What’s Wrong with the 2011 Atlanta Falcons?

Talented and Underachieving

One of Those Seasons So Far (C.Compton/AJC)

Figured we’d go in a little different direction on this post and analyze what seems to be wrong with this Atlanta Falcons team. Coming off a 13-3 record, an NFC South Title, and the NFC’s #1 seed, the Birds seemed to be poised for another strong year after adding Julio Jones and Ray Edwards in the off-season and keeping most everyone else. It surely hasn’t gone that way in 2011. A few things to ponder……..

1) A Very Average Football Team

The Falcons are the epitome of average after the midway point of the season. They have been able to beat the basement dwellers (Colts), the below average (Seahawks, Eagles, Panthers) and the slightly above average (Lions) and that’s it. Their combined record of opponents they have beaten comes to 14 – 32 (30.4% win). They have lost to every elite team (Packers, Saints), very good team (Bears), and even found a way to lose to a now fairly average team (Bucs). Teams they have lost to have a combined record of 26-11 (70.2% win).

Sure, they’ve played good halves (Packers) and quarters (Saints) here and there, but to say that this team is underachieving is a major understatement. When you go 13-3 and grab the NFC’s #1 seed , you shouldn’t be indulging into any moral victories. They had their doors blown off in Chicago (perhaps an omen for the season), had no business losing to the Bucs in Tampa Bay, played fantastic against Green Bay for a half only to completely incinerate in the 2nd half, and the hardest of all to swallow letting the Saints win at home in overtime where they rushed for only 41 yards and dealt a major blow on who’s truly the top team in the NFC South.

2) Why is Matt Ryan More Effective in No-Huddle?

Definitely a Regressed Year (C.Compton/AJC)

This has been a recurring theme throughout the entire season. The Falcons offense, by and large, plays much better when Matt Ryan is running the no-huddle offense and calling his own plays. This has happened almost exclusively throughout the season and popped up yet again versus the Saints. The Falcons couldn’t buy a first down and were losing by 10 with barely over 4 minutes to go. The Falcons go into the no-huddle and are able to come back and tie it, and frankly should have won it in regulation.

Is it too easy to just blame Mike Mularkey or is there something else at play here? If the NFL is a pure results-based business, the reasons really don’t matter. There’s nothing wrong with having your franchise quarterback be the captain on the field and call plays when needed, but the deeper issue is that your QB is seemingly a better play-caller than your offensive coordinator. Perhaps that’s unfair, but Ryan is surely more comfortable in that system. Is it a case of Ryan and Mularkey’s compatibility simply hitting a ceiling? For all those that say that Ryan is only a play-action QB, he set a record at Boston College for the most games with 400 yards passing.

3) The Call

Even though the media has tried to create a controversy in fan opinion regarding “the call,” most fans seem to agree with the guts to go for the 1st down in overtime to win the game. Smith has made some questionable decisions this year, but this one’s a case of “six of one and half a dozen of the other.” Smith made almost exactly the opposite call a few days after Christmas where he decided to punt and give the ball back to Brees and Co. nearing the two minute mark. That call ended up losing the game and seemed to draw way more ire than this one.

The most egregious part wasn’t the decision to go for it, but rather that awful, predictable, and stale play-call they went with to try and get it. They decide to hand the ball off to a running back not known for his agility 4-5 yards behind the line of scrimmage with all 11 Saints in the box ready to win the game in one play. Many will say that if you can’t get 6 inches, you don’t deserve to win. Well, that may be true, but when everyone in the universe knows what you’re running, it makes that phrase a lot harder to achieve. Throw in the fact that Matt Bryant has been automatic this year, they wilted with a chance to win it in regulation (almost knowing they were going to settle the whole time), and your perennial Pro Bowl receiver drops a pass to win the game and you see again why the Falcons lost.

4) If Birds Can Run They Usually Win, If they Can’t………..

Run = Win, Can’t = Loss? (C.Compton/AJC)

Many will immediately point to the fact that the Falcons ran for a combined 125+ yards against the Saints and that Michael Turner was only 4 yards shy of 100, but that misses the larger point. The Falcons use the run game to set their tempo and style of play to the opponent which is dependent on getting multiple first downs, eating up time of possession, and keying long drives. Many times the actual yards themselves are fairly irrelevant. In all of their losses this year, they proved that if their heavy-run style offense doesn’t work, they mostly can’t win. They did beat the Eagles in somewhat of a shootout, but that win has lost its entire initial glimmer.

The goal of drafting Julio Jones was to be more “explosive” and be able to compete with the higher scoring offenses after the “Debacle in the Dome,” but that rings hollow when you have an ultra-conservative offense which has little identity and seems incapable of adjusting if Plan A isn’t working. Above all, they ‘ve proven they have a hard time “finding ways to win” if their run-heavy style isn’t working.

5) Clean Shirt Quarterbacks

All that talk of “turning the corner” on defense was always prefaced with severe apprehension. To be fair, the defense did hold a very good offense to 23 points in regulation and found ways to get the ball back to their offense during crunch time. That being said, however, this defense looked like its good old self for most of the game on Sunday. Not only was Drew Brees not sacked, he wasn’t even bothered or hurried whatsoever and could have prepared a Thanksgiving feast with the amount of time he had. Some of it goes to him being a fantastic QB and moving in the pocket, but the Falcons just make it too easy for him.

It’s as if the Falcons defensive philosophy gets star struck sometimes with good quarterbacks and live in fear of them instead of being aggressive and putting pressure on them. How many times will Van Gorder and Smith revert back to that same old soft-cheese zone that NEVER works against good QB’s? The offense may be getting the majority of the blame and heat for underachieving, but the defense isn’t far behind, and it doesn’t seem to be the players fault.

