Falcons – Seahawks take Divergent Paths from 2012/13 Playoffs

One’s a Super Bowl Champ; The Other Won 4 Games

The Seattle Seahawks finish the 2013 NFL season as the Super Bowl Champions. All Falcons fans could do was wonder how the Seahawks made it look so darn easy. Many also probably didn’t actually believe that it was the Falcons who beat the Seahawks in last year’s playoffs. Yes, it did happen, even though it’s impossible to believe after Seattle’s team hoist the prized Lombardi. On the most obvious level, the two teams couldn’t be farther apart. One just won the Super Bowl in one of the biggest lopsided blowouts in recent memory. The Falcons struggled to win 4 games and were absolutely the biggest disappointment of the 2013 season.

To be fair, the Seahawks were and are superior to most teams in the NFL. However, when looking deeper, it’s mind-blowing how the two teams arrived at their 2013 final destination, particularly in how the teams were built, how they play, and how they’re coached, among other things. The Seahawks coaching staff has done an amazing job developing and coaching players and the front office has done a superior job to reach the Lombardi. The Falcons, obviously, haven’t done a very good job in those areas. A look at the stark contrasts between two teams that met a little over a year ago in the 2012/13 playoffs:

Resting on “10 Yards Away”

Mindsets and work ethics of teams are impossible for fans without firsthand knowledge to know gauge, but picking up what players say, how they act, and certainly how they play. It’s easy to use 20/20 hindsight now that the season is over, but it seems that the Seahawks were bound and determined to will themselves to the Super Bowl at all costs (which they did), and the Falcons got lazy and bought the hype that they were “only 10 yards away,” and if Navorro Bowman hadn’t broken up the 4th down pass then maybe the Falcons would’ve hoisted the Lombardi last year. Essentially, nothing was wrong and only a few tweaks were needed. Not only that, but they cut key veterans and thought 3 new starters on the offensive line would be enough. Some veterans were good moves (Dunta Robinson, Michael Turner, Chris Owens), others were in gray territory (Brent Grimes, Tyson Clabo), but the releases of John Abraham had to be one of the dumbest moves ever by Dimitroff. In fact, Abraham made the Pro Bowl as an outside linebacker. Wasn’t Mike Nolan known for his stellar 3-4 defenses?

What a Difference a Year Can Make (AJC)

The Seahawks were only a minute away from the NFC Championship. Should that have been their mantra? Well, it wasn’t anywhere close. As will be discussed throughout the post, the Seahawks took the exact opposite approach. They were aggressive in free agency, did a great job of developing players, and coached up their players to be fundamentally sound in the basics of football: blocking and tackling. Russell Wilson famously tweeted #ChampionshipOffseason after their flurry of moves in the off-season. Fans obviously don’t know how hard their respective teams worked or what went on in the locker room, but one steamrolled to a #1 NFC Seed, ran through the playoffs, and dominated the Super Bowl. The other team’s season was over by week 8. The Falcons hung their hat on groveling for a tight end to come back and even made concessions for him to miss most all of preseason (as will be discussed earlier). Legendary college coach Nick Saban said that “there is no continuum of success. It starts over every year. History doesn’t help us win the next game.” One team understood that well. The other one not so much.

Aggressive vs. Idle

The Seahawks front office and coaching staff didn’t simply rest on the great run they made in the 2012 football season. They were as aggressive and active as any team in the NFL. With a strong young core of players, they could have easily just chalked up the loss to the Falcons as bad luck, and sat on their idle hands as the Falcons did. But they didn’t. Instead they did the opposite. Already possessing one of the league’s best defenses, they went out and signed not one, but TWO free agent defensive ends. They signed one of the best in Cliff Avril to a manageable contract and then they turned around and signed one of the other best free agents in Michael Bennett. Here’s the best part: their ages were 27 and 28, respectively, when they signed with Seattle.

Coffman MIA Since (AJC)

The Falcons answer was to cut John Abraham and replace him with Osi Umenyiora. Umenyiora was 32 when the Falcons signed him. Throw in a running back that’s 30 years old and has over 10,000 yards on his tires. The pattern of Thomas Dimitroff has been that any player under the age of 30 is automatically cut from the list of possible signings. They must be past their primes and over the hill to come play for the Falcons. Being strapped in terms of the salary cap wasn’t an excuse either. In fact, Dimitroff sat on close to $10 million in cap space all year, evidently never even crossing his mind to spend it. Could the Falcons have not looked in pretty much every area to improve via free agency, especially on the offensive and defensive lines? The Falcons malaise permeated throughout the entire organization, from the owner and front office, all the way down to the coaches and players. The Falcons could roll their helmet out and be right back in the Super Bowl chase.

Perhaps the Seahawks most aggressive move was to trade away a 1st, 3rd, and 7th round pick for Percy Harvin. Here’s the worst part for Falcons fans: they didn’t even need him to reach the Super Bowl. When Julio Jones was lost for the year, the Falcons could only win 3 out of their next 11 games (one in OT and another by a missed Redskins 2 pt conversion). Harvin was essentially lost for the entire year, but the aggressive move for Harvin paid off in the end as Harvin was a game-changer and slam the door shut on any Broncos comeback with his kick return for a TD. The aggressive philosophy engulfed the Seahawks coaching and play on the field. Up by 29 in the Super Bowl in the second half, did Pete Carroll take his foot off the gas on either side of the ball? Absolutely not. His defense kept hitting and rushing the passer and the offense kept the foot on the gas pedal. Contrast that with Smith and his Falcons 2nd half meltdowns (scored 3 points or less in 63% of all games he’s coached) and going to Smittyball trying to milk a 1 point lead and it’s easy to see the two teams final destinations.

