Real Falcons ‘fans’ need to thank Coach Mularkey

110801 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey signals to the offense while players run through the first padded practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011.     Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

110801 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey signals to the offense while players run through the first padded practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH – Real Falcons ‘fans’ need to step up and send thank you cards to new Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey.

What he was able to achieve in his four years of unprecedented success in franchise history should be recognized. He doesn’t deserve having some rocks thrown at him on his way out of town.

Some of you, before disrespecting Mularkey, need to reflect and look at his unit’s accomplishments.

The Falcons had to build the offense from scratch, starting with a rookie quarterback, a rookie left tackle, a free agent running back and a new right guard.

The offense was the backbone of the teams that went 11-7, 9-7, 13-3 and 10-6 and made three trips to the playoffs. The good folks of Cleveland and Buffalo would throw parades if they could average double-digit wins.

Here’s more to reflect on about how the unit performed under Coach Mularkey:

Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey.

New Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey.

–Ryan tied Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino for most wins over his first three seasons in the NFL.

–Michael Turner rushed for more than 1,300 yards in three seasons and went to two Pro Bowls.

–Roddy White led the league in receptions with 115 in 2010 and has gone to four straight Pro Bowls.

–Tony Gonzalez continued his march to Canton, Ohio.

–Turner broke the franchise record, in just four seasons, for most rushing touchdowns with 50.

–Ryan broke the single-season passing record with 4,177 yards.

–Ryan became just the second quarterback in franchise history to pass for more than 4,000 yards in a season.

–Ryan also set a franchise mark for 300-yard passing games in a season with six.

–The offensive line even started to get recognition as right tackle Tyson Clabo went to the Pro Bowl after the 2010 season.

–The line was a finalist in 2010 for John Madden’s “Most Valuable Protector’s Award” which goes to the top unit in the league.

There’s plenty more, but you get the point.

Some Falcons “fans” have a history of blasting the play caller. They didn’t like Dan Reeves’ offense (too conservative), then Greg Knapp’s attack (lack of structure) and now Mularkey’s (too conservative) unwarranted attacks. Bobby Petrino was here long enough and there were several other distractions.

Here’s the deal on playing calling. All of the plays will work if executed properly and everybody wins their battles. There are no bad plays.

You can’t blame the coordinator when your top receiver drops 14 passes (Roddy White last year). You can’t blame the coordinator when your line can’t get a big enough push to get six inches. You can’t blame the coordinator when the line can’t give the quarterback time enough to throw deep passes. (Ryan had to launch early on those two strikes against Houston to open the game.)

Those are not bad plays calls. That’s a failure to execute. But second-guessing the play caller is the easiest thing for fans to do.

Pro coaches spend so much time getting ready that there are rarely any just absolutely bad calls. You’ll

Former Falcons offensive coordiantor Mike Mularkey and quarterback Matt Ryan opened the game against the Bears in the no-huddle attack. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

Former Falcons offensive coordiantor Mike Mularkey and quarterback Matt Ryan opened the game against the Bears in the no-huddle attack. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

never see a goal-line defense on a third-and-long. (I mentioned that to Brian VanGorder and he said, “I got five kids to feed. Why would I do that?”)

I don’t preach or rant to you all often, so thanks for let me get this off my chest.

Also, I’ve got to wish Coach Mularkey good luck right here like I did in a couple phone messages.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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286 comments Add your comment

UcantCLA

January 13th, 2012
6:41 am

CONservative Johnson

January 13th, 2012
6:45 am

You’re better than that DOL; don’t try to tell us who are real fans and who aren’t . . .

Truth Hurts

January 13th, 2012
6:45 am

Thank you Mularkey for 4 years of heartbreak and conservative play calling. I would also like to thank you for some of those great play calls on 4th down.

Mack1124

January 13th, 2012
6:46 am

You are right, D-Led. It was not all on Mularkey and you did a great job pointing it out. I am not in tears that Mularkey is gone, but I hope we are not regretting this next year at this time. My two cents: It starts with the head coach.

