We're weeks away from training camp, in the very heart of the slowest time of the calendar year for NFL teams, and the mind tends to wander. Today, my mind has wandered to the cycle the Falcons find themselves in.
The Atlanta Falcons of today are not the same Falcons they were in the largely miserable 60's, 70's and 80's, and they haven't been in quite some time. While a Super Bowl continues to elude the franchise, they've endured multiple crashes in the last decade-plus, and they've swiftly returned to relevance each time. There was the post-Super Bowl lull afford by 1999, which was followed by the roller coaster ride with Michael Vick. After that ended poorly, the Falcons bounced back in a big way in 2008, and there were five years of pretty successful football before the next crash came.
We find ourselves hoping that's the case again in 2015, after a pair of injury-riddled losing seasons cost Mike Smith his job. There's many variables to consider as we try to project this team's fortunes this year, but I would say most of the fanbase is at least cautiously optimistic. This team has, after all, come back from failures before.
Though nothing in the last two years would give me any reasonable confidence that the Falcons are on the rise, I still am. For all their warts, owner Arthur Blank, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and powered-up assistant general manager Scott Pioli desperately want this team to be a winner, and they zeroed in on Dan Quinn and didn't blink when it took a long time to get him. Their reasonably strong free agency and widely lauded draft gave me more hope, and frankly, so does the fact that the new stadium is opening up in 2017. This is a team with a ton of pressure and more than enough incentive to quickly right the ship, and so I expect their stay in the miserable pits of mediocrity to be short.
But that's only part of the question. We've become accustomed to this team at least contending, which means our expectations are not once the once were, either. We want nothing less than a championship team from the Falcons now, and while that means we'll demand more and put more pressure on this franchise, it also means we'll be less happy with anything less, and that has already begun. The bounces we've seen aren't enough now.
It's better to bounce back after failure than to remain mired in it, as any one of a dozen fanbases will tell you. It's better still to remain successful and achieve ever-greater heights, and I hope that we'll finally see the Falcons on that path in 2015 and well beyond.