Improving Weaknesses AND Strengths vs……

Only 1 Minute from NFC Title Game! (AJC)

This point was hit on earlier regarding the Seahawks and Falcons collective moves, but Seattle went out and improved not just their weaknesses, but also their strengths. It would be completely understandable for them to stay pat with one of the league’s best defenses, but they went out and added not one, but two stud defensive ends. They obviously improved one of their main weaknesses, which was their receiving corps, with the Percy Harvin trade. And interesting enough, they didn’t have Harvin or their other starting receiver Sidney Rice for the entire year. Even looking at the Super Bowl losing Broncos, they did something similar. Already possessing one of the best young WR duos in the league, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, they went and added Wes Welker in free agency. It clearly didn’t help them win the Lombardi, but they did make it to the Super Bowl and set almost every offensive record along the way. Every year is a new year, and the best organizations look at each little detail and find ways to improve them. No area is beyond reproach for improvement.

Begging and Pleading for a 38 Year Old TE

Even before the surprising parting gift statements made about Matt Ryan, this was the story that helped shape and define the season. First of all, this is in no way an attack on Gonzalez. The greatest tight end to ever play the game. An instant Hall of Famer. A true class act every part of the way. The Falcons and their fans were proud and honored to have him a part of the franchise for 5 years. This is more about the Falcons organization as it is Gonzalez.

This is More Like It (AJC)

Almost as soon as the Falcons walked off the field in defeat in the NFC Title Game, talk immediately turned to “will he or won’t he” in terms of Gonzalez retiring as he said he was likely to and the public begging and pleading by Dimitroff and Co. began in earnest. The Falcons would have been crazy to not want him back, but wanting someone back is entirely different from groveling and chasing a player. They could have simply said that the door was always open, but they were moving forward for 2013. And this too was for Gonzalez at the last stage of his career, 38 years old, not his prime. Again, this isn’t a slight to Gonzalez at all, he only took advantage of the situation that was presented, as well as cashing in on $7 million.

The point is the underlying mindset and belief that the Gonzalez saga created. There are endless cliches about teamwork, such as “there’s no I in team” or “no one player is bigger than the team,” but they are cliches for a reason. The Falcons decided to make an exception for Gonzalez and even let him skip pretty much everything until the start of the season. Players, coaches, and the GM all said that it didn’t matter because of his greatness and it wouldn’t have an effect. You can say you’re not putting one player above all the rest, but actions say that you are when you don’t require them to fully participate in all team activities. The Minnesota Vikings did something similar with Brett Favre, got no Super Bowl, and still haven’t found a franchise quarterback. Furthermore, it reinforced even more that “Super Bowl or Bust” crap that started as soon as the season was over. Clearly, this is not to say that getting Gonzalez to come back was the main reason behind the trainwreck season, but the actions displayed showed an arrogant belief of entitlement that the Falcons deserved to be right back in the Super Bowl hunt just because. They got that one pretty wrong.

Fundamentals

Talk about a Grand Canyon-sized chasm between the two teams. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl due in large part of the basics of football: running, hitting, tackling, and blocking. The lovefest that ensued on Seattle’s defense on the postgame shows kept asking the players how they were so good, and almost every time they mentioned fundamentals. They practice tackling every Tuesday and would have a Turnover Thursday competition between the first team offense and defense that Richard Sherman describes as “intense. We go very hard at practice.” Which belies yet another point: competition. Constant competition between all players fighting to get better and keeping each other’s skills honed.

Chasing on Defense the Norm (AJC)

Contrast that with how Smith runs his practices and it’s no wonder the Seahawks fans are still partying and Falcons fans felt obligated to watch the rest of the season out of pure loyalty or having to finish a really bad movie. Intense and tough would be the last two things to describe anything about the Falcons. Smith’s practices are more similar to birthday parties than a tough and spirited competition. The results are obvious. The Falcons are one of least fundamentally sound teams in the NFL. They can’t tackle. They don’t hit hard. They can’t block. They can’t force turnovers and often give them away. And they don’t even fight for each other. When a Falcon, such as Matt Ryan, gets cheap-shotted, they never take up for them. This is not to say that being a hothead equals championships, but playing with fire and passion does and the Falcons absolutely don’t do that at all. Another staple of Smith is his fear of injuries in his practices. Ironically, Smith going out of his way to keep players from getting injured with soft practices led to the most injuries since he’s been head coach.

True Player Development

With the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl, and making it pretty easy to boot, every move that GM John Schneider has made will be looked at in a positive light, for good reason. Every team usually has some lower round draft picks that pan out, but Seattle has done a masterful job developing most of their picks. Their first round picks (Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, James Carpenter) and second round picks (Bobby Wagner, John Moffit, Golden Tate, Max Unger) definitely played a huge role in them winning the Super Bowl. But what put them over the top is their development of lower round picks. Russell Wilson (3rd rd), Kam Chancellor (5th rd), Richard Sherman (5th rd), Luke Willson (5th rd), Byron Maxwell (6th rd), Malcolm Smith (7th rd), and JR Sweezy (7th rd) were a huge part of the Seahawks going all the way.

Home Field Didn't Help Falcons......Twice (AJC)

Seattle didn’t just play these guys, they actually have developed them to being great contributors, Pro Bowlers, and All-Pros. Much of that has to go to coaching, specifically fundamentals and competition. Compare that with the Falcons and their inability to develop much of anything on their roster in 6 years and their record in that department, which is mostly deplorable. They haven’t developed one tight end, even knowing Gonzalez was at the end of his career. They don’t have on offensive they can hang their hat on going forward, despite using a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th draft pick. They don’t have a running back to carry the load, even though seeing Michael Turner was going downhill fast. Some of their seeming good areas of development have either gotten worse (Sean Weatherspoon, Thomas DeCoud among others), weren’t resigned (Vance Walker, Michael Palmer, Lawrence Sidbury to name a few), or never see the field despite glimpses of ability (Antone Smith, Darius Johnson, Chase Coffman, Harland Gunn, Josh Vaughan). Smith and Dimitroff can claim victories with UDFA’s Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu, and Ryan Schraeder, but they would’ve never seen the field if not for injuries.

