With free agency active now and the draft right around the corner, most teams are building their core for the season right about now and you pretty much know the direction your team is headed for, whether they are in rebuild mode, adding pieces to take the next step forward or gearing to compete to win a championship. In the Atlanta Falcons case it is trying to get back to the level of play, they are accustomed to being and making one more or multiple runs for the remainder of Matt Ryan good years. Ever since the biggest loss in Super bowl history, the Falcons have not played well to the expectations, that the team normally achieves to. At first after the Super Bowl hangover, it seemed like the Falcons were okay, losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Super Bowl champion Eagles the following year. After that the Falcons have produced two 7-9 seasons and yet still somehow the owner and GM are still sticking with coach Dan Quinn, which I will address in another article, but for now the Falcons have bigger issues to address in the off season. For one how is the team going to get back to the level of play that they are expected to, two what moves are they going to make to compete with the current changes/moves made with in their own conference.
The main question is how the Falcons got into this situation and what are they going to do, to fix it. Trust me their is plenty of blame to go around. Every body knows and has no doubt that owner Arthur Blankis committed to winning, but does that make him innocent in the state that the Falcons are in. Could they be in a worse situation then they are now? Yes, but it does not change the fact that the team is coming off the second straight 7-9 season and Blank is still sticking by the coach and some think the GMalso. I don’t know if Blank is following the model of the Pittsburgh Steelers, sticking with a coach through thick and thin, the good/bad times, which would be clearly be understandable, because if he did pull the plug on the coach or coach and GM, he would have to start all over again with a new coach and a 34year old quarterback. After the the tragic downfall of the Michael Vick experience, who could blame him, but what Blank does have to keep in mind going into next season, is that last year, things started off so bad the first half of the season at 1-7, he had to come out and make a statement, giving the coach a vote of confidence for the remainder of the season and it worked.
The team finished the second half of the season 6-2, but still finished under .500, Blank is going to have to have to figure something out soon, as time is of the essence. This team is ready to win now, Matt Ryan is on the best of his last four playing years, unless he declines before or after 40 and with pieces like Julio Jones and Steven Ridley on offense, Grady Jarret, Deion Jones and Ricardo Allen on defense, the Falcons are just a player or two away from getting back to another opportunity to getting to the Superbowl and redeeming their selves
Another element/person in this off-season and draft moves is GM (General Manager) Thomas Dimitroff,who also is clearly behind Dan Quinn, who was involved hiring him. The good news is Dimitroff does draft well (Ryan,Jones, Freeman, Coleman, Hooper, Beasley, Jarret, Allen, Deion Jones, Neal andKamikazee), his draft picks have created a team that has a core and was able to make a Super Bowl run, but their is also some bad that comes with his decision making. He signs players that are over the hilland were not needed like Osi Umenyiora and Stephen Jackson and letting the wrong players walk out the door like Ashanti Samuel, when he still had something left in the tank and Brent Grimes, who did not want to pay either. Instead he keeps players like Marcus Trufant and Steve Alford who were last in the league in pass defense and his latest move, was he added linebacker Dante Fowler Jr, from the Rams tore place linebacker/pass rusher Vic Beasley. I don’t know whether Quinn is convincing Dimitroff or Dimitroff is convincing Quinn that they have enough on defense or a team for that matter to win a championship is crazy and also a setup for failure, like the second half of the epic Superbowl loss. Based off of Dimitroff history, he is going to attempt to draft players needed to fill the holes on defense and get another complimentary receiver to go along with Julio Jones, because clearly Ridley is not excelling in Koetter offense. If Dimitroff wants to really wants to make one more run, during the rest of Matt Ryangood years, he is going to have to role the dice and get Ryan another weapon and build around his best defensive player Grady Jarret and that means signing an all pro corner and defensive lineman. What ever he does, if the team does not at least make the playoffs, he could be out of job with coach Dan Quinn.
One of the most closest elements to the Falcons returning or making a run to the Superbowl for now, is Coach Dan Quinn, especially out of all three, the spotlight is on him. After the first 7-9 season, Quinn let go of his offensive coordinator (Steve Sarkisian) and Defensive Coordinator (Marquand Manuel) and the results were no different, they still finished 7-9 again! Koetter could not produce the same offensive firepower that Shannahan did with the same weapons and Quinns defense finished in the bottom half once again, at least with Manuel he finished in the bottom half because half the defense was injured,with Quinn their were no excuses. Quinn who was hired off his defensive background, most notably with the Seahawks aka The legion of Boom, has transferred that success over to the Falcons defense. When the Falcons were one of the top teams in the NFC, it was Shannahan high powered offense who was leading that charge, with a defense that had pieces that could play with a lead. Now that this offense is no longer the threat that it use to be, it seems like Quinn defensive calling as a coach is being exposed. Not to mention, none of the Legion of Boom players, except for one has ever played for him outside of Seattle. This makes it seem to wonder if maybe it was more Carroll then Quinn. Either way Quinn has to put up or shut up, no more excuses, being that he has changed coordinators and still had the same records, that only leaves one man left, we will see how this plays out for him.
The Falcons clock is not only ticking on their attempt at another Superbowl run, to redeem themselves,but also their division, for that matter. Its always tough playing in your own division, but NFC South is does not just have one guaranteed Hall of Fame quarterback, but now has two, making the NFC South the top division the league. Drew Brees is still playing at a high level and the Saints are always in the playoff hunt, with free agent pickups Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Jenkins, they should be right backing the mix. Tampa Bay had the biggest pickup, with Superbowl winning Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, who now has an abundance of weapons, unlike in New England last season and their defense had gotten better at the end of the season and definitely something to build on going into next season.Carolina, even though in rebuilding mode, has pieces already in place with Teddy Bridgewater and Christian McCaffery and with Matt Rhules track record, he will have the team competing for a championship in no time. With all these changes in the conference alone, it has to make Quinn feels some type of pressure to excel this season to either win the conference or make the playoffs. Dimitroff has to also be feeling the same pressure also, because of all the moves made in the conference alone from the other teams, the only thing he has to show from his off season is Todd Gurley and DanteFowler Jr, which is not going to get them closer to the Super bowl or the playoffs for that matter.
Arthur Blank has to be seeing all the moves made in the conference alone and thank to wonder how long doe she hold on to the coach and GM, if they have another unsuccessful season under .500. Only time will tell, when the season unfolds, stay tuned!