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Steve Sarkisian talks first year on the job, Matt Ryan, Eagles 4th down call

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Sark runs through a handful of hot topics going into his second season with the team.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Falcons opened up Falcons OC Steve Sarkisian for questions as part of a session with the second year play caller Wednesday.

Naturally, his first year on the gig, his relationship with Matt Ryan, and the controversial fourth down decision in the team’s divisional round playoff loss to the Eagles, came up for discussion.

In a convo with the mother ship’s Matthew Tabeek (the beeeeek), Sark shared some thoughts on where he was in his rookie season.

“At this point a year ago, I was still going through a lot of the growing pains of the system, the players and learning the staff,” Sarkisian said. “Year 2 is just night and day, for me personally, just from a comfort level and where we are as a team.”

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“I think the biggest thing for me is just overall comfort level,” Sarkisian said of beginning his second season. “When I came in a year ago, it was learning the system that was in place. It was learning the players that were in place. In Year 2, I have a year in the system. Now I can make some of the tweaks that I feel like are needed for this offense to continue to grow. I’ve got a really good understanding of every player – and the things that they’re really good at, the things that they maybe need to work on, and things that I would be wrong in putting them in position to do.

“I think all of those things just puts me at a much different level of comfort, where you just feel good every day walking in like, ‘OK, this is what we’re going to work on today because I think we can get better at it. And if we really want to run this play, X player needs to run this play, not this player because X player runs it better. And that goes a long, long way when you think about it.”

And, yes, he’s more than aware the scoring’s not where it needs to be.

“At the end of the day in this league – and in any league – it’s about scoring points,” Sarkisian said. “And we were really dynamic offensively (in 2017). We were third in the league in explosive plays a year ago, we were No. 1 in the NFL in third down conversions, but at the end of the day we didn’t score enough points.”

Next, here’s Sark’s take on how he will further develop his balance with Ryan as the two work more together.

Lastly, here’s insight into why they did what they did at the close of that season-ending Eagles loss.

So, there’s a lot to unpack there, but credit to Sark for always being honest and open. Even if you don’t like how the guy did in 2017, you have to respect that he’s been out front and honest about the process when the team’s made him available.

He makes fair points about how things go with play callers getting into rhythm with their quarterbacks, and he hints that things might’ve not been quite as crisp as either party would’ve hoped for last season. That chemistry will continue to build over time, and all involved deserve an opportunity to continue to let this gel. It’s not to say 2017 wasn’t immensely frustrating at times considering the talent on the field, but that’s also not to say 2018 will be a repeat of that.

As far as the Eagles game goes, well, it just sounds like he made the play call he felt would give the team the best chance to win. He mentions that you can’t always be unpredictable, and that sometimes, guys on the defense just sniff your idea out. As we all know, it didn’t pan out like the Falcons would’ve hoped, but there’s also an irony there that it was getting Julio Jones the ball in the end zone that wound up doing the season in after months of people complaining that wasn’t ever happening. It’s all water under the bridge now, and if it had worked, we’d all be talking about how Sark redeemed himself after a so-so first year out.

That’s football, folks.

Sark has his work cut out for him in 2018, and whether you like it or not, a lot of 2018 rides on his ability to improve. He’s bound to take an uptick just by default, but how far that uptick will go could be the deciding factor of whether or not Atlanta has its redemption story this season. But, give the guy a chance to get better, and maybe, in a year from now, we’ll all be talking about what strides he made, and how we hope he sticks around for as long as he can.

At least for me, I never thought I’d be going into summer 2017 mourning the loss of Kyle Shanahan.