I'm here to ask a tough question tonight, Atlanta Falcons fans. It's a personal question, one that you may not want to answer. To be honest, it's not an easy question to answer, and it may take some time to construct your response. So here goes nothing: can you stomach a "rebuild"?
Let's start by defining "rebuild." It's a term tossed about when floundering sports franchises stop trying to justify their losses. Some teams adopt that mentality too late. And some rebuilding teams never actually rebuild.
If you're an Atlanta native, there's a good chance you also follow the Atlanta Braves. They've undertaken a wholesale "rebuild," making some head scratching moves along the way. Now two full years into that rebuild, they have one of the best farm systems in baseball and their future looks bright. That said, it hasn't been easy. I'm a big fan, and personally, it's been tough to watch. But I'm optimistic about what lies ahead, and that makes it palatable.
Football is a little different. Because there's so much parity in the NFL, any team with a decent head coach, a decent quarterback, and halfway decent personnel can accumulate wins. This leads to finicky fans. And because there's such a fine line between playoff teams and everyone else, any sign of trouble is met with panic. So we hit the panic button, lament the state of our franchise, swear off our team colors, and go cry in the shower. Then comes the off-season. Slowly but surely, we reengage. We let hope cloud our judgment. And around and around we go.
Falcons fans are a hardened bunch. Unless you literally live under a rock, there's no way you haven't been chastised for following the Falcons. "The Falcons?! Are you kidding me? Matt Ryan is a joke!" We've all heard something like that before. And we stomach it, because we're used to it. Since Norb Hecker fielded that very first Falcons team in 1966, we've suffered through mediocrity and heartbreak. Sure, we've had our great moments. But again and again, we've been disappointed.
The problem with saying "Yes, I'm fine with a rebuild" is this: we have no assurances. First, it's not clear that this team can't get it done. Admittedly our franchise quarterback hasn't had the best preseason. (Then again, it's the preseason.) And admittedly the defense is still a work in progress. But with perhaps the most underrated offensive line in football, arguably the best receiver in football, and a number of defensive players just waiting to break out, maybe there's enough here to make it work.
Second, if we can somehow all agree that this isn't a playoff team, or a team capable of making a deep playoff run, are we willing to be patient with the current coaching staff and front office? Dan Quinn still has time before he finds himself on the hot seat. You can't say the same about Thomas Dimitroff. If I ask you to just keep your head down and support the team while they figure this out, how does that sit? I wouldn't blame you if you said it doesn't sit well.
I'm definitely torn on this. I tend to think everything is fine. It's the preseason, it's meant for mistakes. (Better to make them now then during the regular season.) But if the team needs another year or two to be truly competitive, can I understand and accept that? You bet I can.