Vision / Mission = Build Accordingly

Of all the differences, this might be the biggest of all. It’s really easy to look at the Seahawks (even from last year) and know exactly what they’re all about: great defense, hard hitting, toughness, running the football, opportunistic passing game. The vision and mission is clear from the general manager and the entire front office to all the coaches and players on the team. Everyone in that organization knows what their team hangs their hat on. They draft, acquire free agents, and build their roster accordingly.

Champs (AJC)

What defines the Falcons? Not only can most hardcore fans not tell you what the Falcons are about, but even the people in the Falcons organization don’t seem to know what they even want to do. Smith was all about running the football and stopping the run. Truth is, even in the early years, they were never really that good at either save a year or two “near” the top, but not dominant. Instead of drafting accordingly getting big burly offensive linemen and beef-eating defensive linemen, they’ve done the opposite. They also had no replacement for Michael Turner ready to go. Then the massive trade for Julio Jones wanted the team to be more explosive, which they accomplished for one year, but they didn’t draft or sign any offensive linemen worth a dang (see above) to protect Matt Ryan and his ability to pass. In fact, he let arguably his best and toughest linemen Harvey Dahl walk to St. Louis. Now they’re back to being tough on the lines (this year’s term is “gritty”). One of the most maddening things for fans is Smith’s refusal to address what this defense is. Mike Nolan is one of the best 3-4 minds in the game, yet they run the 4-3 when he gets to Atlanta, to terribly weak effect.

The easiest and best model for the Falcons to follow would be that of the 2009 Saints and 2010 Packers: an up-tempo, aggressive passing game that puts up points quickly, allowing the pass to set up the run and a tough defense that can create turnovers, get after the QB, be fundamentally sound, and not pretend to be a shutdown defense.

Injuries

Home Field Advantage

4-3 Defense: Beef vs. Vegan

Toughness, Hard-Hitting

Dictate To vs. “Take What they Give You”

516 comments Add your comment

JJ

February 7th, 2014
12:45 am

For Sarah B.

Nest-A-falcon

February 7th, 2014
1:21 am

Tremendously detailed and accurate article D3. I have been admiring your’s and everyone else’s involvement in the cage from afar. I have decided that this year would be the year I would consciously partake in the exchanges, because I think this is the place where we can all feel each other’s pains. One word that you brilliantly used in your article regarding the moves and attitudes at the branch, or lack thereof, is “maddening”. It is exactly my sentiment about the leadership of our team.

[...] News here – Atlanta Falcons: The Cage ← NCR Corp. annual profit dips to $447 [...]

waynester

February 7th, 2014
5:43 am

D3
“practice makes perfect” IF the practice IS perfect.
That used to be my HS mantra.
It’s still true.
The one thing that Seattle does that you didn’t touch on is the most important thing Pete Carroll brought to the team–an infectious spirit and an attitude of not accepting less. Most of the time games are won and lost–not between the hashmarks–but between the EARS. The mindset around Flowery Branch after the “near-miss” in 2012 was seemingly just as you described it– that our goals
were “ten yards away” rather than an entire season away.
At the time, I had no problem with TG skipping part of camp but I was wrong to underestimate the impact of missing that work–especially on Tony’s blocking–not to mention the effect on our other players’ perceptions. Practicing ‘game-speed’ hard means guys will be hurt and lost outside of actual games and that sucks–it’s just got to be done.
“Gritty” is this year’s buzzword–let’s see if that’s what we bring home in FA and the draft. We could use some guys with “gravel in their guts and spit in their eye” on our lines, at LB and S. Maybe the newcomers can bring some of the attitude and spirit we’ve been missing since it doesn’t seem to emanate from the HC or his staff…

marko

February 7th, 2014
5:58 am

Bob Rang CBS sports,

“The lifeblood of any successful NFL team, however, remains the draft. Carroll and his coaching staff identify the key characteristics for each position on the field. Schneider and his personnel department are tasked with finding the collegiate players who possess these traits. It is a marriage of philosophies that is rare in today’s ego-driven NFL and has resulted in draft-day larceny for the Seahawks.”

Last year we sat wondering what the hell was going on. Alabama’s Jessie Williams was considered by some a first round talent. two days, and four rounds had passed, and “Tha Monsta” was still homeless. Jessie was recovering from a knee injury. The Seahawks placed him on IR, and next year they get a happy , healthy Monsta to play with.

Before free agency or the draft, Seattle’s defense has been improved. as if they weren’t good enough already. Maybe I’m wrong about Jessie, Perhaps he’s not that good, But given Seattle’s history, of late round bank heist, I kind of doubt it.

Lest I forget, great work as usual D3.

marko

February 7th, 2014
6:10 am

The blog ate my post.

marko

February 7th, 2014
6:10 am

Bob Rang CBS sports,

“The lifeblood of any successful NFL team, however, remains the draft. Carroll and his coaching staff identify the key characteristics for each position on the field. Schneider and his personnel department are tasked with finding the collegiate players who possess these traits. It is a marriage of philosophies that is rare in today’s ego-driven NFL and has resulted in draft-day larceny for the Seahawks.”

Last year we sat wondering what the hell was going on. Alabama’s Jessie Williams was considered by some a first round talent. two days, and four rounds had passed, and “Tha Monsta” was still homeless. Jessie was recovering from a knee injury. The Seahawks placed him on IR, and next year they get a happy , healthy Monsta to play with.

Before free agency or the draft, Seattle’s defense has been improved. as if they weren’t good enough already. Maybe I’m wrong about Jessie, Perhaps he’s not that good, But given Seattle’s history, of late round bank heist, I kind of doubt it.

