The Falcons had back-to-back down seasons, with the team’s offense taking a clear step back after firing Steve Sarkisian. As has been pretty standard throughout nearly the entirety of the franchise, there was a lot of blame to go around. The team’s high-priced free agent guards were eventually benched. Devonta Freeman remained pretty healthy yet ineffective.
A key target of criticism has also been offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. The offense regressed after a season where their performance was not good enough. The run game never developed, and even more surprising, the passing game fell off. Players were never able to get separation and the explosiveness we saw in 2016 never showed up.
Some advanced stats help explain this conundrum, and it is alarming when compared to the rest of the league. Here, each team is tracked with their air yards compared to their win probability.
Lunchtime follow up: how far do teams pass at different game states? pic.twitter.com/f3Lh4COnIs— EuanDewar (@EuanDewar) February 19, 2020
A quick glance will let you know the Falcons do not appear to change their approach regardless of the game situation. The Falcons appear shockingly conservative, especially when they have a chance to win. While being near league average may not sound bad, many of these teams are starting rookies, undrafted quarterbacks, or even worse, Mitch Trubisky.
How are the Falcons so stubbornly consistent? Even run-heavy teams like Seattle, San Francisco, and Buffalo flirt with deep passing far more significantly despite only one proven starter among the group. The offensive line was a problem, but many teams were able to do more with less. The Falcons, of course, also have the nearly unstoppable Matt Ryan to Julio Jones connection.
The takeaway is the team’s game plan does not appear to change regardless of if they are winning or losing. If anything, the team passing game is even more dink and dunk when the chance of winning is almost nonexistent. 2019 was an unimpressive season for Koetter, and his history strongly suggests the offense will not improve in 2020. The Falcons certainly will not be winning often if these conservative stats continue into 2020.