving up only 6 points in two possessions. Aside from, you know, zero. BUT the defense, having found some semblance of the word average for two drives, held on just enough to the point that the freight train known as the Falcons offense rumbled up and down the field to take the lead.

I've heard from other readers and fans that Smitty's time management left some things to be desired. I hadn't had a real poor experience with it myself until Sunday. That opened my eyes quite a bit.

And believe me, I get it. There are a lot of things going on in an NFL coach's life. There are lots of things to think about like down and distance, who's hurt and who isn't, but you're paid to get these decisions right, and you're not getting them right.

2) The defense. I'm going to quote ESPN's Falcons writer Vaughn McClure from this article here. This sums it up wonderfully:

When a defense gives up 558 yards to a team playing without its best player and with a rookie quarterback, something is seriously broken.

Broken, Mr. McClure, is a good word to use.

So many upset people on Twitter Sunday. So many. It's understandable because this was the make-or-break year for this regime, and they've done nothing to suggest this team as a whole is much better than it was last year. 8-8 won't get us into the playoffs, folks.

The defense as a unit is just not good. I really feel like the weakness of this team is twofold: 1) Our LB corps is either being used 100% incorrectly, or they're just not NFL worthy, and that goes for whatever 4-3/3-4/1-2-3-A-B-C defense we're using. Our OLBs are not coverage LBs, yet we continuously make them cover people. Our ILBs are smaller than fullbacks, and it showed on Sunday, and 2) we have literally zero pass rush.

I actually saw Kroy get near the QB on a few plays, believe it or not. I like how Twitter constantly blames him for everything. Yeah, he's not a spring chicken anymore, but he sure as heck isn't leaving the middle of the field open every single passing play.

3) The road Falcons vs. home Falcons

I'm going to reference a tweet I made Sunday as to my feelings on this issue:

To be a championship team, you must win on the road. Road environments are not friendly. Unless you're in Atlanta and half your team's fanbase finds an open seat. Ahem. Just kidding. It's not that bad.

The fact that this team has played so poorly on the road suggests there is something greater at work here. Are we afraid of loud noises? Matt Ryan played a fine game. The 2 INTs were in garbage time, the last one especially. What's the deal? I don't know that I've ever seen a team be so good in one place and so bad in another.

I will add that our two wins are looking weaker and weaker by the day. The Saints, for some reason, look absolutely terrible. And we were in a shootout with them! The Bucs were embarrassed and rebounded nicely, but I'm not suddenly expecting All-Star quality effort from them from here on out. That was a win brought about solely by pride, and I can tell you from experience that you can only go to that well a few times in your life.

4) Constantly injured players. I don't know if this is the GM's fault, the player's fault, the S&C Coach's fault, or what. What I do know is that we've had a lot of players injured far too often. Peria Jerry, HD, Kerry Meier, Spoon, Sam Baker, Julio. Some of our best players have been missing time on a yearly basis. How can we succeed with that kind of problem? That's just another reason to support a change if only because it probably can't get much worse than what we're dealing with already.

4) Where's the fire? I've constantly believed in the coaching staff to "get things fixed" because I think most of this is fixable...somehow. The problem is that the problems are recurring. One week they seem fixed, one week they seem returned with double the sadness.

I know Smitty had a health scare and if that keeps him from being as fiery as he used to be, then I can't blame him. That's a whole different matter. But I'd like to see a little public frustration. I don't even care if he throws the defense under the bus (it's totally deserved) "Our defense flat-out sucked." something, anything. We're getting the same tired narrative on a weekly basis and it has finally hit me that the promises are empty.

Look, I don't really, truly want anyone fired. I don't want someone involuntarily removed from their job, but after 6+ years, this is what we get? We get a defense that can't stop a rookie making a surprise start? We get time management that is so inexcusable, there aren't even words for it?

Hard to believe we were so close to the Super Bowl just two years ago. Now it feels like we'll never get back to it. Is there truth to that? Who knows.

If we do start firing people, I do think Dirk Koetter should be considered as someone worth keeping. For all the misuse Devin Hester had in Chicago, he's gotten this one right. I think he uses Antone Smith well as well. I do think his offense has allowed Matt Ryan to grow in his role as an exceptional quarterback.

As far as replacements, truthfully I don't know. I almost don't want Smitty, Dimitroff, et al to leave because they have given us unprecedented success. Who's to say we won't continue to tank with a new GM and head coach? That thought right there is sobering. Thankfully, we're a little bit better off at QB than we were last time this happened.

We don't need the offense to be much better than it is. We just need the defense to be something.

All I think about every time we blow a game like this is that Matt Ryan is wasting away his career here, and that is the most sickening thought of it all.