Wings

February 7th, 2014
6:48 am

D3 OMG! What a great article between the two SW bookends. Yes, the Falcons react to a situation usually 1-2 years after it has turned into a big sore. All of the sores caught up with them in 2013. There has been no forethought by the organization.

SP thanks for the answer.

The Ronin

February 7th, 2014
7:22 am

Wonderful stuff by D3, as usual.

Unfortunately, this makes me feel even worse about Mike Smith (and I thought it couldn’t get worse) and Thomas Dimitroff, both of whom remain convinced that their way is the best way, the genius way, the winning way, and that this past season was a mere aberration.

Of course, it is always easy to look at whomever is at the top of the heap and lament the lack in our own organization of whatever made the champs what they are. However, this is not such a situation. The truth is that this organization truly does lack the key elements that allowed a team like Seattle to win in an age of $20 mil/per year QBs and high flying offenses.

The truth is, Seattle did do a lot different that actually worked, and they have caught lightning in a bottle. How long can they maintain a defense like this, if not striking some sort of gold in the draft every year? Free agency comes like a rider on a pale horse, for all teams. Witness the dismantling of the Baltimore defense. Not every Super Bowl winning team can retain what it has from year to year, and some of these “winners” will want to get paid after the glow of “getting there” wears off.

Let us be honest, the last time an NFL coach oversaw a group of “troublesome types” to major success, it was Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys. Now look at the Cowboys – still with troublesome talented types, but not a single person in the organization able to corral them.

It will wear off for Seattle as “getting paid” overcomes “winning it all” for some key players. Until then, fear what Cheat Carroll has built, with the help of his GM. Oh, and the first guy to become a salary cap casualty? None other than “Beast Mode” Lynch, he of the largely disappearing act in the Super Bowl, as his presence was neither truly felt, nor truly necessary. Meanwhile Russell Wilson will work on his game, because the day will come where he will have to do more than just manage such a game. Has a QB ever won a Super Bowl with less pressure since Trent Dilfer?

But this too, shall pass.

What of Mike Smith’s idiotic and tenacious hold on sticking with a 4-3 base defense? One wonders if it’s better to lose again in order to be rid of him, or do we thirst for success in such a way that we must get back to playoff caliber football, regardless of the deeply rooted issues that abide in Flowery Branch? Mike Tice and Bryan Cox are no more than future fall guys if this circus is allowed to continue.

The Ronin

February 7th, 2014
7:36 am

Carroll and his coaching staff identify the key characteristics for each position on the field. Schneider and his personnel department are tasked with finding the collegiate players who possess these traits.

The media makes this sound so revolutionary, but it shouldn’t be. For good or for ill, this is how the situation should work. The philosophy of an organization should be embodied by the head coach. After all, has it not been said that an NFL team takes on the personality of its head coach? If an owner and a GM have a vision, they should hire accordingly when it comes to the head coach, then evaluate whether or not he implements that philosophy effectively.

What is THIS organization’s philosophy? Changing buzz words from year to year isn’t helping. “Explosive”, now “gritty.” What. Is. The. Philosophy. Keep it simple, you bag of fools. Whatever happened to blocking and tackling (two things the Falcons failed at in epic fashion)? And there it lies – the philosophy seems almost purposely vague, which may be why Dimitroff and Smith are both still in play. However can you hold them accountable if they have not established who they are and what they represent? Make them state the philosophy, then hold them to it. If they cannot deliver what they promise, in detail, then they are to be jettisoned. Perhaps Scott Pioli becomes an X-factor in this way, but one never knows what the future holds.

Until ownership takes such a step, he will continue to be taken for a ride, with the fans held hostage as well.

The Ronin

February 7th, 2014
7:37 am

“Carroll and his coaching staff identify the key characteristics for each position on the field. Schneider and his personnel department are tasked with finding the collegiate players who possess these traits.”

The media makes this sound so revolutionary, but there is nothing new under the sun. Why this philosophy should appear anything but normal, is beyond me. For good or for ill, this is how the situation should work. The philosophy of an organization should be embodied by the head coach. After all, has it not been said that an NFL team takes on the personality of its head coach? If an owner and a GM have a vision, they should hire accordingly when it comes to the head coach, then evaluate whether or not he implements that philosophy effectively.

What is THIS organization’s philosophy? Changing buzz words from year to year isn’t helping. “Explosive”, now “gritty.” What. Is. The. Philosophy. Keep it simple, you bag of fools. Whatever happened to blocking and tackling (two things the Falcons failed at in epic fashion)? And there it lies – the philosophy seems almost purposely vague, which may be why Dimitroff and Smith are both still in play. However can you hold them accountable if they have not established who they are and what they represent? Make them state the philosophy, then hold them to it. If they cannot deliver what they promise, in detail, then they are to be jettisoned. Perhaps Scott Pioli becomes an X-factor in this way, but one never knows what the future holds.

Until ownership takes such a step, he will continue to be taken for a ride, with the fans held hostage as well.

The Ronin

February 7th, 2014
7:44 am

“Carroll and his coaching staff identify the key characteristics for each position on the field. Schneider and his personnel department are tasked with finding the collegiate players who possess these traits.”

This is not some new, revolutionary school of thought. It is the way things should be. It is not the way things seem to be in Flowery Branch.

What is the Falcons organization’s philosophy? Changing buzz words from year to year isn’t helping. “Explosive” a while ago, now “gritty.” And there it lies – the philosophy seems almost purposely vague, which may be why Dimitroff and Smith are both still in play. However can you hold them accountable if they have not established who they are and what they represent? Make them state the philosophy, then hold them to it. If they cannot deliver what they promise, in detail, then they are to be jettisoned. Perhaps Scott Pioli becomes an X-factor in this way, but one never knows what the future holds.

