Poll time: How should we define success for Falcons?

Brian VanGorder and Mike Smith have a lot to get figured out before playoffs. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Brian VanGorder and Mike Smith have a lot to fix before playoffs. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated)

The Falcons tell us how that just making the playoffs isn’t good enough any more. So you wonder why they played one of their worst games ever under coach Mike Smith — Monday’s 45-16 loss at New Orleans — the night after they had clinched a postseason berth?

But let’s move on. The Falcons play their final regular season game against Tampa Bay Sunday. The game may or may not their impact playoff seeding and match-up. Nobody’s expecting an overly festive atmosphere in the Georgia Dome for the season’s final home game. (The only way the Falcons could host another game would be as a No. 5 seed if they faced No. 6 Detroit for the NFC championship. Not likely.)

What qualifies as success?

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For all of the regular season success under Smith, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and quarterback Matt Ryan, the team has whiffed in the postseason. They’re 42-21 in four regular seasons, but 0-2 so far in the postseason.

So what qualifies as success this season? Here are the choices:

Achievement: Making the playoffs. Breakdown: The Falcons are there for the third time in  four years, which is unprecedented in franchise history. But the bar was supposed to be raised. Conclusion: Not good enough.

Achievement: Win one game: Breakdown: This would be an improvement over the last two years. It would mean the Falcons had beaten New Orleans, New York, Dallas or San Francisco. There are varying degrees of difficulty in those games. But what should be kept in mind is: What was the expectation level before the season? Conclusion: Better, but still not good enough.

Achievement: Win two games: Breakdown: This could be as difficult as beating the NFC’s two best teams, New Orleans and Green Bay, on the road. The easier end of the spectrum would be finishing as a No. 5 seed and Detroit upsetting New Orleans, which would mean the Falcons would need to only defeat the NFC East champion (New York or Dallas) and San Francisco. Still, it would be impressive. Conclusion: Winning two road playoff games, regardless of the opponents, would qualify as success.

Achievement: Get to the Super Bowl: Breakdown: For this to happen, the Falcons would need to be far more physical and consistent than they’ve been this season. There has been no indication that is going to happen, but we’ve seen strange postseason developments before. Conclusion: Definitely something worth celebrating.

Achievement: Win the Super Bowl: Breakdown: Honestly, if the Falcons can winning three NFC road playoff games, beating New England, Pittsburgh or any AFC opponent on a neutral field wouldn’t seem as daunting. Conclusion: Duh.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours? What do you believe qualifies as a successful season?

The poll is up and the floor is yours.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

418 comments Add your comment

johnv

December 28th, 2011
10:28 am

Honestly at this point if they one a game in the playoffs I would be happy. I don’t know that they’re consistent enough to make a run through the playoffs but who knows. If we won a playoff game and didn’t get embarrassed in the second I would be ok with that.

JP

December 28th, 2011
10:36 am

If they can slide into the 5th seed then they could win two games. But playing as the 6th seed could mean an early exit. But hey, stranger things have happened… Ask last year’s Seahawks.

Goosedog

December 28th, 2011
10:36 am

I agree, winning one playoff game would be a success. But the way they looked against the saints. I hope we don’t get embarrassed again in the first round. As a season ticket holder, I have better things to do with my money.

dougmo2

December 28th, 2011
10:39 am

Wait a minute, the Falcons are in the playoffs? Do they know this yet?

michael

December 28th, 2011
10:40 am

Not going to win one playoff game with that soft zone defense we play. No pass rush + that weak zone defense = no playoff wins

Time to watch the Hawks do work tonight

Die Hard Falcon

December 28th, 2011
10:40 am

Making the playoffs should be a give-in for this team at this point. I say any victory in the playoffs is a step in the right direction, although anything more would be a sweet bonus. I cannot think of a more rewarding season than to beat the Aints in NO, then the pack at Lambeau en route to our first SB over Dimitroff’s old organization. I would be satisfied w/ putting to rest all the naysayers who say the MR2 cannot win a playoff game. Go Falcons and go Matty Ice!

Bill

December 28th, 2011
10:42 am

They need to win more than one game in play-off to be a success..one and out like Braves sucks!
Falcon fans expect more than Braves fans…get it done Falcons and good luck…..