UcantCLA

January 13th, 2012
6:48 am

It’s called a screen pass Mike, add it to “play book” that consists of slants and 10 yard curl routes.
When the free agent blog coming up?

dmr

January 13th, 2012
6:49 am

I give Mularkey credit for a lot of the Falcons’ success. I give him credit for building up the offense. I give him credit for helping this team to four (4) consecutive winning seasons. But coaching is sometimes like a four man relay race. You need someone at the end to be the “anchor”.

The Falcons and Georgia have a lot in common in this regard. The Falcons offense has been good. It has been far from great. The offense has been productive in the regular season. The offense has failed miserably in the playoffs.

Mularkey is a good coach but not a great one. Just as Mike Bobo is a good coach but not a great one. You get to a certain level and then plateau. Sometimes you need to find your “anchor” to raise you to the next level. Such is the case with the Falcons and the Dawgs.

falconsrelax

January 13th, 2012
6:51 am

Honestly, this is the truth. I can’t speak for all falcon fans but for me personally its the expectations of the offense instead of the accolades you listed D-Led. It was never, “OH murlarkey is the worst coordinator.” It was just the way the offense looked when going up against a good to great defense. I saw flaws in murlarkeys playcalling and system. Hope he has success in jacksonville. Our offense is known as a good offense but thats not good enough, we have the potential to be a great offense. Again, the giants game showed it all. There had to be change. I agree with most of everything you said though d-led. Its not like we were a top 10 bad offense. But when you look at the numbers we regressed in offense. BEst year was matt ryans rookie year, WITHOUT GONZALEZ AND JULIO. Thats where my problems came in.

Me Too

January 13th, 2012
7:11 am

The fans could have tweeted offensive plays to Matt Ryan and the results would have been better.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

January 13th, 2012
7:16 am

Me Too — Ungrateful! Was the offense perfect. No! But they carried the Falcons out of the Vick/Petrino abyss.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

January 13th, 2012
7:18 am

Me too – Opps. I’m sorry. Had an ‘itchy delete” finger this morning. We can take some “unreadiness” here.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

January 13th, 2012
7:23 am

falconsrelax — Good points. They definitely have to push to the next level.

Me Too

January 13th, 2012
7:25 am

Here is the quote from MM. And earlier, he blamed execution by the players for the offense failure with the Falcons.

“Some guys are very good at managing the game and calling plays. I’m not one of them,” Mularkey said. “Any one mistake can be the difference in the game. I don’t want to be that guy that thinks he can do it all. If I can’t do it, I’m not going to do it. Hopefully I’ll put it in the right hands. That’s what my job is, to get that guy in here, get the right guy in here to do it.” – Mike Mularkey

Me Too

January 13th, 2012
7:27 am

DOL – Why don’t you delete all of the ones that don’t support your article?

D. Orlando Ledbetter

January 13th, 2012
7:27 am

UcantCLA — There was no sense in calling a screen pass because the linemen couldn’t pull out and hit moving targets. That’s called a dead/busted play. Look at the screen to the left against Carolina (2nd game). The linemen ran right past the guys they were supposed to be blocking. Now, if you don’t have the lockout maybe they could have ran 300 screens in OTAs and got better at it. Their screen/draw game was lacking.

Blue Fender

January 13th, 2012
7:28 am

I wasn’t his fault that some of the players didn’t/couldn’t carry out the plays, but it was his responsibility to get the right plays in with the right players. When he kept calling for runs up the middle when it obviously wasn’t working, that’s just being mule-headed.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

January 13th, 2012
7:29 am

Blue Fender — I understand that. Missing Ovie was real big this season, too. I’m not making excuses . . .

Me Too

January 13th, 2012
7:30 am

DOL – there were no screen passes last year!

Me Too

January 13th, 2012
7:34 am

In the December New Orleans game last year, we had the offensive line in place and we had Ovie in place. Michael Turner’s number was called two times in a row (same play) on the NO one yard line. No gain twice and a fumble. The problem with the offense has been there for many games. A team cannot justify having a blocking back in this NFL which is based on passing.