Until Blank takes such a step, he will continue to be taken for a ride, with the fans held hostage as well. Again, perhaps the hiring of Pioli is a harbinger of such things. One can only hope. Change for the sake of change is usually not good, but change must occur here, all the same. But it must be soon. It must be now.

The Ronin

February 7th, 2014
7:45 am

The BLOG MONSTER waits for no man.

The Ronin

February 7th, 2014
7:46 am

“Carroll and his coaching staff identify the key characteristics for each position on the field. Schneider and his personnel department are tasked with finding the collegiate players who possess these traits.”

The media makes this sound so revolutionary, but there is nothing new under the sun. Why this philosophy should appear anything but normal, is beyond me. For good or for ill, this is how the situation should work. The philosophy of an organization should be embodied by the head coach. After all, has it not been said that an NFL team takes on the personality of its head coach? If an owner and a GM have a vision, they should hire accordingly when it comes to the head coach, then evaluate whether or not he implements that philosophy effectively.

What is THIS organization’s philosophy? Changing buzz words from year to year isn’t helping. “Explosive”, now “gritty.” What. Is. The. Philosophy. Keep it simple, you bag of fools. Whatever happened to blocking and tackling (two things the Falcons failed at in epic fashion)? And there it lies – the philosophy seems almost purposely vague, which may be why Dimitroff and Smith are both still in play. However can you hold them accountable if they have not established who they are and what they represent? Make them state the philosophy, then hold them to it. If they cannot deliver what they promise, in detail, then they are to be jettisoned. Perhaps Scott Pioli becomes an X-factor in this way, but one never knows what the future holds.

Ownership must be tired of being taken for a ride, or so we hope.

Wings

February 7th, 2014
8:26 am

D3 I’m with you on the Tony G stuff last year. Here is more proof your are correct:

In a story that appeared in the latest edition of ESPN The Magazine, the future Hall of Famer said part of the reason he decided to retire and not return to the Falcons next season was because none of his teammates came to his defense after Burnett yelled, “F— you! You ain’t s—” to Gonzalez.

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/10416601/morgan-burnett-green-bay-packers-denies-trash-talking-tony-gonzalez

Walterego

February 7th, 2014
8:39 am

I particularly like the part about cutting J. Abraham being boneheaded. If we really were “10 yards from the SB”, you don’t cut Abraham! We obviously weren’t, but that is not what management believed or the fans were sold on.

I have no faith in management. I’m distraught that Blank didn’t can this regime who put possibly the worst line tandem in the history of football out on the field thanks to awful picks and lazy development. I

Good article

Nookah

February 7th, 2014
8:55 am

Great job as always D3. We definitely took divergent paths. If we take your article in conjunction with TG’s statements, I think we have to lay the blame squarely on the FO and the coaching staff. Don’t get me wrong, the players cannot be completely absolved of blame but the underlying message I am getting is that there are serious flaws at Flowery Branch.

Folks, I am a Falcon fan to the bone and I am sure I cannot compare to most of you that were born and raised in the ATL but something is sadly missing from our culture and it starts from the top, not necessarily AB but all the other “players”, TD, MS etal. I think AB desperately wants to win because he comes from a culture of success but until we change our HC we won’t go anywhere.

I like MS as a person but you watch his body language under pressure situations and you will see that he does not have “it.” He is tight and tense and when you are like that under pressure, you can’t make good decisions. Believe it or not that trickles down and it is obvious on the field and answers the question why we will not succeed in the playoffs under MS.

Just my humble opinion.

Go Falcons!!

Kennycaine

February 7th, 2014
8:56 am

First of all, the notion of “ten yards away” is like the old saying “if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.” That mantra is no more than conjecture since the 49ers would have had more than a minute and a half left to score and the putrid Falcon defense had not stopped them at all in the second half of the NFC title game.

Secondly, as Russell Wilson stated on the David Letterman Show was that they had a single minded belief that they were going to win the Super Bowl and their motto was “go 1-0 each day.” Everything, from practices and player acquisitions was done with the idea of winning the day. Contrast this with arrogant, self-important and delusional thinking on the part of the Falcons braintrust and you get 4-12.

It is like I said before, the difference between expectation and acceptance is a wide chasm. That is why you have franchises like Pittsburgh and San Francisco that can win despite different eras, player attrition and different coaches. They EXPECT to win and not just hope. Teams such as New England and Denver typify that distinction in modern football because those at the top I,e John Elway and Bill Belichick will not accept anything less. The Seahawks are poised to become such a program where teams like the Falcons, Browns, Lions and Jaguars are the ones that excuse their situations away, citing injuries and other reasons why they are historically floundering.

Great coaches left nothing to chance and loaded up on talent as teams coached by Bill Walsh of the 49ers and Chuck Noll of the Steelers were old school versions of Belichick and now Pete Carroll. It was no mystery why Noll won 4 titles and Walsh 3 because not only were they great coaches but they never ceased acquiring talent, never rested on past accomplishments and most importantly their teams believed that they would win instead of praying that the clock would run out on a three point lead,

Wings

February 7th, 2014
9:06 am

The “regime” has had two opportunities to at least play in the Super Bowl by virtue of the No.1 NFC seeds in 2010 and 2012. I don’t believe there will be another opportunity until the regime is gone.

Ken Strickland

February 7th, 2014
9:17 am

Damn D3-You not only hit a homerun, you hit it out of the stadium & it hit a church on the other side of the freeway. No AJC writer could have done a better job of pointing out what ails the Falcons better than you did in this article. I take my hat off to you my friend. You did your best work of this one.

I think ABlank saw everything you’ve pointed out in this article, but his loyalty prevented him from pulling the trigger on the 1 factor that’s created most of the Problems you’ve pointed out, and that’s firing Smitty. He’s giving Smitty 1 more yr to get himself & the team’s problems straightened out, & he’s given him the personnel to make it happen(Tice, Cox, Pioli).