5150 UOAD

December 28th, 2011
10:46 am

How many of you Falcon fans also UGA Dawg Fans?

How This

December 28th, 2011
10:47 am

How about showing up for the rest of the games and putting forth an effort that the Falcons fans can be proud of.
That last performance was embarrasing.

50 years of failure

December 28th, 2011
10:49 am

The Falcons showed Monday what a 2nd rate organization they are-and will always be. Success for the Falcons would be not wetting themselves on the big stage. This being the Falcons though, humiliation, underachievement and embarrassment are part of their DNA.

Through the decades of losing the Falcons could alway count on the Saints being worse than they were. In the last 4 years, they have been lapped by the Saints. They can’t even compete with them any longer. The loss on Monday proved once and for all that it will never happen for the Falcons.

Disbanding the franchise would qualify as success for the city and fans. No more misery inflicted from this inept organization.

falconfiend

December 28th, 2011
10:49 am

Anytime you make the playoffs its a success. Now you can go for the superbowl and play to be one of the best sports team in the World and make history.

david

December 28th, 2011
10:52 am

hard to say after that “game’ Monday night. If we can win one road game Ill be happy. Pray to the heavens its not in NO–10-2 against us last 12. they would kill us again. We can handle Detroit or the Gmen/Cowgirls.

1eyedJack

December 28th, 2011
10:52 am

They need to win a playoff game. Something they have failed to do under this regime (though better than the days of the Clampetts)

Green Bay proved last year you can win the Super Bowl with a porous defense, but you got to play as a team and have a lights-out QB. I don’t believe Ryan is at that level. He’ll need more help than a Rogers or Brady. Everyone around him will have to elevate their game.

The Falcons need a left tackle…among other things.

JoeFan

December 28th, 2011
10:54 am

To be honest going 9-7 was all I expected of the Falcons in 2011. The schedule was not favorable and the team is still missing pieces on both sides of the ball.Finishing 10-6 and in the playoffs for the 3rd time in 4 years makes 2011 a good season. For the future, Ryan needs to step up to super star level and the team needs to make astute moves in the draft and in free agency to reach the elite level. Lets hope the foundation is being layed for the Falcons to attain and maintain a championship level.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 28th, 2011
10:55 am

Winning in the playoffs is the only success.

Just getting there and choking is for Atlanta fans because they are not ambitious.

All they care about is having a qb that looks like them.

Even if he SUCKSSS :)

falconfiend

December 28th, 2011
10:55 am

i can tell you one thing. Coach Smith has the falcons on the right track. 3x in the playoffs of his 4 yrs. in atl. no other Coach or falcons team has done that. my guess is its only going to get better because the falcons have a excellent front office and scout teams that produce in the off season. Going for another chance to win the superbowl. THE HUNT IS ON.

1eyedJack

December 28th, 2011
11:01 am

“All they care about is having a qb that looks like them.”

Where are we supposed to get a QB who is white on one side and brown on the other? Star Trek?

Double Zero Eight

December 28th, 2011
11:01 am

We should stay the course and refuse to accept
mediocrity. Most of us said lat year on various blogs
that a playoff win was a true gauge for taking the
next step. If the Falcons fail to win a playoff game
regardless of the opponent, this year will be a “bust”.

PMc

December 28th, 2011
11:01 am

Playoff win or blowout coordinators. Talent is still a problem but 3 trips with 0 wins would dictate change is vital.

Riser Upper

December 28th, 2011
11:04 am

Winning the Super Bowl is the only measure of success. Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing (gee, sounds familiar…I wonder who said that). Do you think the great Lombardi would consider anything other than winning a championship a successful season? Why should fans of any team expect anything less? Winning the Super Bowl should be the goal of every team, every executive, every coach, every player (of course I know it isn’t, but it should be). Anything less cannot be acceptable.

TheWad

December 28th, 2011
11:04 am

This team better hope to come out of the playoff game with all thjeir teeth because the way they play aginst good teams they are most liable to get smacked in the mouth again. The O line is terribly ineeficient, the d line is non existent, the RB are totally subpar, and the coaches are always chasing the opposing coaches adjustments. The personell on offense can`t execute the running game for the whole game against playoff caliber D`s. The DB`s can`t or won`t play smash mouth bump and run from the line and therefore have no ability to beat Packers or Saints. Maybe next year when we get an NFL running back who can get to the hole before it disappears or around the tackles before the middle guard cuts him off. Ever notice the Falcons look good the first two O series running the ball and then get shut down for the rest of the game? Oline and RB have to be addressed this off season.

