Falcons fans spent the offseason crossing their fingers that Steve Sarkisian would put it together. The team improved their offensive roster, he got more time to adjust to the team and the NFL, and they added Greg Knapp, a quarterback coach with a lengthier NFL resume than Bush Hamdan.
The result was the same. The players looked uncomfortable, passes were off, passes were dropped, and the red zone remains a disaster. The “wrinkles” promised only days ago appear to be forcing previously failed formations to work.
Four verts at the goal line three times in a row? And trying to smash through an 11 man box repeatedly? That’s clearly a recipe for failure, but Hall of Fame quarter Kurt Warner found smaller, more serious problems with the offense. He explained what he saw on the Jim Rome show.
Warner compares what he saw in Kyle Shanahan’s offense to what he saw on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. When asked if he believed this was an execution issue or a coaching issue, Warner focused on two themes: (1) players are not being used to their strengths; and (2) the small intricacies are missing.
We saw (1) last year a lot, probably best highlighted by Tevin Coleman. Too often Coleman was run up the middle against stacked boxes, and rarely put into space or catching the ball, where he was a dynamic offensive weapon. Sarkisian never figured out how to use Taylor Gabriel at all. If we are comparing Shanahan to Sarkisian, Shanahan got production out of all of his tight ends. Sarkisian focused on Austin Hooper.
Now (2) may be even more problematic. As Warner puts it, the little things in the NFL are what makes a play successful. He points out that the routes have been sloppy, and suggests they are not emphasized by coaches. It sounds like Sarkisian may still not be sure what it takes to win in the NFL.
Things may have been easier when he was the head coach at USC, and those problems Warner mentioned didn’t matter when your players were significantly more talented than anyone else on the field. It may be similar to how some young players struggle to adapt to playing in the NFL. They have been the fastest guy on the field their whole life, so they never had to sweat the small stuff. Once in the NFL, they aren’t the fastest anymore.
Does Sarkisian even know what worked in college will not always work in the pros? And if he figures that out, does he have the coaching ability to make the change? The early results show there’s still a long way for Sarkisian to go.