Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian remains a controversial figure in Falcondom, but he can count one of the franchise faces as one of his vocal supporters.
All-Pro WR Julio Jones spoke with AL.com’s Rainer Sabin about Sark at the opening of his new dealerships in Alabama.
“Sark was good,” said Jones, who was in T-Town on Tuesday to announce his ownership stake in a pair of local auto dealerships. “Sark was really good for us. A lot of people -- they didn’t believe in Sark. They’d say, ‘He messed up. He’s not doing this and not doing that.’ I love Sark. He did a great job for us.”
Jones saw his 2017 touchdown numbers (3) drop by half of his 2016 haul (6) while under Sark’s watch, but his overall 2017 yards (1,444) actually increased over his 2016 numbers (1,409) -- though the WR missed two games last season.
“This is his first year in the offense, first year working with us,” the five-time Pro Bowler said. “It just takes time. The more and more time he gets with us the better he will be play-calling and things like that and we will gel more -- not only together as a team but just also with Sark.”
He joins star RB Devonta Freeman in expressing his support of the OC, who spoke highly of Sark to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure.
“I love Sark,” Freeman said. “I love what he stands for as a human. I love how aggressive he is as a coach. I wouldn’t want to do it with nobody else. He’s one of the best guys I’ve been around.”
In that ESPN article, Jones said he felt the offensive inconsistencies were a shared blame.
“Everybody was saying all year, ‘Oh, he is a new coordinator, he has to do this, he has to do that.’ It is on all of us at the end of the day, it is not just on him. We all have to be on the same page. We are family here, we are going to fight for each other, we are going to play for each other at the end of the day, that is what we have to do.”
Privately, it was reported during the season two unknown players felt the Atlanta offense was disorganized at midseason, which can happen when a novice NFL play caller takes on someone else’s playbook.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal feels that Atlanta needs to let Sarkisian wire in his own offense.
The Falcons have an emerging, young defense that hit its stride late in the season. They have a strong running game and one of the top quarterback-wide receiver combinations in football. They are in position to make another run at an NFC crown -- if they can improve their offensive cohesion. Falcons coach Dan Quinn hired Sarkisian as offensive coordinator and then essentially made the former college coach run the offense of his predecessor in the coordinator job, Kyle Shanahan. The compromise led to a steep learning curve for Sarkisian and a copy of a copy of a copy of the exciting Falcons attack from 2016. It can be debated whether Sarkisian should have been brought back at all in 2018, but that ship has sailed. After a year of evaluating and adjusting to Shanahan’s scheme, Sarkisian needs to make this offense his own this offseason. With improvement from the offensive line, this group still has the pieces to excel.
So, the Sarkisian conversation will continue. It’s not exactly clear where the Falcons’ offense will go from here, but it figures to improve, at least somewhat, under Sarkisian’s watch.
With prominent voices within the organization feeling like Sark has a chance to improve, should fans be more optimistic of his prospects? Feel free to share your thoughts below.