Matt Ryan, Kyle Shanahan and Thomas Dimitroff aren't "problems"
Despite having what might be the worst year of his career, Matt Ryan is still a franchise quarterback for the Falcons. His uncharacteristic turnovers this year were a huge part of the problem for the Falcons during their 3-8 finish to the season after starting 5-0. But a good bit of the problem here comes from lack of familiarity in the offense. The last three games of the season showed promise for the Falcons under Kyle Shanahan, though.
Once they finally got over the turnover yips, they upended the undefeated Panthers and won in Jacksonville. A yip at the end of the Saints game will be the final thought that the offense has heading into the offseason, but a lack of weapons and offensive line talent needs to be addressed before we can properly assess Shanahan's scheme. The Falcons should look much better in Shanahan's scheme during year two.
Thomas Dimitroff gets a lot of flak for missing on draft picks and free agent signings during the 2011-to-2014 years. However, a lack of vision from the head coach didn't help. Mike Smith didn't know what the hell he wanted his team to be and it showed in the drafts with a lack of vision. Dan Quinn knows exactly what he wants, and Dimitroff can acquire good, raw talent to fit the schemes. It will just take more than one season for it all to click.
Many changes still need to be made. Shanahan and Dimitroff might be two of them
I thought maybe...MAYBE...the Falcons had figured out their offense. But as the Saints (and their horrific defense) held us to 17 points. Were there points left out on the field? Yes, but the Saints had them too. Naturally everyone will point to Matt Ryan's interception as yet another reason why they hate him, but by and large he played a great game. I don't think we have any legitimate receiving options outside of Julio. That wheel route to Tamme out of the backfield? A more athletic TE walks that into the end zone. Julio getting wide open time after time? Fewer drops (and one throw toward Julio that Matt Ryan would kill to have back) would suggest the scheme itself is doing just fine. But Matt Ryan has always been a better QB than this, and the only thing that really changed was that the offensive coordinator changed. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to put 2 and 2 together here. I've said this before, but I don't think it's shameful to tell Shanahan his offense and our personnel are simply not a good fit. Whether that happens or not...I don't know, but we have to do something, and it's not going to be replacing the QB.
The Falcons are trending up, but may be limited by Kyle Shanahan and a lopsided roster.
The Falcons figured out a number of problems that have plagued them the last few seasons, but have since found some new problems. The offense was figured out early. The team's lead running back gained more than 3.4 yards per carry only twice in the last eight games. The passing game has stunk since October, failing to succeed at anything other than peppering Julio Jones with targets. We saw a few adjustments, but were otherwise left with the same product that was wholly unable to score more than 23 points since October 11th, regardless of the opposing defense. For comparison, the Falcons offense scored more than that in five of their last eight games in 2014. As I see it, Atlanta's best talent is on the offensive side of the ball: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Jake Matthews, and Devonta Freeman. That group has been schematically limited, leaving a mediocre defense carry the load. That is how you end up with only three wins in the final 11 weeks of the season. Perhaps Shanahan gets another shot for the sake of continuity. And perhaps he makes a new game plan. Things could certainly improve with a strong offseason, and maybe, just maybe, Shanahan can get this team back to Dirk Koetter's level.
Scheme and coaching can only fix so much. The talent has to get better
While the Falcons defense improved over the 2013 and 2014 units, it's pretty clear that talent still held it back. Teams were able to consistently burn us with short passes to running backs and to tight ends. Our poor linebacking corps was consistently exposed, even in games where we were able to generate QB pressure. On offense, while some will decry the work that Shanahan did (and I'm not disagreeing), it's clear that after Julio, the drop-off in receiver talent was pretty severe. Roddy looked good in spots, but it was clear he's not a true WR2 anymore. Hankerson started well enough but his stone hands and consistent injuries made him a non-factor. Hardy showed promise, but wasn't able to deliver until late in the season. Our interior offensive line needs an overhaul as well. I do think the team improved overall, but there are still some talent deficiencies that need to be addressed.
The offseason is finally, blessedly here
The Falcons gave us a brief reprieve from the ugly business of losing with wins against the Jaguars and Panthers, but this was a season of hot takes, lukewarm performances, and cold comforts. Getting into the offseason means we can be a little optimistic again, that we can get excited about who the team might bring aboard, and we can dream of what 2016 might be. May it not be this.
Not capitalizing on a favorable schedule shows how much this roster needs to be upgraded
A new coaching staff sparked optimism around Atlanta. If you include that with a weak NFC South and laughable schedule, this was a prime opportunity to get back into the playoffs. Nobody expected Cam Newton to develop into an elite quarterback. They were fortunate to play against five backup quarterbacks, yet still lost to San Francisco and Indianapolis in consecutive weeks. The inability to generate a pass-rush and allowing tight ends to run freely downfield on a weekly basis shows how much the front seven desperately needs to be upgraded. Signing players for depth purposes and investing big contracts in two run-stuffers (Paul Soliai, Tyson Jackson) proved to be a terrible strategy. It's one of the many reasons why Thomas Dimitroff should be removed as general manager. After a promising performance against the Jets in preseason, the pass rush was largely disappointing once again. Kyle Shanahan will shoulder some blame, but a lack of number two wide receiver and shaky interior line were far bigger issues. The weekly tradition of botched snaps and not capitalizing on red-zone opportunities shouldn't completely fall on Shanahan either. Jacob Tamme, Chris Chester, Justin Durant and Adrian Clayborn were decent pickups. Other than that, signing a plethora of players for depth purposes proved to be largely unsuccessful. They need to start spending in free agency by addressing holes at defensive end, wide receiver, and possibly center. It wasn't a total lost season, as several young players developed into assets. Devonta Freeman, Patrick DiMarco, Jake Matthews, and Robert Alford were excellent. Despite their emergences, there is no overlooking a 5-0 start and ending at 8-8. That will always leave a negative vibe behind Dan Quinn's first season.
The Falcons desperately need a talent infusion.
It was made painfully clear on several occasions that the Falcons simply don’t have the talent on the roster to compete. Losing to teams they had no business losing to — I’m looking at that Week 9 debacle in San Francisco — and being unable to score at least 25 points since Week 5 are pretty damning examples. Misses on both draft picks and free agent signings have the Falcons in the current predicament. It doesn’t matter who the coaches are; this team needs more good players, period.