When you look at the Atlanta Falcons’ season in a nutshell, it’s just hard not to feel sad about the wasted talent.
In the right hands, this team would be a firestorm booming with thunder, a team that leaves everyone in the league afraid.
Right now, they’re a whimper, a team that anyone can beat, a lost cause.
It’s just not right that players like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett, Ricardo Allen, Jake Matthews, Alex Mack, Devonta Freeman, Adrian Clayborn, Desmond Trufant, Matt Bryant, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, De’Vondre Campbell...basically all of the players...have to endure such a mess.
It’s also the reason, by and large, why the team’s problems might wash away overnight in the right hands.
It’s time for the Falcons to hit the reset button on this franchise in the front office and on the coaching staff, and that might be the only way no more prime years of the team’s elite talents get wasted.
Dan Quinn is someone I’ve always admired, but my belief in him didn’t exactly do me any favors. I really thought he’d lead them out of this, but whether he just bit off way more than he could chew or the team just was headed in this direction regardless, he’s not the guy to get them where they need to be now.
Quinn is a smart mind, and it’s not like he’s been a disaster in Atlanta. On the contrary, this team is very much indebted to him for 2016 and 2017, and his efforts to lead the team out of 28-3 should never be taken for granted. But you wonder if the team just never fully got over that, in the way they play and in how they’re coached, and that worry has become more acute over time.
The Falcons want to be fighters, but taking shots at Aaron Donald in a melee won’t cut it. The team coaches like they’re always at risk of blowing a lead, which is probably why they blow so many. They lack tenacity, creativity and consistency these days. That’s on the coaching staff in the way they scheme and prepare.
The roster itself has many great talents on it, but there are misses, too. The team’s inability completely hit on first-round draft picks for its pass rush continues to haunt it, as does its erstwhile free agency periods. The team hasn’t barely done any long-term good in March since 2016, with 2019’s financial decisions massively disappointing and ineffective.
The draft picks have been more hit-and-miss than any of us would like to admit, and as of late, the team’s first round picks since 2015 (Vic Beasley, Keanu Neal, Takk McKinley, Calvin Ridley, Chris Lindstrom) have struggled in consistency or with injuries.
You can’t expect to be a long-term contender when those picks don’t work out as you’d hope, even when you nail your latter picks at times. Lindstrom’s jury is still very much out, as is Ridley’s in a competent offensive scheme and McKinley’s with better coaching. But the front office is not doing this team any favors right now, and that falls on Thomas Dimitroff and his staff.
A clean sweep will be needed to ensure the talented players here get their chance to compete at the level they deserve.
New coaching could ensure this offense has a play caller worthy of its talent and the defense could finally be met in the middle with its scheming as it finds new talent in future free agency and draft classes. It could also maximize the talents being wasted here.
For example: how nice would it be for us to see if Deadrin Senat has what it takes to be a contributor? We won’t know until he gets on the field.
New talent evaluation and financial decisions could fill in the gaps on the roster and help the team navigate its heavy contracts. How nice would it be not to lose Austin Hooper to March and still find ways to add talent at a reasonable cost, and to shed some of the lesser deals off the books?
There are no guarantees, and the next group of folks can always fail. But Arthur Blank is going to, no doubt, take his time to make sure this goes according to plan.
Quinn and Dimitroff, and many of their co-workers, will find work fast, and we’ll salute what they’ve all meant to this team. No hard feelings are necessary, but it’s becoming apparent a parting of the ways for all involved is in order.
Optimism in the future is warranted with this roster as it is. But it needs new minds to help it be what we all know it can be.