6) Can Falcons Go On a Run?

Is It More Players or Coaches Fault? (C.Compton/AJC)

It could be argued that the Falcons have the easy part of their schedule coming up with games where the Falcons should be favored to win (Titans, Vikings, Panthers, Jaguars, and Bucs). If the Birds can get back some momentum and figure out their offense for goodness sake, than they still have a legitimate shot at making the postseason for a second straight year. The problem is that they have really put themselves in a very difficult position going forward. They will have to go a minimum of 5-2 and may even have to go 6-1 down the stretch to make the playoffs. They also are way down on the tie-breaker list since all their losses have come to NFC conference opponents.

Essentially, they have left themselves no room for error. The two toughest games come at the Texans in Houston (potentially without Matt Schaub) and at New Orleans on the last Monday Night Football game of the year. Even with the other games, they have to win one of those (preferably the Saints game) to prove to their fans and the NFL at large that they could even do anything once they make the playoffs if they in fact do get there. The remaining schedule does set up favorably, but they absolutely can’t afford any slip-ups from here on out.

7) Philosophy Going Forward

Should the Falcons abandon their hyper-conservative, run-heavy offense and spread the ball out and let Ryan run the show? Or should they keep their normal scheme on offense knowing this is too critical of a stretch to start playing with new ideas? Should the defense finally stop with their ridiculously soft zone and be all-out aggressive? Or should the defense continue to progress and mix in their new pressure with their usual soft zone? Should Coach Smith throw caution to the wind and feel that anything short of making the playoffs is a bust? Or should he realize the grind may help launch the Falcons in a perfect position around playoff time?

8.) Players or Coaches?

This is always the quintessential chicken v. egg argument, but which group deserves more blame for the Falcons woes in 2011? The coaches were on the hot seat for not maximizing talent, but the players have had their fair share of individual mistakes (stupid penalties, drops, fumbles, blown assignments). This one is hard to decipher as often times you can point back to coaching if the players are making the same mistakes throughout the year, but with the exact same coaching staff in place, they were arguably the most error-free team in the NFL en route to the NFC’s #1 seed. Good luck with this one.

Your Turn

593 comments Add your comment

Marc

November 18th, 2011
6:36 am

Good point about Roddy, he has regressed back to the old Roddy. What to do about him ? Is he worth keeping ?

DMCK

November 18th, 2011
6:37 am

Concur. It’s coaching. Let Ryan run the offense, be all out aggressive on D and throw caution to the wind. The Birds have no choice. It’s actually quite simple.

toby

November 18th, 2011
7:15 am

I believe that the coaching staff has devised a game philosophy that was good for yesterday and not today.In other words this team has come off a depressing 13-3 season and I think that it made them loose the will to win.a the game plans are not enough this year to challenge this team to win.I believe without a doubt that the players believe that they can win but are no longer impressed with the game plans to do it.stacking this team with talent may have become a down fall for the coaches because this team may be looking around and seeing the talent but when the game plan comes that is when they go further south because they are looking at the game plan and it doesn’t seem to match up with the talent and may be hindering them from fully buying in.I believe that this team has the potential to go on back to back Superbowl runs and win and the league does to but for some reason i can hear opponents in my head saying man good thing they haven’t figured it out yet or we definitely could count the Falcons as a loss.i am how ever a believer that if you are destined for greatness nothing or anyone can stop you and look for the issues on this team to resolve itself by default meaning that because of the issues its going to ultimately it will refine the falcons in to the team we all know they are.

STRETCH

November 18th, 2011
7:21 am

Well, until NFL coaches stop being stubborn when it comes to the 4th and 1 situation, then teams are continue to get stopped.

There was NO way I would hand the ball off to a slow running back already 5 yards in the backfield with the game on the line. NO WAY!

trademark

November 18th, 2011
7:24 am

The lack of focus here is amazing. It’s no wonder Atlanta fans are ridiculed, they focus on the dumbest things and quote them like scripture. OK, footballl 101 (again) guys….

AXIOM: (*hint*…that means a proven rule….) Football is Won and Lost in the trenches.

FACT: (means quit arguing with it for personal reasons, it’s true no matter how much you wish it wasn’t) Our O-Line is not as good as they were in the last 3 years. Many, many more sacks and QB hurries through 9 games, less time for the QB (that would be Matt Ryan…just a reminder)

Another FACT: (see above…) Deep passes require timing, touch and TIME for them to develop.

CONCLUSION: (means it probably has something to do with the question…if you got your facts right) One of the BIG contributing factors this year to the deep pass problems is the lack of time for the play to develop, the holes in the O-Line, and the eight-million hits Matt has taken has got even the “tough Irishman) rattled a bad when he has to stand back there more than normal.

ARGUMENTS: (Should be well formulated questions to the above listed conclusion….well, here we can only hope for that…but I’ll get it started here…) Ryan has never demonstrated the ability to deliver the deep ball with touch, good O-Line or not. One can argue that the deep threats didn’t exist in the previous 3 years, or the plays were for some reason not called, and this new “explosive” thing is confined to this year. Either way, he has not shown this yet. That DOES NOT MEAN HE CAN’T DO IT. Clear so far?