It’s now up to Smitty to finally get his head out of his tight A$$, make the appropriate changes & adjustments, & let people who know what they’re doing make decisions & do what they do best. While TD has done a great job of evaluating & drafting skill players at skill positions, he’s done a poor job of drafting for the trenches.

Part of that failure can be directly attributed to Smitty’s refusal to allow those players to be properly developed & given adequate snaps, even when they’ve shown their ability in limited opportunities, particularly in areas of need. Just like TD keeps surrounding him with talented players in need of some development to be productive, he’s surrounded him with talented assistant coaches that end up becoming scapegoats for Smitty’s failures, shortcomings, & stuck on stupid attitude & approach.

The Patriot way, developing the young talent that’s brought in & not hanging on to or acquiring players that are in deep decline, that TD was expected to bring to the Falcons has been totally sabotaged by Smitty, who’s done the complete opposite. And therein lies the DISCONNECT.

GA. Dome

February 7th, 2014
9:34 am

Great article D3, you and SW make so much sense I don’t understand why AB haven’t contacted you guys. The arrogance of the GM and HC is sickening, I believe MR can get us to the big game I just don’t see it playing Smitty ball. I cringed to the fact AB gave them an extension something just aint right in Flowery Branch.

paddy o

February 7th, 2014
10:20 am

what is interesting about Tony G’s comments regarding MR2 – from my observations, the Falcon coaching staff feels the same way – and I think THEY are mistaken. I’ d prefer MR2 to call the entire game. Ryan does not have the freedom that Peyton, Brees, Manning and Rodgers have. Other than the erroneous lack of confidence his coaches have in him, MR2 is elite.

paddy o

February 7th, 2014
10:22 am

Cowboys lose due to a soft defense and a loser, choker QB.

John Waynesworld

February 7th, 2014
10:23 am

D3, a fine article on the difference between FO magic and FO bean counting as well as coaching up vs coaching across.

The fact that Abe made the ProBowl with another team after practically groveling on national TV to ownership to stay in Atlanta, is embarrassing on so many levels,

I am shocked that Arthur didn’t make Dimitroff apologize to the fans for such an arrogant dismissal of obvious (although not ‘elite’) talent that left us with ZERO pass rush, a 4-12 record, and egg on our GM’s face.

Just another in a long list of reasons why Thomas had his ego in hand while ‘welcoming’ another GM (with better credentials than he) into Flowery Branch.

In this short moment of weakness I will try to defend Falcons management for the heinous personnel mistakes made in the past couple of years…

It is possible that the Falcons plan all along was to make a full Free Agent push after 2 things happened…1) That Matt was signed to his inevitable and gigantic contract, and 2) that as many existing contract as possible were eliminated from the salary cap, including dead monies owed by long since gone players (Edwards, Robinson and Turner accounted for almost $10M), before Falcons brass made their big push for big money Free Agents to come in. After all from 2013 to 2014 (so far) there is an $8Million discrepancy in dead money…

http://overthecap.com/teamcap.php?Team=Falcons&Year=2013

http://overthecap.com/teamcap.php?Team=Falcons&Year=2014

Pretty much the same plan as the Seahawks had when they signed a half dozen big name FA’s to short term deals this past offseason.

That’s all I got for a defense. Pretty much my mindset is that our GMs have to find the players for this team to win us a Super Bowl DESPITE the lack of gametime coaching (no halftime adjustments, etc), or we wait until Arthur has seen and heard enough and goes on a coaching search.

Arthur will not let this get to the Dallas level of GM/coaching incompetency, so Smith’s window is already closing fast and Thomas will most likely be attached to the HC’s fate.

I truly believe the Falcons players will save both their jobs and give us a SB ring very soon! So there!

Grits Blitz

February 7th, 2014
10:41 am

D3 – as usual, you could not have made the case any plainer. Too bad Suite Branch will never read The Cage. The wise take good ideas wherever they can find them; the clueless just stay the course. Different as night and day…Seahawks and Falcons. One franchise has “talons” up and the other talons “down”. Please keep bringing the truth, the lumber, and some sanity out of the “maddening insanity”…

paddy o

February 7th, 2014
10:58 am

I’d actually argue he cuts we made that have been declared “good and wise” are not objectively so – we all remember Chris Owens getting burned when he was stuck into the GB on an emergency basis – but, I also remember a Chris Owens who ran down a would be TD on I believe a kick; Owens had heart – and possibly the best wheels on the team. Turner was not talent wise worse than his replacement; I think Dunta would have provided more value as S than DeCoud.

Grits Blitz

February 7th, 2014
11:05 am

D3 (aka CEO), can’t wait for Warrior (aka Godfather) to bring it per a defensive defibrillator resuscitation!
Warrior – did you see my 2/5 comments to you? (Yes, still “skeeting”.) Man, you like to keep us Cage brothers in suspense!
P.S. It ain’t got to be a Mark Twain novel so forget about the horse being blind…just load the wagon, my friend.

paddy o

February 7th, 2014
11:08 am

I’ve been arguing prior to JJ that with MR2, we should be a team the uses the pass to set up the run. But, without Tony G, that may not be possible – you need a pressure relief valve We’ll see. We miss almost all the guys we’ve released dating back to Brian Finneran -Meier was supposed to replace him; we never developed the guy. It is amazing how BAD Mike Smith is at integrating new players – unless they are vets.

GA. Dome

February 7th, 2014
11:08 am

paddy o, please let Dewhiff be next in line to go. Did anyone see how the Hawks free safety played last Sunday. He was putting hits on the receivers and they didn’t want any part of catching Mannings passes.

