Editor’s Note: This article, as some of you noted, is from 2015. We apologize for the error, and would like to note that if the Falcons haven’t switched over to a never punt, always go for it offense by now, they’re probably not going to.
Under Mike Smith, the Falcons were notable chiefly for their adherence to the things that have historically worked well for football teams. They had a compelling passing game buoyed by a strong ground game (at least until Michael Turner aged), they focused on stopping the run on defense, and they placed a lot of value and faith in special teams. They were about the fundamentals, in other words, and the rare glimpses we got of creativity and daring were pretty thrilling.
That was the most successful epoch in team history right up until Dan Quinn and company arrived on the scene, and their tenure thus far has been marked by a focus on innovation. Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli have long been keen on gaining an edge in terms of player health, but there’s also genuine interest in shaking things up, which led to the hiring of the hyper-creative Kyle Shanahan and the draft selections of players like Deion Jones. It doesn’t always work, and the team is still sometimes undone by a bizarre adherence to field position and clock-based traditions, but for once the Falcons seem to be on the leading edge of the NFL’s trends.
That’s why this tidbit from the Washington Post is both relevant and very much in character for Atlanta.
"At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this spring, Atlanta Falcons executive Scott Pioli asked to meet Kelley and picked his brain for an hour." https://t.co/Qn0DE9cc6u pic.twitter.com/c04B1srul9— Vienna Falcons (@ViennaFalcons) July 12, 2018
This little chat does not mean that the Falcons are suddenly going to cut Matt Bosher, start onside kicking after every score, and generally give traditionalists fits. It does meant that they are interested enough in the general contours of that idea to spend some time talking to a man doing it better than just about everyone else. Perhaps the Falcons, in an effort to juice scoring in Steve Sarkisian’s second year, will be more bold about how they attack opposing defenses and fourth down situations. With all their weapons, it would absolutely behoove this team to be less conservative, and I’m glad Pioli has that on his mind.
Stay tuned and see if any of Kelley’s ideas translate over to Atlanta. If they do, it may not be more than a handful of seasons before they hit the mainstream.