A coaching change and four roster cuts may not be enough to make sweeping statements about this Falcons team, but sometimes it's less about the number of changes than their impact. We find ourselves considering those impacts today.
It's the cuts that attracted attention this last weekend, and with good reason. The Falcons in 2012 made noise about there being no sacred cows, and they followed that up by purging veterans from the roster, moves that veer between defensible and horrible in hindsight. We may look back at the Steven Jackson, Harry Douglas, Justin Blalock and Jonathan Massaquoi cuts the same way, but the post-2012 moves felt like a reaction to years of falling short. With a new coach in the fold, these moves feel more like the changing of the guard that they are.
That change was necessary, and though you'll see Matt Ryan under center, Julio Jones and Roddy White running downfield and Desmond Trufant patrolling his side of the field, this team is still going to look drastically different in 2015. Under Quinn, we're all expecting an aggressive, attacking 4-3 front that could feature 3-4 new starters in the front seven. We're expecting a zone blocking scheme under Kyle Shanahan that will change the face of the ground game, and that change will happen without stalwart left guard Blalock. And no matter who the feature back is, they're unlikely to be the expensive, aging bulldozer back the Falcons have utilized for the past seven years.
Then there's the coaching staff. Dan Quinn may or may not be the next great NFL coach—we simply don't know, though we do suspect he's fired up to find out—but he's clearly a bright football mind with a track record of success, and he's imported coaches who figure to help him make major alterations to the roster, from Shanahan's blocking changes to Richard Smith's likely heavy focus on linebackers. This is a team that is promising to get back to the basics in a very tangible way, by doing away with some of the more creative scheming that Mike Nolan and (sometimes) Dirk Koetter were known for in favor of a simple, attacking scheme that emphasizes the team's natural talent, particularly when they upgrade that talent. It's a different sort of philosophy than the Falcons of yore.
Change is an empty thing for a football team if the results on the field don't change, and we're a long way away from finding out what the results of these moves are, and even what moves lie ahead. The Falcons had been plagued by complacency, and they were undone by an unwillingness to see some of the hard truths in front of them regarding the pass rush, their own schemes and the level of talent on the roster. To undo that, they've got to make hard decisions, and what we've seen so far is a genuine start.