Not to join in with the clichés already beginning to form on social media, but, c’mon, of course the Julio Jones touchdown drop was 2017 in a nutshell.
Of course it was.
Outside of smacking Aaron Rodgers up and down the Atlanta city limits twice in a calendar year, the Atlanta Falcons have been to the disappointment orchard far too many times after the NFC Championship, bringing back bushels and bushels of empty promises, unfulfilled potential, missed opportunities, lapses in execution, boneheaded penalties and stunted play calling.
There’s something rotten in the state of Falcons football, but you don’t need Hamlet’s dad to tell you that.
The piping system that drained with a hop in its step last season now springs a leak at random spots at the worst possible time. Once you finally get that spot tightened up, another pipe busts with gleeful anticipation.
The 2017 Falcons aren’t just Steve Sarkisian’s problem, nor Matt Ryan’s. They’re not just Marquand Manuel’s, or Dan Quinn’s. it’s not all on Keith Armstrong or Andre Roberts to clean up this mess. Thomas Dimitroff did his part. Goodness knows Grady Jarrett and Devonta Freeman are holding down their side of the fort.
No, no – the Atlanta Falcons are systemically flawed this go-around. And, sadly, this might be the best indicator yet 2017 just ain’t their year. Not to be a fatalist, but losing against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, in the fashion they did, indicates these Birds are just beat – by circumstance, by the schedule, by themselves.
It’s the same script each time out – the team plays reasonably well for the first quarter, then *ping* something breaks. The water begins to spray out as mistakes, penalties and bad plays submerge the entire Flowery Branch basement. By the time they can get things reasonably cleaned up, the opposing team has scored a barrage of unanswered points. And, by the time the offense starts to rally again, it slips in its own puddle and breaks a hip. The Price is Right Disappointment Horn has never gotten this much play.
It’s both reassuring and worrisome that this roster is the best in the NFC – it still is and could be next season, too, but right now, it’s just not executing to any sort of excellence at any time that counts for anything. Just when you think the pot is cooking again, pop goes the weasel. You’ve got to be kidding me. Back to basics.
Please don’t count this as being mundane for mundane’s sake. Columns in a rough season don’t always have to be brooding teens in Hot Topic listening to their first The Cure song. But, at 4-4, and with a meat grinder schedule ahead, it might be time to go ahead and face the music.
Don’t you just hate this song.
Sarkisian will be somebody’s scapegoat when it’s all said and done, whether that be the fan base’s or the front office’s is too early to tell. Unless Quinn truly feels Sark is the next great offensive coordinator and needed a year to get his legs under him, you have to imagine he might be encouraged to find an opportunity in the college sector if this keeps up, where his skillset is more applicable. Heck, root for Sark either way. Maybe college is just his place to prosper. If so, more power to him. Right now, the NFL just isn’t his bread and butter. It could change! It also couldn’t.
If Quinn is smart, he’ll also encourage Manuel to be extremely cool about the play calling on defense transitioning back to the head coach. As wonderful as DQ has been for the organization, his desire to purely play a CEO role as head coach isn’t going to propel the team. That defense is better when he’s calling the plays, and until he decides to take that duty back on, his Falcons will never reach their full potential.
But, gracious, you can’t keep the players out of it!
The offensive line is a penalty factory, Ryan has both played well and has under-performed, the personnel just subject to how they’re used. The defense puts forth drives that widen your eyes and drives that make you hide. They’re bad about penalties, too.
These Falcons are frustratingly and awe-inspiringly young, prone to making you sick to your stomach and so excited for the future.
Lots of problems, tons of real estate for the future if the right changes are made.
Uncertainty is a son of a gun, huh?
The Falcons peaked too soon last year. They were good because the personnel guys killed the offseason and draft, Kyle Shanahan found the magic key to offensive excellence and Quinn starting finally calling the shots on defense. This year, March and April didn’t have the same effect, and the coaching momentum was cut short.
No wonder this team has taken a nose dive from history to hysteria.
Of course, old man Super Bowl still blows his winds across this team every now and then, and it’s fair to question if the Falcons just need a season to let the fever cool after that catastrophic collapse last February.
As disgusting as it is to say, the New Orleans Saints look to be riding Drew Brees to a final NFC South title for that era. They’ll have a tricky road to cross when their vaunted gunslinger decides to hang it up, but they look to be on their way to the postseason. Blergh. May they lose their first playoff game by 7-9 points.
Carolina is just not built for much more than what they did today. They’re going to be 9-7, and headed down a far tougher path than the birds. Tampa Bay is just a big shrug at this point. But, a coaching change there could be worrisome if they can finally get that roster to click.
Know this: Atlanta’s best days are ahead of it. But at the moment, 2017 feels like a lost cause unless the team can make major changes, and fast.
My heart says sure they can! My brain nudges me to check what the cap space is for March 2018. This feels like 10-6 at best, 8-8 at worst. 7-9?
Now, that’s just too much, and would be the ultimate irony.
The Falcons aren’t all-around bad, but they’re not all-around good like they were at their best last season. They’re on the middle ground, stranded amidst the pack, with all the potential to rectify for the future if Quinn can figure out where all the leaks are, and address them.
But, as Bob Barker’s bummer face sets in, the price just might not be right this year.
Cue the disappointment horn.
Cory is an editor of fellow Falcons site Rise Up Reader, where you can find more Falcons coverage. He is a cohost of the Falcoholic game-recap podcast that airs weekly.