Screen Pass

February 7th, 2014
11:09 am

“SP thanks for the answer.” – Wings

No worries, not the most in depth answer but that would take a really long time lol. Suffice to say that Smittys’ ( we used to blame BVG ) passive defense schemes have been a cause for concern for quite awhile and the type of defense Carroll uses has been screamed for around here for awhile too.

John Waynesworld

February 7th, 2014
11:10 am

http://www.sbnation.com/nfl-mock-draft/2014/2/7/5388828/taylor-lewan-mel-kiper-nfl-draft-news

“Kiper has Lewan rated as his No. 8 overall prospect, and second-best offensive tackle after Greg Robinson of Auburn. He puts Jakes Matthews of Texas A&M behind them. Kiper regards all three more than Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Lane Johnson, last’s year’s top offensive tackles.”

That is great news if we go for one at #6. It could solidify one side of our line for YEARS. I know Kiper is not everyone’s cup of schnapps, but at least he didn’t give the 2012 Seahawks draft grade an “F” like Bleacher Report did (his grade was a “C-”).

Plus it gives me a chance to watch this video again!

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=9210940

The video right after has the real two guys talking this year’s draft (interesting takes).

GA. Dome

February 7th, 2014
11:12 am

A couple of times Denver’s wide outs would have the first then run backwards because they were getting hit. Something our secondary lacks aside from W Moore.

Screen Pass

February 7th, 2014
11:19 am

“I’ve been arguing prior to JJ that with MR2, we should be a team the uses the pass to set up the run. But, without Tony G, that may not be possible – you need a pressure relief valve We’ll see.” – Paddy O

There is also a counter argument to this that getting rid of Tony G might be a blessing. If one looks at how the Taints use J. Graham to attack seams and stretch defenses ( pulling LB out of the box or safeties down ) instead of underneath possession routes, one could argue that replacing TGs’ limited “possession” role with a faster TE or even WR would be a beneficial change. The problem, as always, is Smittys’ “possession” TOP grind philosophy which isn’t really interested in scoring quick unless behind.

Losing TG isn’t the end of the world and may well even be a boon to our offense..if Smitty would allow such things.

Screen Pass

February 7th, 2014
11:20 am

WTF with the BM?

“I’ve been arguing prior to JJ that with MR2, we should be a team the uses the pass to set up the run. But, without Tony G, that may not be possible – you need a pressure relief valve We’ll see.” – Paddy O

There is also a counter argument to this that getting rid of Tony G might be a blessing. If one looks at how the Taints use J. Graham to attack seams and stretch defenses ( pulling LB out of the box or safeties down ) instead of underneath possession routes, one could argue that replacing TGs’ limited “possession” role with a faster TE or even WR would be a beneficial change. The problem, as always, is Smittys’ “possession” TOP grind philosophy which isn’t really interested in scoring quick unless behind.

Losing TG isn’t the end of the world and may well even be a boon to our offense..if Smitty would allow such things.

Screen Pass

February 7th, 2014
11:21 am

Blog Monster hungry today

snacktastic

February 7th, 2014
11:31 am

Good stuff as usual, D3. The unfortunate thing is that the Falcons were good at some of this stuff in 2012. Samuel, Moore, and Robinson were known for putting big hits on people, even if they weren’t the best tacklers. The defense, especially the secondary, was taking away the ball on a regular basis. Turner somehow ended up with ten touchdowns, and in a few games looked flat-out fast.

But, just as you mentioned, they took steps back in areas that were previously strong points. Meanwhile, the Seahawks continued to improve on their strengths. Just look at this: http://www.fieldgulls.com/football-breakdowns/2014/2/3/5374724/super-bowl-48-seahawks-pete-carrolls-richard-sherman-marshawn-lynch

The Seahawks emphasize competition for the sake of improvement. Smitty talks a lot about competition in the offseason, but it’s mainly to determine who’s on the field, and not who’s continuing to get better. That’s why there’s such a gulf in talent between our starters and backups, as we’ve seen the past few preseasons and this past regular season.

From thirteen wins to four wins in a year? You don’t have to stand still for very long to get left behind in this league. We’ll see how hard the Falcons have to work to catch up.

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 7th, 2014
11:47 am

D3 – Maybe I’m reading ‘tween the lines, or it’s my imagination, but for some reason I’m under the impression you don’t love MS and TD? Yipes – you scorched them a new one! Are you hinting that there should be a change? Spit it out man! AB, if he reads this, won’t include you on his list to dinner. Well it needed saying and AB’s yes men would never put the blame where it belongs. If we took a poll the Cage would be near 100% in agreement with your “evaluation” of why the Falcons sucked in 2013.

D3 – I just had a thought…. it’s a long time til the draft with nothing to do but prepare for the MOCK and as you said that may get old after while. Consider this – there is an opportunity out there with the FA signings coming up to have a “Free Agent Mock”. Maybe a little contest among the cage to see who MOCKS the most correct FA signings by the Falcons?

Also, last year, some in the Cage turned in so many MOCKS it took a lot of time for you to read them all and decide who the winner of the contest was. You eventually imposed a two MOCK limit if I recall correctly? Will that be the case this year?

Maybe you can even combine the MOCK draft results with the MOCK FA contest for an overall winner. Not trying to take over your job here by any means but it might be fun to put a different spin on things this year.

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 7th, 2014
12:04 pm

Well it looks like Steven Jackson isn’t going anywhere with “dead money” of over two mil this year.

Pastormackdaddy

February 7th, 2014
12:38 pm

If someone would’ve asked me last year that one of the teams playing between ATL/Seattle playoff game would win the SB next year…..I would’ve immediately said its going to be ATL….how sad to see what happened and you have hit the nail on the head as to why ATL did not win…great post

O'Brien

February 7th, 2014
12:45 pm

Great writeup D3.

I think MS was a good hire at the time. But that time has passed.

