Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest filmmakers to ever do it, has a quote about his greatest fear. No, it’s not about being eaten by a shark or dinosaur, or making a sequel to Always. It’s this;
“The thing that I’m just scared to death of is that someday I’m going to wake up and bore somebody with a film,” Spielberg says.
Boring people is one of the cardinal sins of entertainment; I’ve sat through countless monstrosities in my day of being a movie fan (i.e., 2019’s Cats, 2018’s Welcome to Marwen, Matt Chambers’ high school graduation speech), and each of them at least had one redeemable quality: they weren’t boring. Ghastly, sure, but not boring.
The Atlanta Falcons, since the 2017 season, have been one, irredeemable thing: boring.
It’s hurt ticket sales, left fans hiding away in Mercedes Benz Stadium in one of its many hideaways, left the couch surfers yearning for YouTube clips of Kyle Shanahan play designs from 2016. A losing team can be explosively bad in a rather comical way, but the Falcons of late have been Benadryl-level exhausting.
The franchise has wisely put a stick of dynamite in what once was on the coaching side (as badly as we miss Dan Quinn as a person and leader), with bright offensive mind Arthur Smith in as coach and promising Saints exec. Terry Fontenot in as general manager.
These, along with hiring veteran defensive ace Dean Pees, are the moves that set up the grand finale. the 4th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
It’s a dicey subject these days as to what the Falcons should do with that pick, whether it be mortgaged for the future or invested in it with an explosive pick. Team trade down is the dad at the bonfire who reminds you not to eat too many Smores before you puke: it’s a safe, logical step for a new franchise, one that would, perhaps, blossom into a solid foundation for this new franchise and, maybe, add a few wins to the table this fall.
But it’s boring.
The Falcons, to be quite frank with you, need a Disney World/Biden inauguration-level firework display later this month, the kind of “holy cow” move that gets Falcons Twitter more animated and opinionated than a Matt Ryan Hall of Fame debate.
When you look at this team, it’s fair to wonder what patching the holes in the boat could do to really get the team going again. You can trade down and net you some additional picks, but rarely does that situation ever put you in the sights of someone truly special.
The Falcons have not drafted a truly special player in a decade — it was Julio Jones, a player they moved Heaven and Earth to get in the 2011 draft, and it changed the course of the franchise. That trade didn’t make Thomas Dimitroff completely whiff on the entire 2012 draft class or make so many mistakes in free agency, but it did set the team back a bit on capital going ahead. That was a good team who thought one special player could make the difference. He didn’t, ultimately, but it’s hard to blame that individual move as being why, and the Falcons did come awfully close the next year.
This time, the Falcons don’t have to sell the farm to land someone who could be truly special. Between quarterbacks Trey Lance and Justin Fields, both of whom could very probably be there at 4, and generational talents like Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase, the Falcons have a handful of guys who could change the course of the franchise, now or later, right there for the taking.
They’d be fun as Christmas morning to put in a Falcons uniform, and could legitimately, if all pans out, put the team in a fortuitous position for years to come. Think about it.
Replacing Ryan, eventually, with a young quarterback who fits the way the quarterback position is evolving would be fun. After years and years of Tom Brady dominance, the field will eventually settle to see who can dethrone Patrick Mahomes. The Falcons, right now, could go ahead and invest in that future with a quarterback who has elite potential. Lance and Fields are probably going to both be very good in the NFL, and exciting. I love Ryan, but he’s not likely to reach his 2016 form ever again. He’s been a legend for this franchise, but this might be the only time in Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot’s time with the team they have a chance at drafting a game-changing quarterback. It might be the only time they really can make a statement like this.
Drafting Pitts, or maybe Chase, would be the only way to match this. Pitts might well be the next Tony Gonzalez, and create a new world of issues for defenses trying to go up against Atlanta. He’s probably going to be a legitimate superstar, and the Falcons might be tempted to get him now and pair a young quarterback with him down the road. It’d be a perfectly legitimate reason, if only because Pitts’ ceiling is that special. Chase has Julio Jones-esque potential, and that’s why he’s the only other guy vaguely possible for this scenario.
Why, if you’re the Falcons, would you deny yourself a chance at potential greatness, not to mention impossible fun? This franchise has gone a bit stale over the years, and it needs a lightning rod of relevancy and elite potential to get back on track. You could lay the bricks if you wish, but you might regret it 10 years from now if all those draft picks only turn into good players and no championships.
The Falcons might not need something drastic to get back on track, but they need something drastic to forge a way back into the marquee. It could be Arthur Smith’s brain to get them there, or Fontenot’s ability to build a team. My money is on a franchise-changing player, though, the fun one.
The Falcons really need to blow the roof off this thing in April and draft the fun player. I’m ready to enjoy my Sundays again. I’d rather gamble on the elite potential of one of these prospects to find that than trade down and just hope I strike gold later.