King Falcon

January 13th, 2012
7:36 am

D-Led you are right, Mularkey has been a key figure in falcon’s success the last four years. However, there comes a time when a team is no longer content with just being good. This team has reached it plateau under these coordinators and a lot of us real fans have noticed that as much talent as falcons offense and defense have, they are not being maximized. You can compare our skilled players to anybody in the league and we would match up. So why is it that we always come up short in big games or are terrible against other great teams. Falcons fans are not the only ones who questions the offensive and defensive schemes. Other professionals such as former coaches and analyst have also question the same things that we question.

Me Too

January 13th, 2012
7:38 am

With the run first offense of MM, this is the question that was always there:

What’s wrong with being 3rd and 8 all game long?

trolls and such

January 13th, 2012
7:39 am

Really? You have the nerve to tell fans what they should be thinking, feeling, or saying?

Well since we’re being all honest here, how’s this? You can take your gratefulness to Jacksonville along with Mularkey. We miss Steve Wyche, and there’s a reason why the fan blog is more popular than the beat blog.

King Falcon

January 13th, 2012
7:42 am

The NFL is a results based business and falcons have not gotten the results they want or even come close based on how they lose in the playoffs. A championship for this franchise is long overdue. If the paperbag saints can turn their franchise around then there is no excuse for this team with all our talent and an owner dedicated to winning.

Cal

January 13th, 2012
7:49 am

DOL ,
I think you are missing the point. It’s not that Smitty and Mularkey didn’t do a good job of raising the Falcons up from the ashes of the Mike V. and Bobby P. debacle. The issue is they are incapable of taking the team to the next level. A more innovative unit of coaches are needed, also a coordinator who can work better with (ALL) the pieces we have. That’s not saying it’s all on the coordinators backs; as a matter of fact I’m back and forth on if Smitty should have been let go. Look at the last three Super Bowl winning Coaches and their staff and tell me what you see different than the falcons.

falconneil

January 13th, 2012
7:49 am

We have as much talent on our offense as any other team in the playoffs: Ryan, Gonzo, White, Jones, Turner. Our failures are down to coaching pure and simple. Both the OC and the head coach being too damned conservative, and having a poor game plan. Too many times this season the team came out looking unmotivated and unprepared. That is unacceptable.

Markmjtx

January 13th, 2012
7:52 am

You are right DO. Mularkey overall did a good job. People have short memories. There is a mindset here in Georgia to blame Mike Bobo, Willie Martinez and Larry Parrish. Coaching is only a part of it. Players need to execute.

SRF

January 13th, 2012
7:55 am

I am sick and tired of “moral victories” or “good stats” – I want PLAYOFF WINS !!!!

SirReal

January 13th, 2012
7:56 am

D Led,
I kinda agree with falconrelax. His offense saw great at the time. Just grew kind of stale. I agree that he shouldnt be leaving town with rocks thrown at him. It was just time for a change and the winds blew in. He accomplished a lot and will probably turn Gabbert around. He just couldnt do anything else with this offense at this point. I think many fans will always credit him for what he did….it was just like food that tastes pretty good but if you eat it over and over without trying out new sauces,etc….becomes pretty bland.lol Thanks for all your reporting. I heard you at the press conference.LOL They know you quite well.LOL We appreciate what you do sir!

trolls and such

January 13th, 2012
7:59 am

DOL usually misses the point.

Michael M.

January 13th, 2012
8:01 am

Thank-you so much ” Ex OC” ! But I am still glad you left ! Good Byeeeeeeeeeeee !

Ackshun

January 13th, 2012
8:08 am

What a load of crap. But I will send you a case of chapstick which should come in handy when kissing Mularkeys butt in January. Mularkey was incompetent but was surrounded with superior talent that succeeded despite his ineptness. He did an unforgivebly poor job with prep for the Giants game. He has to date wasted the talents of Jerious Norwood, Julio Jones, Jacquizz Rodgers, Harry Douglas, oh hell basically everyone on the offensive side of the ball. He was a FAILURE he let hisunit down by being lazy andthen threwthem under the bus on his way out of town. His unit got beat by teams of equal talent this year because he was outcoached each andevery time. He failed to make adjustments in time when his guys were getting beat and sometimes he just gave up.

