Whether you blame Matt Ryan or Kyle Shanahan for a curiously inept year from the offense, Vaughn McClure's latest piece for ESPN will give you some ammunition in your future arguments.
In the article, Matt Ryan and Roddy White talk about Kyle Shanahan's offense and their comfort in it, and it's obvious there was a learning curve associated with picking up a different system than Mike Mularkey or Dirk Koetter ran. There were cracks early on that were easily ignored because the Falcons were winning, but they reared their ugly heads the rest of the way, and the Falcons were solid but struggled to score most of the year.
This is the money quote:
"I think that's for everyone, when you're learning something new and it's different, at times there's is too much, right?" Ryan said. "I think Kyle did a great job as we went through the year of listening to guys, of responding to feedback, and then also having a better feel for what we were as an offense, too, of what our guys could do, and making a plan to fit that. And I thought the last four, five, or six weeks, we had good plans. Specifically the last three weeks, I thought we played better offensively and were able to win two of those three games."
Roddy rejected the idea that it should be easy to pick this up.
"It has nothing to do with how smart you are," White told ESPN.com. "People don't know how fast you get a play call in, and all this happens in 15 seconds. You get the play in, you give it to the offense, you check, read routes, runs. You might have to check this at the line of scrimmage to get the protection right. Then you snap the ball, you read the coverage, and then you get rid of the ball.
"To formulate all that in 15 seconds, it's hard doing it in an offense that (Ryan) was in for six, seven years. So to bring change to him and have something brand new, and he has to go through the progressions, it's tough on him."
Throughout the year, between players-only meetings and team leaks and good old fashioned speculation, it was pretty obvious that not everyone was on the same page. Kyle Shanahan has a reputation for arrogance and rigidity that dogged him all year, even though it sounds like he was tweaking his playbook a few times during the season. Ryan's inability to fully pick up the system, or at least stop throwing costly picks in it, raises its own set of questions, even if it did seem like he improved toward the end of the year minus that crippling interception against the Saints. I've said it before and will repeat it here: It takes more than one person misfiring to make the offense as mistake-prone as it was, so if you're looking for a definitive assignment of fault, we may never get that.
It was evident that something was going on with the offense throughout this season, and the hope will be that it's nothing that a year's experience in the system and a few upgrades can't fix. Unless Matt Ryan is truly broke or Kyle Shanahan is secretly hellbent on ruining the offense, chances are good the unit will improve in 2016, however modestly.
Go read McClure's full piece and let us know your impression.