So, let’s clear out the BS, and talk about the non-sexy things here. O and D-Lines. Damn, people, they can win championships, or lose an entire season when they don’t function as they should. Funny thing about those QBs that are listed as being good deep threats, most of them don’t get sacked too much, you know? On the PLUS side for the Falcon’s O-Line, they have been getting better lately…and it is NO coincidence that the Falcons (and Ryan) have posted wins during that improvement. Try to see Football for what it is. A combination of War and Chess. The only thing it takes from chess though is that no one gets shot…at least not yet. But it is won or lost in the trenches. Period. Ask last years team what would have happened if they had actually sacked Rodgers a couple of times..or this year’s with Brees. And yeah, I know, that’s the D-Line….but I’m just clarifying the point.

I hope this helps. At least the problem can be fixed by actually defining what’s causing it…instead of cutting off the arm because you’re having trouble breathing…

trademark

November 18th, 2011
7:25 am

Sorry, that should have posted in Bradley’s column…but it didn’t work there…oops.

Atlanta Native

November 18th, 2011
7:29 am

Good article and well thought out points.

The simple answer is that the problem is mainly the DC and OC. Over the past three plus years, the team’s roster has been rebuilt with much better players while the only constant is the coaching staff. In the beginning of the Dimitroff/Smith era, it was not very difficult to build on the “process” since the only way to go was up. The 13-3 record was because last season’s schedule was softer – as it should be.

On defense, how many times do we see the line crowded with players only to see all but three drop off into the soft “white flag” zone coverage? Why do the Falcons still have problems stopping teams on third down? Pressure causes timing problems and turnovers. When a defense makes a player like Jay Cutler look like a Tom Brady, it’s the defensive play calling not the players. In the NFL, it just isn’t that tough to find an “open” receiver for 8-9 yards (or more) against a zone after having the time to check down through all the options. The simple and fastest way to make the defense better is to remove Van Gorder from the equation.

On offense, how many times do we see the “scripted” play set begin with Turner up the middle on first, Turner off tackle on second, play action to a covered Gonzalez on third, punt? How many times do we see an incomplete pass on first, Turner up the middle for 1 or 2 yards on second which results in yet another third and long? The simple reason why the no-huddle works is that Mularkey is not calling the plays. If the offense works better without the OC, why is he needed?

Dimitroff could draft/trade for whoever he wants, but the Falcons will not progress in the “process” much further without making changes at the DC and OC positions. It’s time to change the constants.

30yearfan

November 18th, 2011
7:48 am

Let’s see if Indy will swap their #1 and #2 picks for Matt and Roddy.

Samuel

November 18th, 2011
8:02 am

This blog is a week too early. I, as a fan today, don’t care about what’s wrong with the Falcons. I’ll let the coaches and players, think that through. But, what I do care about is this game Sunday. The Falcons have to win the game. If not, the fans will be very upset and they will do a whole lot of talking about what’s wrong with this team.

OC Dinosaur

November 18th, 2011
8:10 am

Atlanta Native for the offense, you hit the nail on the head identifying the two opening sets of plays. It’s always one of those combinations. Where are the creative plays like the first pass MRyan threw in the Lions game of 2008?

Sunday it started with the incomplete pass to the left as usual. Sometimes, I think the opening set of plays that passes on first down is there to satisfy the critics of the opening play that has MTurner running up the middle.

And when Matt Ryan is calling plays, how impaired is the offense because the Falcons are limited to the plays designed by the OC?. Matt Ryan has a selected set of “no huddle” plays that are part of the game plan for that team. Are these plays the best plays that would let the offense really move the ball?

honest_abe

November 18th, 2011
8:29 am

i think if you don’t agree the current coaching staff’s philosophy it all traces back to TD. he hired MS who is that type of ultra conservative coach. the zone schemes are something bvg ran quite frequently at georgia. you can’t just blame the coaches w/out placing some of the blame on the person who hired them.

the falcons are a better than average team. I never thought they were an “elite” team. as trademark mentioned earlier and i’ve been screaming for the last 6 months, there isn’t enough talent on either line. both lines are undersized and fairly inept this team can’t make it to the next level until this problem is addressed.

OC Dinosaur

November 18th, 2011
8:33 am

h_a you are early today. What do you think about the game last night?

Why Chipper Why?

November 18th, 2011
8:35 am

The problem with the Falcons?

Probably has something to do with that boneheaded move in the offseason. You have a 13-3 team that only needs some O-line help and some secondary help to be a championship level team. What do you do? Trade two years of picks for a wide out?

The only way we can save this team is to trade Roddy White and get that help we needed in the offseason.

Matty Ice cant throw long to Jones when he is sitting on his arse…

The problem with the Falcons is coaching, coaching, and management.

honest_abe

November 18th, 2011
8:35 am

can’t leave out mularkey. his entire career as an offensive mind has been based on running the ball.

so if some of you guys don’t like these coaches they need to get rid of the entire administration.

Willie Coyote

November 18th, 2011
8:41 am

Coaching to not lose rather than win is the problem. The offensive philosophy is to protect the ball; this takes a lot of aggression out of your players hands. The defensive philosophy is to cover and limit big plays; once again, you lose player aggression.

TD has put together a good collection of players that can achieve a good deal. Mike Smith has to let them play. I hope he realizes this because his conservative style will get the Falcons wins but will not get them playoff wins.

Mularky & BVG need to get it together. I wonder if Smith handcuffs them though.

jerry

November 18th, 2011
8:42 am

When an NFL team hires a new head coach, it takes him an average of 3.6 years. Going back 31 years there have been 20 different coaches to win it and 17 of the 20 did it in 4 years or less. Bill Cowher took the longest to win it but was in the SB in his 4th year and lost it. It doesn’t take that long for the good ones to get it done. Mike Smith is already over the average.

