Steve Sarkisian deserves the heat.
He’s been rightly maligned for his milquetoast schemes, inability to recognize the strengths of the players at his disposal, and glaring lack of creativity — particularly in the red zone.
He’s drawn the ire of a large contingent of the Falcons’ fan base — and for good reason. Nobody expected Atlanta to replicate its historic offensive output from 2016 — especially under a new offensive coordinator—but nobody expected it to be as inconsistent and beer-chuggingly frustrating as it was last season.
And that’s why the Falcons’ first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft is good — but potentially ominous — news for Steve Sarkisian.
Atlanta’s selection of former Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley at pick 26 solidifies, at least for the time being, the organization’s trust in Steve Sarkisian to helm an offense that has the potential of being one of the best in the NFL. The top route runner in the entire draft class just landed in his lap; and on paper, the Falcons should once more have one of the most formidable offenses in the entire league.
Ridley is a player that Sarkisian is very familiar with from his days at Alabama as an offensive analyst (and then as the interim OC during the National Championship game against Clemson following the 2016 season). He knows his skillset — his strengths, weaknesses, and how they fit with the Atlanta Falcons.
Quinn and Co. must have been comfortable enough with Sark’s understanding of Ridley’s capabilities — and his ability to feature them — in the Falcons’ offense to take him in the first round.
So it’s up to him to capitalize on the array of weapons he’s been afforded.
With the Ridley pick, it appears they’re all in on Sarkisian’s second-year maturation as an NFL offensive coordinator. There’s a tricky learning curve, after all. Falcons fans were famously screaming for the scalp of Kyle Shanahan after his first season in Atlanta, and then he engineered one of the greatest offenses the league has ever seen.
Sometimes it only takes a year. Sometimes it only takes the right player.
But if the Falcons’ offense continues to only operate in fits and starts with a legitimate wide-out like Calvin Ridley accompanying Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, well, I think you can start notching the games until Sark is looking for another job.
This is a make or break year for Steve Sarkisian. He has an embarrassment of riches on offense already, and was just gifted a top-flight wide receiver to throw into his game plan. With Calvin Ridley now in the fold, there are no excuses going forward.