Falcons had the #1 seed wrapped up, playing a meaningless game against TB. MS wanted us to win that game to carry the momentum into the playoffs (which I was ok with). But he played the injury prone John Abraham that game. The same Abraham who they put on snap counts at times to keep him healthy. What happened? Abraham got hurt, and was ineffective in the playoffs. And the Falcons still ended up losing that TB game (I think MS wanted to win, but players just wanted to stay healthy).

In the Seattle playoff game last year, when we made the big completion to set up the winning FG, MS called a timeout with 13 seconds left. Terrible move, because after a bad kickoff, Seattle had 8 seconds left on the clock to try and get in position for their winning FG. MS should have called a timeout at 3 or 4 seconds (so win or lose, our FG ends the game), but he got too excited after the MR – TG completion.

Just watching him coach, I don’t think he has what it takes to lead a team to a SB. I think he would be great for a team like Cleveland.

O'Brien

February 7th, 2014
12:48 pm

Speaking of Abraham, if the Falcons had $10 mil in cap space (I think Abe’s figure was $7+), why didn’t we keep him AND bring in Osi?

As for the “10 yards away” mantra, it was often repeated by ATL media as well. I don’t know how many times I heard DOL doing interviews talking about “we were 10 yards away”. I heard it a lot from the sports guys on the radio too.

So I think the media bought in as well.

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 7th, 2014
1:17 pm

MOCK 2/7/14:

#1 Jake Matthews (OT)
#2 Calvin Pryor (FS)
#3 Yawin Smallwood (ILB)
#4 Ryan Carrethers (DT)
#5 Arthur Lynch (TE)
#6 Andre Hal (CB)
#7 Jay Prosch (FB)
#7 Jalen Saunders (WR)

FA: Dexter McCluster (WR / KR / PR / RB)
FA: Michael Johnson (DE)
FA: Alex Mack (C)
FA: Linval Joseph (DT)
FA: Geoff Schwartz (OG)
FA: Vance Walker (DT)

Release:
Jonathan Babineaux (DT)
Chase Coffman (TE)
Kevin Cone (WR)
Thomas DeCoud (FS)
Bradie Ewing (FB)
Omar Gaither (LB)
Joe Hawley (C)
Peria Jerry (DT)
Mike Johnson (OT/OG)
Sean Locklear (OT)
Cliff Matthews (DE)
Garrett Reynolds (OG)
Jeremy Trueblood (OT)
Osi Umenyiora (DE)

tdawgmom

February 7th, 2014
1:25 pm

Wow! What a great post. Everything you said sums up how I feel. I love the Falcons, but I am so afraid of where they seem NOT to be headed! Thanks for expressing it so concisely.

Hamad Meander

February 7th, 2014
1:50 pm

Flo-Ri – You are the man. I love your free agency list, and the release list. Wouldn’t that make the Falcons extremely competitive right away? I don’t know anything about Calvin Pryor – I need to research that one. I like the McCluster pick up too – really eliminates the need to draft a RB this season.

After reading some of Tony Gonzalez’s comments – don’t you think there are some serious flaws in this football team? Not trading him before the deadline definitely pissed him off and I believe it would have been the right thing to do. No fans thought we were going to be a winning team at that point and winning games would (and did) ruin the chances at a high enough draft pick to really make a difference next season. Not having an offensive line mean enough to defend veterans from punks like Morgan Burnett and Kenny Vaccaro is a tremendous liability.

D3

February 7th, 2014
2:41 pm

Greetings Cage! — Thanks for all the kudos on the article. Been wanting to do it for awhile, just had to sit down and write it. Actually, I’m not finished. I got a ton more to write including injuries, home field advantage, hard-hitting and toughness, the 4-3 defense: Beef vs. Soy, Drafting, and Dictate To vs. Take What They Give.

Nesta / The Ronin / GA Dome — Welcome to the Cage fellas! Love having new family members join and we’d enjoy having you and your insights aboard.

Hamad — Great point on TG. I will say though, that I never see him have Matt Ryan’s back when he got cheap-shotted over the years. It goes both ways. Honestly, I’m a little bitter on Gonzalez right now. Totally agree on the trade. Hard to believe we wouldn’t have traded him if he’d asked to, but it could easily been right up our front office’s alley.

Arno

February 7th, 2014
3:04 pm

“He’ll get there, but he has some learning to do.” –Tony Gonzalez

No one doubts Matt’s passion to learn. I actually like what Tony had to say about it. As much as the o-line jeopardized Matt’s effectiveness, Matt will not simply claim victim status. He will learn and be a better QB because of what he went through.

But what I really want to say is: Great job, D3. Can you play safety? :)

paddy o

February 7th, 2014
3:15 pm

SP: I’d be content if we had the heir apparent TE on the roster – I don’t feel much from Toloilo; and Coffman is so deep in the WPP, I bet he has a hard time picking up his paycheck,

paddy o

February 7th, 2014
3:16 pm

Media in Atlanta is not too swift.

waynester

February 7th, 2014
3:41 pm

Lots of mocks have us taking A Sefarian-Jenkins in rd 2 to replace TG. It all depends on what we do in FA. He’d be an awesome addition–tall, fast, great hands and can block….

Screen Pass

February 7th, 2014
3:46 pm

“SP: I’d be content if we had the heir apparent TE on the roster – I don’t feel much from Toloilo; and Coffman is so deep in the WPP, I bet he has a hard time picking up his paycheck,” – paddy o

I can’t strongly disagree with you for sure. TE is position we will have to make a choice about as I currently only see one worth much and he looks to go late 1st – early 2nd. We could get a late round or UDFA / practice squad poach guy for his blocking as they have little to no value but a good one will be hard to come by. There are so many holes we sorta have to resign ourselves that some will not get filled properly it seems. Maybe after the combine and comp picks come out something will show up..even a large WR could work for a year. Heck, we used J. Hawley as a blocking TE 2 years ago so its not like it is a priority.