I’m glad he’s gone. And after reading this article, Im hoping the Jags need a beatwriter as well.

Rick

January 13th, 2012
8:12 am

The only people I will thank are at the AJC. The day that you are fired and they get a competent journalist to replace you.

Cal

January 13th, 2012
8:18 am

I’ve said it time and time again, Mike Smith can coach but he doesn’t inspire player to play father than their skill set. He’s unable to get them to make that extra yard, block up to that extra level and make that extra tackle (wrap up). The other problem is they don’t have that boiler player on offense or defense. There is no Ray Lewis or Justin Tuck type player to push their team mates. This team is too busy drafting country club guys with spotless images when they should be drafting BALL PLAYERS. They should be turning guys that need a little guidance and direction into men. That’s how you look back and say we have a solid team, because you have built it from the ground up, with players that can relate. You’ll have players that will be thankful for the chance and fight for the extra yard. The game is the game……….period.

MC

January 13th, 2012
8:19 am

You are correct! MM does deserve better on his way out. He did help bring this offense to places it had never been before, but that being said it was time for him to go. Our offense became predictable and stale. I think back to many 4th and shorts and the defense knew exactly what we were going to do. True players have to execute, but the element of suprise plays a lot in that. When they know whats coming there is no suprise.

Falcons4Eva

January 13th, 2012
8:21 am

DLEDWith all due respect to your man-love of Mularkey, It’s my contention that had Sean Payton was our play caller with these exact sample players – we certainly would have scored more than 2 points against the Giants, more than 12 points against the Bears, more than 16 points against the Packers and more than 10 points against the Texans.

Putting aside those assumptions for second, compare this: the Saints had a 4th and 1 play called where Drew Brees (all 6 foot of him) jumps up and simply extend the ball across the line of scrimage and gets the 1st down. Granted, Matt Ryan is not as athlethic as Drew Brees, but the difference in the calls were the Saints had their line of scrimmage spread out and had a runner in the backfield, whereas the Falcons line of scrimmage was tight and NO runner in the backfield.

Thats on the Coordinator who called that play with that formation.

trademark

January 13th, 2012
8:41 am

Geez DOL…calling out the “real” fans? I’ve been here since damn near I was old enough to watch TV. I’ve watched this team crush my hopes and rise above more times than I can count…but this isn’t about me, it’s about me and anyone else that would apparently DARE to question Mike Mularkey, because somehow we should all be bowing at his feet. Seriously?

OK, kudos to Mike Mularkey on taking a team that was at the BOTTOM OF THE BARREL and turning them into something slightly better than average. That wasn’t easy. You can post stats all you want, but the fact remains, when you average the Falcon’s Offensive rankings under him (numbers don’t lie, or have opinions, DOL) the Falcons were just that, ranked about 12th in total O and 9th in points scored. ABOVE AVERAGE. Every single team that has played in the Super Bowl in the last 8 years has had a top 10 offense (with the exception of the Steelers, who were allowing around 14 points a game at the time….) Now, since the most criticism came for MM during this last year, when the Falcons were supposed to have taken the next step forward, and seemed mired in the mud, riddles with inconsistency and poor execution, I think that the criticism is deserved, and Mike, being a man, realizes that as well, and has enough a$% to get it chewed out a bit. He should know by now with this many years in the league EXACTLY what those initials stand for for coaches.

Stop babying him. HE KNOWS he underachieved and why he’s out the door. He KNOWS why the fans turned on him. Treat him (and us) like he’s stupid, and he’s just going to get a bunch of pre-read, corporate talking point, soft-garbage. And worse, he might start to believe it and never move forward. Which is a shame, because he is an intelligent, and special coach.

He can just do better than what we saw this season. ADMIT IT:

So, after all that, yes, thank you Mike Mularkey, you deserve praise for rescuing a sunken ship and turning us into something fun to watch (at times) and competitive at a certain level. Good luck in Jacksonville, and some REAL advice, with full respect and wanting to see you do what we should all know is your best:

Turn up the heat and get better.