Years to win Super Bowl

First: Gruden, Seifert
Second: Flores, Gibbs, Switzer, Billick, Belichick, Tomlin
Third: Walsh, Shanahan, Vermiel, Payton
Fourth: Ditka, Johnson, Coughlin, McCarthy
Fifth: Holmgren
Sixth: Dungy
Fifteenth: Cowher

Michael M.

November 18th, 2011
8:44 am

I posted this last night in other place but it gives you idea of where the problems might lie with the Team. My views is its these dumb penalties that keep killing drives and they are missing the catches of Roddy White also this year. The only other things was the slow start they got off to the first part of the season and a few key injuries.

As for these Stats charts as you can see, if they can stay on target and keep focused they have a pretty good shot at still maybe winning the NFC South Title or at the least a Wildcard Spot but I am afraid it just may take them a 12-4 record to get there.

Season by Season { Stats past 4 years }

Matt Ryan

(2008) Wins 11 – Loss 5

265 of 434 attempts = 61.1 comp
3440 Total Yards
16 TDs

(2009) Wins 9 – Loss 7

263 of 451 attempts = 58.3 comp
2916 Total Yards
22 TDs

(2010) Wins 13 – Loss 3

357 of 571 attempts = 62.5 comp
3705 Total Yards
28 TDs

(2011) Wins 5 – Loss 4

197 of 328 attempts = 60.1 comp
2309 Total Yards
14 TDs

Michael Turner

2008——-1699 yards rush—–17 TDs
2009——-871 yards rush——10 TDs
2010——-1371 yards rush—-12 TDs
2011——-788 yards rush——7 TDs

honest_abe

November 18th, 2011
8:50 am

oc – i’m a uga fan but i’ve always respected tebow. that guy might be the most competitive player i’ve ever seen. he always gets his team to play at a higher level and that’s the sign of a winner. denver actually has a shot in the weak afc west while the jets continue to bumble. it would be an overstatement to say the broncos are conservative. they basically run the option/wishbone offense from back in the 60’s and yet they’re still winning. goes to show that there are intanglible aspects to winning that go beyond mere x’s and o’s.

as much as atl fans are down on our coaching staff imagine being a jets fan! heh schottenheimer has to be getting killed.

what’d you think of the game?

True Falcon Fan

November 18th, 2011
9:00 am

With exception to the Green Bay Packers, this Atlanta Falcons team as it relates in preparedness is no different than any other NFL club. Granted the lock-out as expected in the first 4-6 regular season games, the players needed that much practice & game time to get their conditioning and bodies into football shape. This season has been very frustrating to say the least. You’ll note most teams are dealing with groin & hamstring injuries (FOLKS: they were out-of-shape, when the lock-out was over). My bet is this season these types of injuries are at an all time high if not close.

The coaching staff has work to do! Yes indeed, they were caught unprepared too. Sure just know they were doing their own check-up methods of the players during the lock-out (you can bet on that). But the bottom-line it’s BS, the product on the field this year as compared to previous seasons is NOT the same.

That is with exception to the Green Bay Packers!

The 4th in 1 call last week by Smitty — is 50/50, “if we make it” he’s a genius only if we win the game. “We didn’t make it”, so 50% of you think he’s a “schmuck” —- “so what”- who really cares what you folks think.

Smitty is a “Good” coach, is he an “elite SB coach, that’s yet to be determined”?
This coaching staff is having issues working together???? In ALL three phases of team/player performance??? Maybe it’s because of the goofy season, maybe because the players & coaches were so out-of-shape before the lock-out was settled???

There is very much ONE glaring PLUS sign this season….#2 as expected showed up to play football! He is performing his brilliance on the field ever week. He is not an “Elite QB yet” & “he knows it”. Sure you’ve got those that think #2 is a noodle-arm, maybe true, maybe not. The guy is a winner, Smitty is very much aware and knows this to be a fact. My opinion #2 will take us to the SB one day, probably NOT this season, but its coming.

“YES” There is definitely something to said about #2 and the “No Huddle” play calling. Maybe Matt Ryan has passed Mularkey, maybe Smitty & TD need to be searching for the next “BEST TEACHER” for #2??? Hey it happens, Jimmy Johnson changed three OC/Play callers before he settled on “Zambezi”. I promise you Jerry Jones didn’t make that call and Jerry knows it! Three SB wins in 4 appearances ain’t bad.

Folks,,,The Green Bay Packers are FOR REAL!!!!

Go Falcons

True Falcon Fan

November 18th, 2011
9:02 am

With exception to the Green Bay Packers, this Atlanta Falcons team as it relates in preparedness is no different than any other NFL club. Granted the lock-out as expected in the first 4-6 regular season games, the players needed that much practice & game time to get their conditioning and bodies into football shape. This season has been very frustrating to say the least. You’ll note most teams are dealing with groin & hamstring injuries (FOLKS: they were out-of-shape, when the lock-out was over). My bet is this season these types of injuries are at an all time high if not close.

The coaching staff has work to do! Yes indeed, they were caught unprepared too. Sure just know they were doing their own check-up methods of the players during the lock-out (you can bet on that). But the bottom-line it’s BS, the product on the field this year as compared to previous seasons is NOT the same.

That is with exception to the Green Bay Packers!

The 4th in 1 call last week by Smitty — is 50/50, “if we make it” he’s a genius only if we win the game. “We didn’t make it”, so 50% of you think he’s a “schmuck” —- “so what”- who really cares what you folks think.

Smitty is a “Good” coach, is he an “elite SB coach, that’s yet to be determined”?
This coaching staff is having issues working together???? In ALL three phases of team/player performance??? Maybe it’s because of the goofy season, maybe because the players & coaches were so out-of-shape before the lock-out was settled???

