That changed in the first year under Kyle Shanahan. The offense was nearly unstoppable for about a month, then became predictable and stunningly incompetent. Based on his unimpressive history, some of us felt Shanahan could be a quarterback killer. There were offensive problems from nearly top to bottom, but it was unclear the criticism directed at Shanahan was warranted.
Were the fans too quick to blame Shanahan? It is hard to get a good grasp on the problems when looking from the outside in.
Roddy White, unceremoniously cut from Atlanta, placed the blame for the offensive woes squarely on his former coordinator. He opened up to ESPN's Vaughn McClure, and had plenty of notable things to say about Atlanta's current offensive guru.
"What [Shanahan] expected from me and what I expected from him was totally different," White said. "I expected to play a bigger role in the offense, and that's what I wanted to do. But he didn't have that in his desires. He had other people that he wanted to play my role, so he wanted me to be out of the [offense]."
White's role is still unexplainable, even months after the season. He was playing the snaps of a starter, but was clearly so far down the progressions that he was rarely able to make an impact. Why did Jacob Tamme have the 11th most targets of any tight end in the league with White, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman? The offense was best when White was involved, but his usage was maddeningly inconsistent.
Simply put, the Falcons were playing with 10 offensive players on the field. If White was unable to make an impact, he should not have been starting. If he could still play, he should have been featured more on the offense. Keeping him in to block a defensive back is a waste of space.
When many criticized Shanahan for White's usage, he wasted an entire drive against the Indianapolis Colts targeting White three times in a row. Atlanta lost that game so Shanahan could make a point, which seemed to be that he did not like to be criticized.
What else did Roddy have to say?
"It was just episodes throughout the game where I think he mismanaged things and screwed up and we didn't have the opportunity to win the game, which, I thought, was on him as the offensive coordinator. It wasn't sound football, but it was things that he was used to doing and things we weren't used to doing as an offense, and it literally cost us like two games."'
Last season was full of failure. There were fumbled snaps, bad penalties on Andy Levitre, and of course, Leonard Hankerson pretending his was a professional wide receiver. But that did not explain all of Atlanta's offensive incompetencies. You could almost feel an arrogance to the offensive scheme, which is echoed in White's statements about Shanahan.
"Man, I talked to him just about every day about everything," White said. "But it's like, 'If I'm talking to you and it's not getting no better, what do you expect from me?' He kept trying to tell you all what he's trying to do with the offense, but for the last 11 weeks of the season, we didn't do anything. We didn't turn no curves. The first four weeks were good. We went out there and scored a bunch of points and started off strong. But other than that, we didn't do nothing the rest of the year.
"We weren't going out there and averaging over 20 points per game, which is bad. Prior to him being there, we could score 20 points sitting down. Our offense was never really a problem before."
This could be sour grapes on White's part, but he did not have anything negative to say about the team, other coaches, or players. And it is not like the offense was lighting it up with White in a minimized role. Instead, White just confirmed what many of us expected months ago after the players-only meeting, the bland comments about the offense, and of course, watching the same bad offense choke against bad defenses. Shanahan is a problem.
The good news? White explained the text controversy, which does not sound bad at all.
White clarified the details of how the release occurred. He was in Saint Martin with his girlfriend Wednesday when his agent, Jonathan Feinsod, called him with the news. He received a call from coach Dan Quinn an hour later.
"I didn't answer because I didn't know it was [Quinn] call me until after I got his message," White said. "Then he sent me a text message, and I responded."
White said he does not plan on meeting with Quinn, which is understandable. He had one bad season under Quinn, and that was it. He did not sound mad about Quinn, but blames last year's problems on Shanahan.
Now White is gone, and Shanahan is still the team's offensive coordinator.