Falcon in DC (Rupe)

January 13th, 2012
8:45 am

Right on D-Led…. Right on!

He got about as much as one could get out of that group.

Falcons4Eva

January 13th, 2012
8:46 am

What a shame DLED, you call in to question the “REAL FALCON FANS” just because we differ in our opinion of Mularkey, that’s like us calling in to question that the “REAL SPORTS WRITER” would have question Mularkey and his competency sooner and more often – like they way they do in New York TIMES, NY Post and the Philly Enquirer.

How dare you question my fanaticism Sir!

Mack

January 13th, 2012
8:49 am

I am 55 yrs old and a Falcon fan for life. I have never played Football or never even met a NFL player. My football knowledge came from the web. I have tried my best to watch every Falcon game I could. When I can sit on my couch in rural Georgia and call 80-90% of every offensive play just by looking at the formation and knowing down and distance the OC is not very good. PERIOD.

I kinda scan your articles, but I come here to read the comments. I can not remember ever getting
any “inside news” from you, that was not spin. And now you have the nerve to attack the fan base with your flawed arguments? Which is it? The OL was good or bad beacuse of MM?
I miss Steve Wyche. Heck compared to the drivel you put out I miss T. Moore.

IMO you are not a REAL Falcon beat writer

McNasty

January 13th, 2012
9:03 am

Dled
Looks like you are ready to leave town also.

retired

January 13th, 2012
9:10 am

Enter your comments here

Paddy O

January 13th, 2012
9:13 am

Mr. Ledbetter is such a bozo liberal, hard to believe he is such a zombie that he would actually type this manure, let alone hit send.

Paddy O

January 13th, 2012
9:14 am

If you ever actually watch Mr. Ledbetter do a video interview, you know how inept he is.

retired

January 13th, 2012
9:15 am

hey D’ I enjoy your you columns seems you got the angry birds riled thanks for putting the effort. Lots of real bitter folks who call themselves fans. gonna have to take a break ‘ cause of the drivel and hate that gets posted by these creeps. have a good off season . your friend on lake lanier.

Paddy O

January 13th, 2012
9:17 am

Unwarranted? You just got shut out by the 27th ranked Giants, an inferior team. That indicates that the game plan was so utterly worthless, it would have been a better idea to fire MM and let MR2 call his own plays. As Bugs Bunny says, “What a Maroon”. Thank the lord I rarely read the drivel this “journalist” vomits up.

Paddy O

January 13th, 2012
9:18 am

retired – you a liberal like DOL with your strawman arguments?

78dawg

January 13th, 2012
9:19 am

DOL….If this is the best you can come up with you should pack your bags…I have read your posts lately and saw you on a TV interview and you are a very marginal sports writer at best…Maybe you can go with MM..

Paddy O

January 13th, 2012
9:19 am

Why did the AJC let a REAL sportswriter like Wyche go and replace him with this poser? Does he get paid in gum? His stories would MOST likely get an A in English in 2nd grade.

retired

January 13th, 2012
9:20 am

and Paddy O thinks fox is really a news channel. try civility and give a man his due and wave good bye. pack of hyenas this morning.

In consistent BloGGer

January 13th, 2012
9:21 am

Mr Ledbetter,

I\’m not a fan of your blog. I\’m also not a fan of you and your inability to take criticism. I am however, a fan of this blog entry.

So few of us really understand what is going on behind the scenes on an NFL team. It always angered me to hear the average light beer swilling hillbilly say: \”He\’s too predictable!!\”….Oh yeah? then what is NOT predictable? Running on first down…Well, most teams do it most of the time. Although Turner tailed off towards the end of the season, he still put up decent numbers.

You can\’t blame Mularkey for dropped passes, missed assignments, or over matched offensive lineman.

There may be a point next season where we will not miss Mularkey……Then again, there may be a time we do miss him.

Be careful for what you wish for.

Willy

January 13th, 2012
9:24 am