There is very much ONE glaring PLUS sign this season….#2 as expected showed up to play football! He is performing his brilliance on the field ever week. He is not an “Elite QB yet” & “he knows it”. Sure you’ve got those that think #2 is a noodle-arm, maybe true, maybe not. The guy is a winner, Smitty is very much aware and knows this to be a fact. My opinion #2 will take us to the SB one day, probably NOT this season, but its coming.

“YES” There is definitely something to said about #2 and the “No Huddle” play calling. Maybe Matt Ryan has passed Mularkey, maybe Smitty & TD need to be searching for the next “BEST TEACHER” for #2??? Hey it happens, Jimmy Johnson changed three OC/Play callers before he settled on “Zambezi”. I promise you Jerry Jones didn’t make that call and Jerry knows it! Three SB wins in 4 appearances ain’t bad.

Folks,,,The Green Bay Packers are FOR REAL!!!!

Go Falcons

Zoomie

November 18th, 2011
9:04 am

As soon as the Falcons entered OT last Sunday, they departed from the little bit of offensive scheming that had been working throughout the game. They immediately reverted to what has characteristically been low-percentage plays for the Falcons, topped off with the critical call: no, not the fourth and inches, but the third and short. For some reason, someone made the decision to hang the outcome of the game on calling the number of a guy who, three weeks earlier, was spending Sundays on the couch tossing Cheetos and swilling Bud Light while watching his prescribed Sunday NFL cable package. This wasn’t very smart at all!

I think the problem with this team is at the organization-level. Seem to be disconnects in strategy, tactics, planning, and vision that are filtering into the play (and attitudes) on Sunday afternoons. Can’t put a finger on it, but the annoying little problems we’re seeing just have the feel of front-office lack of cohesion . . .

OC Dinosaur

November 18th, 2011
9:13 am

h_a – I have always been a Tech person but appreciated UGA. I never paid too much attention to him while he was at Florida, but I continued to hear about the controversies. I like extreme because it offers a chance to see and maybe understand a lot of things about people.

,b>that guy might be the most competitive player i’ve ever seen. he always gets his team to play at a higher level and that’s the sign of a winner

I am intrigued how the other players seem to be affected and play at a higher level. For our Falcons, the only high level play that I can remember this year is the JSnelling pass on Sunday. We don’t have much of that type of play regularly.

89viking

November 18th, 2011
9:29 am

to me the thing that is missing is bill musgrave,,,,bring him back,,whatever it takes,,,M.R hasnt been the same,,,he has regressed it seems,,,BRING BACK MUSGRAVE!!!!

Ken Strickland

November 18th, 2011
9:32 am

If you’re going to be as conservative, predictable and unimaginable on OFF as we are, it is a must that you have an aggressive ball hawking DEF. We’ve seen it work for the Bears, Ravens, Giants, and now we see it working for the 49ers. The problem for us is, we don’t have that kind of DEF, or anything close.

Despite the fact that our pass DEF, and DEF overall, has played its best when being aggressive and utilizing tight man coverage, our coaching staff is stubbornly committed to playing the NFLs softest, most predictable and none aggressive version of the cover 2 zone DEF ever. It doesn’t seem to bother them one bit that our CBs and safeties are man to man qualified, not zone, especially not cover 2 qualified, which requires unique safeties and CBs to make it work.

One of the greatest and most exciting football gms I’ve every watched was in 1966 in Nashville, TN between Florida A&M and Tenn State. That gm featured some amazing talent, like K/P returner Nolan “SUPER GNAT” Smith(Chiefs), DE/OT Claude Humphrey(Falcons), QB Eldridge Dickey(Raiders), “Bullit” Bob Hayes(Cowboys), WR Willie “RED” Walker(Bears), DT Sam Spivey(Bears), WR Eugene Robinson(Lions)etc. There was speed and talent galore on both teams.

That gm also featured legendary HC Jake Gaither of FAMU, who was mentioned in the same breath with Gramblings own legendary HC John Robinson. But unlike Robinson, Jake was extremely stubborn and unyielding. FAMU was the better overall team, but they lost. They lost because HC Jake Gaither let his pride and outright stubbornness get in the way of winning the gm.

FAMU was winning the gm, and had to punt with under 2mins remaining in the gm. Jake had tremendous pride in his DEF(which he named BLOOD), his OFF(which he named SWEAT), and his special teams(which he named TEARS). Rather than punt away from Nolan Smith, which would have likely insured him another win, Jake insisted on challenging him once again to beat his team, and Nolan took it to the house.

I honestly believe NSmith’s unbelievable performance in that gm got him noticed and drafted by the Chiefs. I brought all of this up because I keep seeing that same kind of pride and stubborn stupidity at play with Smitty and Co, mostly with Smitty. It seems to explain why:

1-Smitty insists on trying to play power football even though we don’t have the OL to make it work.
2-He insists on challenging the DEF by running the same plays, in the same situations, and in the same way, even though he knows the DEF knows what’s coming and is prepared for it.
3-He over uses RB MTurner, who he probably feels is his only power RB, and under utilizes JSnelling, JRogers and ASmith.
4-He’s strictly a zone man, and no matter what, he’s going to sink or swim with it.

He obviously wants to win and win big, but only if it’s on his terms. I believe he wants to establish an identity, or legacy, where people look at the way his team plays and says, THAT’S A MIKE SMITH COACHED TEAM. Despite being targeted and successfully schemed, due to last yrs success, he’s probably convinced this yrs team will rebound the way it did from the 2009 9-7 season if he continues doing what he’s always done.

