Week 1 is always preceded by unbridled optimism, even for the worst NFL teams. Heading into opening weekend, even Jets fans had hope that their team could amount to something. When you’re 0-0, anything is possible for every team. It’s a fun, hope-filled time when we all imagine the best that our teams could become. But for many teams, Week 1 is a stark reminder of how far our teams still need to go.
That’s been the story for the Falcons every year since 2018. Atlanta lost an anemic season-opener to the Eagles, failing in much the same way they did in the 2017 playoffs. In 2019, things went from bad to worse as the Falcons went down 28-0 to Minnesota before adding a few meaningless garbage time scores. Heading into 2020, there was optimism that things would be different. After all, Matt Ryan was 11-1 in home openers during his career. Atlanta seemed to match up fairly evenly with Seattle on offense and defense, which indicated the potential for a close game.
Instead, the Falcons imploded in the third quarter after a fairly encouraging start, falling 20 points behind en route to a 38-25 shellacking that was nowhere near as close as it appears. Despite all the changes, all the PR lines about how things would be different and improvements would be seen, the Falcons ended up right back where they started: heading into Week 2 with an 0-1 record, and with far more questions than answers.
In just about any other season, I’d say: “Don’t worry about it! It’s Week 1, after all, and we saw some encouraging things. Let’s wait and see.”
But the truth is, I’ve been saying that line since 2018, and I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t believe it. It is Week 1, there is an opportunity for the team to turn things around, and we did see some encouraging things. But we also saw the same disheveled, unprepared, and wholly disappointing Falcons team we’ve seen in every season opener for the past three years.
That is unacceptable.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me three or more times, shame on me.
I’m done with the optimism, and I’m done giving Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff the benefit of the doubt with this team. After a legitimately injury-ravaged 2018, they squandered the talent on this roster with horrid coaching decisions and very questionable hires (Dirk Koetter, anyone?). They’ve taken an offense with a former MVP QB and an all-world WR and turned it into a mismatch of schemes that produces gaudy yardage numbers that don’t mean a thing when paired with a pathetic number of points. They finally put together a fearsome defensive line, only to see the secondary fall apart in disastrous fashion.
I could go on and on about the comedy of errors that led to this point, but you get the picture. Fans were sold a story of redemption and a tale of a coaching staff that finally understood the issues and had concrete plans to fix them. So far, those fixes haven’t materialized. And if 2020 is anything like the past two seasons, the fixes either a) aren’t coming, or b) will come far too late to matter. Except, perhaps, for saving said staff’s jobs so they can “run it back” again in 2021.
It’s fair to point out that the only other time Matt Ryan lost a home opener (to the Bucs in 2016), the Falcons went on to reach the Super Bowl. We looked back on that game as an aberration, as the team turned things around and finished exceptionally strong. That could still happen in 2020, and I am hoping I’ll be called out for my overly pessimistic view. But if recent history holds true, I won’t have much to worry about.