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Atlanta must push ahead to future, because past is dead

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The Falcons, and their fan base, must be forward-thinking to one day celebrate a championship.

NFL: JAN 13 NFC Divisional Playoff  Falcons at Eagles

Let’s go ahead and get something out of the way real quick here.

No, NO, the Atlanta Falcons were not a play away from winning the Super Bowl this year.

*takes deep breath*

No. No, they were not. Stop that.

False equivalency is a dangerous game, and a heck of a lure. Sure, if the red zone play calling and execution had been a bit sharper, the Falcons would have more than likely escaped Philly with an undeserved win, and would have faced an amped Vikings team playing at home the week after the Minnesota Miracle.

Do you honestly think that would have been a cakewalk?

And, if by some stretch of chance the Falcons win that one (I’m not even sure I would have felt comfortable in picking them), do you really think the New England Patriots would have just automatically lost by default? But, Philly beat them! Ye…yeah!

But, uh, did you ever stop to think that Philadelphia just has a better roster and a better overall coaching staff than we do? And, maybe, just maybe, Nick Foles got hot at the right time – the second half of our game? And, maybe, just maybe, Minnesota and New England were also just, y’know, better than we were, too?

There’s no denying that Atlanta got so close to another NFC Championship. Mourn that if you wish. But, there ain’t a ring just waiting for you on the other side of an Eagles win. That’s ludicrous to even consider.

The 2017 10-6 Falcons were perfectly good and deserving to lose to the one-seed on the road as the six seed. That was a fitting fate, an enormously-encouraging fate for anyone who is calm enough to see how good a future this team has if they continue to draft well and maintain their culture. Dan Quinn’s building a really sound foundation with the franchise and getting over last February’s supreme snafu to win a playoff game on the road against a young, feisty Rams squad should set the barometer for where this team can go. Even when they are clearly having an off season, they still go 10-6 and beat a breakout team.

The Falcons are going places. They went 10-6 on a first-place schedule with Steve Sarkisian’s sharp growing pains. Just imagine what they can do with a third-place schedule and Sark more comfortable in his offensive coordinator shoes. Not to draw any false equivalency of my own, as champions can rise overnight, and the bad team you feel comfortable about beating (*cough* Dolphins *cough*) can end up biting you in the tailfeather come game day. But, really, Atlanta’s place setting for 2018 is as rosy as it has been in a while.

Let’s all learn to be futurists for a bit, because dwelling in the past isn’t going to cut it.

This bonkers-silly Eagles narrative will hopefully get snuffed out by measured minds in the days ahead, and Johnny B. Falcon will step away from the hot take over the team’s 2017 fate. Let’s reiterate it again – no, it’s not just simple enough to say Atlanta left a golden opportunity on the table in Philly. They would have survived the Eagles and would have faced two treacherous games against the Vikings and Patriots, both of whom Atlanta would have been the deserved underdog to. And, do you really want to inch closer just to lose on the bigger stage? A divisional playoff loss the year after a historic Super Bowl loss? What on Earth are you that upset about?

Don’t buy the idea that Atlanta should be the rightful victor for the 2017 season. Really, the rightful victor won Sunday night. Philly had been the league’s best team all year, and they withstood the Carson Wentz injury to assert their dominance on the rest of the league. Make no mistake – Atlanta’s offense got dominated by Philly’s defense. Only a last-second drive saw them make an entire leap across the field to knock on the touchdown door was enough to get anyone excited about the idea of Atlanta winning that game. Sure, the Keanu Neal thing was bizarre and completely out of Atlanta’s (and Neal’s) control, but sometimes, quite literally, the ball just doesn’t bounce your way.

Also, continuing to dwell on 28-3, now that we’re a year removed…yeah I don’t know how you get over that one. I still struggle with it at times myself. We all know what it’ll take to get over that one. But, make life easier for yourself, and let that 2016 team go.

The 2016 Falcons are dead and gone. We laid them to rest when Kyle Shanahan went to San Fran, and Richard Smith was let go. That team’s identity – an offensive juggernaut with a defense that only began working when the head coach called the plays – is no more. It’s dead and gone, dead and gone.

The Falcons need to push ahead, and be the team they want to be, instead of the team they once were. If they continue to keep chasing pavements by recreating Shanahan’s success, they’ll flounder and fail. It was Shanahan’s brain that powered that offense, and now that his brain is gone, it’ll take Sarkisian’s brain to power them back to be a unit people fear. Maybe, like we saw someone note last week, it’s time for them to let go of the Shanahan playbook and allow Sarkisian to do his own thing.

The Shanahan playbook is a bit like a fancy car that’s hard to drive. If you know how to work the clutch, you’ll ride it fine. But, if you don’t, and are expected to just because you, in general, know how to drive, it’s just not going to go as well as you’d hope — and might sound really bad. Sarkisian was brought here for a reason, and it is high time Atlanta allow him to do his own thing to see if that faith was placed properly.

For Atlanta to really be what they need to be, maybe it’s time to let go of the Shanahan offense, and build the team more into Sark’s image. For some, that’s enough to make them throw their computer across the room, but what if it was the past that held Sark back all last season?

Quinn’s a forward-thinking coach, and he’s never been one to let things stagnate, so one would imagine he will, in part, take the burden of Shanny’s play book off of Sark’s shoulders, at least somewhat, this upcoming season. Maybe he won’t. Who’s to say? But, at least right now, that feels like the best way forward.

No matter what happens, this remains true: continuing to look back can keep you from getting to where you want to go. Sometimes, looking back is just pointless and produces no good fruit (see, outrage, 2017). Sometimes, looking back seems like a great idea at first, but it just doesn’t work out like you’d hope (see, offense, 2017).

These are not rose-colored glasses I see out of – Atlatna can make the Super Bowl next season. They absolutely can, with the team they have, with the coaches they have, with the moment they’re in. It can happen. Obviously, no one knows if it will happen.

But, with the Eagles winning their Super Bowl, one less team in the NFL has dust in their big trophy case. The Eagles won theirs by looking ahead, and not letting the failures of the yesteryear hold them back. Just look at how they adapted to Wentz going down on the fly with Foles. They were forward-thinking, and that forward-thought them to a championship.

That could be Atlanta one day, but not if they refuse to, in the words of Kylo Ren, let the past die.

You’d be wise to, as well. Don’t go chasing waterfalls and dreaming of, and getting upset about, a season that just wasn’t meant to be.