I could be completely wrong, but it just makes sense to me. If anyone thinks I’m way off base, please explain why?

honest_abe

November 18th, 2011
9:37 am

sometimes there are special people who you just motivate/inspire you to play at a higher level. tebow has been raising the play of those around him for some time. jamarcus russell threw a much prettier ball and could probably throw it further from his knees than tebow can on his feet, however nobody wanted to lay it all out on the line with jamarcus. lazy, uninsipiring and stupid makes for a clueless leader. tebow makes up for a less than stellar arm with guts, cleverness and undying will to win. great story and however it ends in denver i’m sure he’s gained the respect of many.

honest_abe

November 18th, 2011
9:47 am

apologies for the tebow tangent. he seems to get all the headlines whether or he wins or loses. can’t remember the last lightning rod for discussion to this level since mike vick.

key for this week for the birds will be pass protection. the titans brought the heat against cam and pretty much grounded him for the entire afternoon. the titans have two pretty talented corners in mccourty and finnegan which they can put on an island and bring the heat. 5 sacks last week against carolina. falcons need to protect ryan! if the o-line struggles, this game could be closer than many expect.

BullDogMike

November 18th, 2011
9:52 am

Bottom line is , we can do without a Roddy White that has totally gone back to his old ways. IF we can get a decent draft pick for him do it. Harry Douglas and J. Jones will be plenty of trouble for other defenses. The birds still have the talent. That is not the problem. The problem lies with the scheme on both defense and offense. And what to do about stupid penalties that kill a drive and worse ,extend drive of opponent is a question only the players can answer.

Ken Strickland

November 18th, 2011
10:13 am

The best way for me to explain my theory of why we’re underachieving at this stage is to tell you a story. Back in the late 50s and 60s there was a legendary HC named Jake Gaither, who was mentioned in the same breath as Gramblings legendary HC John Robinson. But unlike Robinson, Jake was extremely stubborn and unyielding.

In the fall of 66 in Nashville, TN, I witnessed a football gm between Tenn State and JGaithers own Florida A&M(FAMU). It was one of the best and most exciting football gms I’ve ever witnessed. There was talent and speed galore on both teams. I’m talking about the type of talent that made Miami U, Florida and Florida State national powerhouses and NCAA champions.

I’m talking about WR/RB “BULLIT” Bob Hayes(Cowboys), DE/OT Claude Humphrey(Falcons), K/P returner Nolan “SUPER GNAT” Smith(Chiefs), DT Sam Spivey(Bears), WR Willie “RED” Walker(Bears), WR John Robinson(Lions), QB Eldridge Dickey(Raiders). Although FAMU has the better team overall, they lost the gm because of the stubborness, pride and unyielding approach of HC Jake Gaither.

FAMU was leading by less than a TD with less than 2mins left in the gm, and had to punt. Jake had tremendous pride in the 3 units he called BLOOD(DEF), SWEAT(OFF), and TEARS(SPECIAL TEAMS/GOALLINE). So rather than punt the ball out of bounds, or anywhere away from Nolan Smith, which would have most likely assured him of a victory, Jake insisted on challenging Nolan once again by kicking it directly to him. And guess what, Nolan took it to the house.

I see that same stubbornness, pride and unyielding attitude in HC MSmith. I have no doubt he wants to win and win big, but only if it’s on his terms. It seems to me he wants to establish a reputation, or legacy, where people will look at his team and say, THAT’S A MIKE SMITH COACHED TEAM.

That to me explains why he insists on trying to play POWER FOOTBALL even though he doesn’t have the OL to get it done. It also seems to explain why he insists on doing the same thing, calling the same playts, and in the same situations, even though he’s fully aware that the DEF knows what’s coming and is prepared for it.

I also think he fully believes that if he continues to do everything exactly the way he’s always done it, despite all of the changes and adjustments DCs have made do to last yrs success, this yrs team will rebound the same way it did last yr from the 2009 9-7 season.

Ken Strickland

November 18th, 2011
10:14 am

D3-My posts keep getting eaten by the blog monster.

NYC Falcon

November 18th, 2011
10:14 am

I put it all on Roddy. He’s got 2-3 drops that turned into interceptions and at least a half dozen 15-yard, drive killing penalties. If he catches those late game, potential game winning TD passes against the Saints and the Bucs, we are sitting at 7-2 with a huge 2 game lead in the loss column over the Saints. With the easy part of our schedule coming up, we’d be ordering playoff tix. Instead, we got no wiggle room.

LRD

November 18th, 2011
10:45 am

Opposing QB ( Hasselbeck this weekend) need to get pounded. Maybe not sacked, but at least popped a few good times. That is what is missing. I know everyone says Edwards was injured, didnt know our schemes etc.. but when you are hired as a pass rusher, how much scheming do you need to know other than… Ball is snapped, rush the QB. I know I am taking the simplistic view, but is it really much more difficult than seal the end, hit the QB?

Paddy O

November 18th, 2011
10:47 am

If you look at the Rams, and the Jets, both got rid of old WR and installed new WR – the QB in both situations is not in sync with those new WR as yet. When we ditched Jenkins & Fin, we put 1 new guy in to replace them, and Ryan is taking time to sync up with Julio, and is missing a replacement for Fin. However, after a series of misses last year with HD, I noticed he & Ryan are MUCH better synced up this year. You remove off season training camp, and you get this less than precision QB play. Our D has played much better, as we transition away from the obsolete zone coverage. PLUS: On the officiating in the NO game – who here thought that Weems should have been flagged for running into the LATE fair catch guy? We got seriously screwed by the refs. Seriously.

