It’s easy to say that history doesn’t favor the Falcons after this Super Bowl loss, that they’ll end up like the Panthers and return to mediocrity after getting so close to the promised land. I don’t believe that, though.
Because I have been shoveling snow for the last week and because I’m still reeling from that loss, I’m not going to try to re-invent the wheel here. Here’s what I wrote before that Falcons win over the Packers, and here’s what I still think today, despite everything that has happened. I hope they’ll kindle a little optimism in your heart, because the next few months are going to be awfully tough to get through without it.
1. There is, in my humble opinion, no question about Dan Quinn’s acumen as a head coach, as there was a year ago. He’s shown himself to be a master motivator, solid tactician, and above all, excellent at assembling a staff and reading talent. With his in-game decisions improving in his second season and a good eye for the kinds of players and coaches he needs to make this a successful team, he’ll do so.
2. The personnel department is in great shape, as well. We had some fun with the Falcons for adding a million former general managers in the offseason, but they knocked it out of the park with this draft and free agency class, and they did well in the the 2014 and 2015 drafts, as well. Aside from Nick Polk, it appears this front office will be mostly intact next year.
3. This team is, if not loaded, at least well-stocked with young talent. As DW noted on the podcast the other day, the Falcons had eight out of 11 starters on defense who were in their first or second year as a starter, and many of those players are under 25 years of age. On offense, they have Tevin Coleman, Devonta Freeman, Taylor Gabriel, Austin Hooper, and Josh Perkins, among others, to pave the way forward.
4. They have Matt Ryan, soon-to-be the reigning NFL MVP and playing in a system (and with a supporting cast) that plays to his strengths. As long as his body holds out, he should be able to give this team a few more great seasons.
5. They have the NFL’s best running back tandem. Devonta Freeman is under contract through next year, while Tevin Coleman is under contract through the 2019 offseason. The team essentially has two feature backs who are strong, fast, and can catch the ball, where many teams are lucky to have one.
6. They have one of the NFL’s best young pass rushers in Vic Beasley, and an extremely capable defensive tackle in Grady Jarrett. They need another couple of pieces on the line to join those two, quite obviously, but it’s a very solid start.
7. Their linebackers are better than they’ve been in years, already. Deion Jones is a legitimate rookie of the year candidate, De’Vondre Campbell has shown flashes of excellence, and they’re likely to add an interesting player or two to the mix in this coming offseason.
8. The secondary is about as good and deep as it has been in recent memory. With Trufant back, the Falcons have four good cornerbacks, one of the best young strong safeties in the league, and a capable free safety who may actually be getting some competition just because Atlanta can afford to do so.
9. There are very few impact free agents hitting the street for the Falcons next year, with only Taylor Gabriel and Patrick DiMarco looking like truly vital re-signings. Chris Chester, Jacob Tamme, Kemal Ishmael, and Dwight Freeney are other players I’d like to see return, but while the list is fairly long, it’s thankfully not stocked with key pieces.
10. They’re one win away from the Super Bowl. That simply doesn’t happen unless you’re a good team, even if the Falcons are still not yet a truly complete one.