BRO

November 18th, 2011
11:10 am

Passing plays are designed for a short armed QB-one that can’t throw the ball more tham 10 yards. No imagination on offense-falcons will even run up the middle when there are ten men in the box. How many games have started with Turner up the middle on the very first play. It hardly ever goes for more than 2 yards-usually less. The OC has no ability to think outside of the box. A limited mind with a limited set of plays. Sunday’s was a good idea with a bad play called.

DJ Sniper

November 18th, 2011
11:39 am

Coaching is the main reason this team isn’t performing better. Yes, there is some responsibility on the players to execute, but I think we all know Mike Mularkey and Brian Van Gorder’s schemes are NOT taking advantage of the talent we have on the roster. On offense, we are boring, conservative, and worst of all, predictable. One reason we keep facing 3rd and longs is because defenses know what plays we’re going to run and they can stop them. Mularkey seems to think that if he keeps pounding his head into a brick wall, the wall will come down, but it doesn’t. Also, he refuses to take advantage of some of the players on the roster. Quizz Rogers was drafted to be our change of pace back, yet he only gets used for a few plays in the first half and is never seen again. During the offseason, the coaching staff had plenty of good things to say about Michael Palmer and Kerry Meier, yet they never see the field.

As for the defense, Van Gorder is just as hardheaded. He just doesn’t seem to understand that his soft zone coverage is NOT the way to go. I was so pissed at how much time Drew Brees had to throw on Sunday. Never did I see him pressured or under duress. We have the talent to get after the QB, but if the scheme doesn’t take advantage of that talent, then it’s a waste.

That being said, I was thinking of something yesterday, and it just so happened that ESPN talked about it too. It’s pretty much a given that Jacksonville is going to fire Jack Del Rio at the end of the season. Mike Mularkey’s name is reported to be on the list of potential coaches that the Jaguars are looking at. The Jags may look at Mularkey’s track record with Matt Ryan and think that he can do the same for Blaine Gabbert. Plus his son works in the their personnel department. Let’s hope and pray that scenario plays out

Die Hard Falcon

November 18th, 2011
11:43 am

I think the OLine has been our biggest downfall, penalties are 2nd. We need to get better protection for MR2, so we can find out for certain whether or not he can develop rhythm on the deep plays. Tom Brady and Drew Brees get all day to pass (especially Brady), but when teams like the Giants against the Pats or this years Rams agains the Aints get pressure and sacks & knock them off their spot, they have the same struggles as MR2. If we can find a way to pass protect, you will see the #’s get better along w/ victories. The penalties have been backbreaking at times, just crucial mistakes.
In other news, screens to Jacquizz & Snelling to to be peppered into our playcalling, this will slow down the pass rush and help our OLine which is often outmatched, scheme can cover up our lack of talent. Also, please start using 3 WR sets more often, HD83 is our version of WW83 and proved in the game against the Aints, w/ a skill position personnel grouping of RW84, JJ11, TG88, JR22, and HD83, we have viable threats and could give DC’s fits, run JJ long Roddy intermediate, HD on crossing, TG on stick routes, comebacks, and outs, then add Jacquizz to the flat or screens or fake throw then draw plays and we have many options and many threats, I believe we could be as good as anyone if we run this style of offense more often. Snelling could be in this set as well, Turner wouldn’t work in it well b/c he simply cannot seem to catch anything.
Please on D, start making the avg QB’s look great, start playing more man and go after them, disrupt them, don’t let them get comfortable and can someone please help me understand why our DLine isn’t better, there’s a lot of talent, are they underachieving or is it simply scheme?
GO Falcons!!!!!!!

Arno

November 18th, 2011
11:54 am

This is not even debatable. Though Ryan presses too hard sometimes, he is the superior game tactician and the players respond to him. The only question left is whether the players will fight through the butt-headed sideline playcalling and make a season of it.

OC Dinosaur

November 18th, 2011
11:56 am

Lots of new posters in the Cage with D3’s Big Question. Most of them have come to the same conclusions as the regulars.

OC Dinosaur

November 18th, 2011
12:08 pm

I’m not a big fan of John Fox, but he and his coaching staff did make some changes in a short time frame for better results. Why can’t our offense adapt a little quicker? From other sports articles:

After a debacle against Detroit, three weeks ago, the Broncos decided to mold their offense to Tebow’s unique skill set, reintroducing the option into the NFL, the system that Tebow perfected at Florida.

Has the Falcons offense ever inspired the defense in a similar manner?

“Yeah, one thing about that quarterback: he’s going to keep grinding,” Champ Bailey(notes) said. “And as a defense, we’ve just got to keep the team in the game, because in the fourth quarter, you never know what you’re going to get.

Ken Strickland

November 18th, 2011
12:44 pm

PADDYO-My little man is doing just fine. Since this is my 11th Doberman, I’m well aware of the energy they bring. Like most sight hounds, they need more than just long walks. They need to be allowed to run free and stretch out. But I’ve never had one with this little devils energy.

He’ll be 6 mos old on the 21st of this month, and he already weighs 50.2lbs. I’ve had him 3 weeks, but in less then 2 wks, he learned his name, the come and no commands, and how to open a gate or door that’s not latched. Somehow he knows not to go into the street, and I’ve yet to start his training.

When I go to bed each night, he’s at the foot of my bed, but when I wake up each morning, he’s next to me on my bed. He’s been so much fun, and has given me renewed energy. I wished Smitty and Co would do something, other than the repetitive BS every opponent has become accustomed to expecting, to put some renewed energy into the Falcons and make them fun to watch once again.

So far, the only consistent thing about the Falcons has been their inconsistency.

DJ Sniper

November 18th, 2011
12:45 pm

OC Dinosaur, that’s a great point. John Fox has been known as a very conservative coach, yet he realized that trying to fit a square peg into a round hole was not the way to go. Our staff needs to take notes.

Eric C.

November 18th, 2011
12:51 pm

It is really simple!

The Falcons are two plays away from being 7-2…and they both revolve around dropped passes by Roddy White (vs TB, vs Saints).

Those are both games the Falcons would have won last year!!!

I would compare the Chicago road loss to the Eagles road loss early last season.

And the Packers loss, well everyone is losing against the Packers right now.

So, you see, it is really simple…catch the damn ball!

Screen Pass

November 18th, 2011
1:09 pm

“Harbaugh eliminated “sight adjustments” used forever by NFL teams from the 49ers playbook. (Remember the intended pass to RWhite that was a touchdown for the colts; that should have been a line of site adjustment.) He took the existing plays and put hot routes in each set. Harbaugh has had the same amount of time this year as the Falcons coaching staff to integrate players and new things. Why is he able to do it and our staff cannot. It is an interesting article and is found here:
http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7218353/quarterbacking-made-simple” – OC Dino

Good job OC, excellent article. When you look at that and what they are doing withTebow it really reinforces just how important good coaching is. We have alot of current or ex military personnel in the Cage…military people understand leadership and certainly how bad leadership can have severe consequences more than most. I like technical articles like this one…they really shine a spotlight on just how many little things go into the game.

Ken Strickland

November 18th, 2011
1:18 pm

Smitty’s mindset and approach reminds me of a legendary HC who was very prominent during the late 50s and 60s. His name was Jake Gaither, who coached the late NFL great “BULLIT” Bob Hayes @ Florida A&M(FAMU), and he was mentioned in the same breath with Gramblings legendary HC John Robinson.

One of the greatest and most exciting gm I’ve ever seen took place in 1963-64 in Nashville, TN between Tenn St and FAMU. Those 2 teams had size, speed, and an unbelievable collection of professional talent. FAMU had the better overall team, but they lost the gm because of the stubborness, arrogance and unyielding attitude of their HC.

FAMU was leading and had to punt with less than 2 mins remaining in the gm. JGaither was very proud of his OFF, DEF, and ST units, which he called BLOOD, SWEAT and TEARS. So, instead of punting it out of bounds, or away from former Chiefs Probowl K/P returner Nolan ‘SUPER GNAT” Smith who had been killing him all gm long with his returns, he dared him to beat his team and kicked it right to him.

As fate would have it, Nolan fielded the punt and took it to the house. I see a lot of that stubborn, prideful, and unyielding attitude in HC MSmith. I have no doubt about his desire to win and win big, but it seems he only wants to do it his way. It appears to me that he wants to establish a reputation, or legacy, where people will look at his teams and say, THAT’S A MIKE SMITH COACHED TEAM.

That could be why he’s so reluctant to make changes and/or adjustments, and continues to do the same thing in the same situation no matter what. It could also explain why he continues to run a POWER STYLE OFF, even though he doesn’t have the OL to make it work. It certainly explains why he insists on running the same power plays in the same situations even though he knows the DEF is aware of what he intends to do and is stacked and prepared.

Even though opponents have schemed and prepared for us based on last yrs outstanding season, I think he believes if he maintains the same approach and continues to do the same things he’s done consistently in the past, that this yrs team will recover just like last yrs team recovered from the 9-7 09 season.

mark

November 18th, 2011
1:20 pm

Can you say anything good about the Falcons ?

D3

November 18th, 2011
1:28 pm

Screen — And just to reinforce that good vs. bad leadership point, it applies to everything, especially education (in which I have a master’s in Ed leadership). Great administrations and leaders can take some of the lowest performing students in some of the worst areas and turn them around quickly. On the contrary, terrible leaders can take schools that were fantastic for years and years and drive them into the ditch quicker than Roddy can get an unsportsmanlike penalty. I think Van Gorder stays, but Mularkey’s as good as gone. Who would you like the Birds to go after if and when Mularkey is canned? Your thoughts about Marty Morningwheg if he is available?

OC Dinosaur

November 18th, 2011
1:29 pm

Screen Pass thanks! I am looking forward to watching the SF and Baltimore game next Thursday night.

JB FALCON

November 18th, 2011
1:42 pm

D3, I’ve got the next OC and even he doesn’t know it yet. Since Peyton is pretty well worn out he might as well coach!

jerry

November 18th, 2011
2:00 pm

What’s wrong with this picture?

Rushes + receptions———Turner———————————————————188
White, Jones, Douglas, Gonzales, and Rogers combined—-193

boyd

November 18th, 2011
2:10 pm

Same old Falcons in the end. Thrity five years of average with a few above average years. Look at the teams that win consistently. It starts with ownership, then coaching, then players, etc.

Screen Pass

November 18th, 2011
2:15 pm

“Who would you like the Birds to go after if and when Mularkey is canned? Your thoughts about Marty Morningwheg if he is available?” – D3

Hope you and the family are felling better :) . It is too soon for me to have a definite MM replacement killer, need to see more of who will be availble, I like SW’s Knapp choice for now but there are gonna be quite a few to consider. Morningwheg is a very enticing and intriguing choice too. He was a QB player and served under Mariucci …could be very nice for M. Ryan. Later in the year I’ll look at some more possible choices and we can discuss. It will be a good article idea later lol.