Sid

December 28th, 2011
11:04 am

Got to have wins in the playoff column. No other way to get to the big dance.

Cohutta Dawgman

December 28th, 2011
11:05 am

The Falcons have been on a downward cycle ever since they got motor-boated by the Packers in the playoff’s last year. I don’t know what the answer is except palying better.

Riser Upper

December 28th, 2011
11:06 am

I wish I looked like MR2. I’d have plenty of dates.

Say It Aint So

December 28th, 2011
11:06 am

First the Bucs won a Super Bowl, then New Orleans. The door is closing quickly, Carolina may be closer to winning a championship than we are. Extremely hard to be a sports fan in Atlanta. Hope we don’t get smashed again. Mike Smith is too damn nice. We need to be hated like all the successful teams are.

ueeediot

December 28th, 2011
11:06 am

Look, the Falcons are clinched and locked into the playoffs. If GB beats DET and ATL beats TB then you are the 5 seed. Either of those games goes the other way and I think you are the 6 seed. But even Frank Wren couldnt screw up the Falcons being in the playoffs – this year.

Success? For the 2011 team, winning one game this year in the playoffs is a wild success. Two is playing out of your skulls with the competition this year.

For the Franchise the only success will be if the ownership and HC have the stones to make the necessary changes at OC and bring some discipline to this obviously poorly coached team. The talent is there, the coaching is not.
Do you really believe that this OC has enough stones to put together a gameplan to control the ball from the Aints? Wont matter anyway. Anything positive you do in the SuperBowel (a.k.a. the FEMA SuperDome) will immediately be negated by the officials.
Mike Mularkey did nothing for the Bills and nothing for the Falcons.

50 years doesnt have a days worth of football knowledge. Must be an Aints fan.

To what "success"...

December 28th, 2011
11:10 am

…do you refer? I thought success in sports was when you won something that counted…

Leeman B

December 28th, 2011
11:14 am

winning a playoff game.

for a team that started as super bowl hopefuls and has gotten whacked by every avg/above avg team, they must at least win 1 playoff game.

it’d be nice to win a sb, but the saint/packer games taught us that we simply do not belong amongst the elite.

ueeediot

December 28th, 2011
11:14 am

@ The Wad,
The Falcons script their first 15 plays during the week. Then the gameplan is handed over to the OC Mularkey to call plays unless they are in no huddle which is where Ryan calls the plays.
Notice the efficiency when the Falcons are in no huddle and Ryan is calling plays vs when it is obvious that Mularkey is calling plays.

The coaching staff has been called out on NFL Network several times this year for not using all the weapons. Even Roddy White has mentioned that sometimes the coaching staff tells you that you are just blocking this week. what a joke. Mularkey wont change anything. The offense in week 16 is as vanilla and predictable as it was in week 1.
How many times do you see a WR in this offense catch a ball while actually moving down field? How many times on 3rd and 10+ have you seen receivers run (all of them) less than 10 yds.
Mularkey is still relying on Turner who is obviously slowed down and has no legs under him. But, would he try Antone Smith #35 or put in more of #44 or try throwing the ball to #22 more? Nope. #33 up the middle on 1st down, again its 2nd and 8.

The talent to win is here. They are doing very well to overcome the poor performance of the coaching staff.

Havent even gotten to our emotional HC… but if he shows the stones to make the changes this offseason, I, for one, will stick with him another season. But he better get his clock management skills in order.

falconfiend

December 28th, 2011
11:15 am

Football fans really dont know how hard it is to win a superbowl in the NFL- THE MOST PYSICAL SPORT ON THE EARTH. New England went undefeated and lost the superbowl. Dallas Cowboys have not been to a superbowl in 16yrs, and had many coaching changes everywhere the, buffalo bills went to four straight superbowls and have not won one yet. THE HUNT IS ON.

"Choke" Is A Bigot

December 28th, 2011
11:16 am

Hey “Choke”, most of the fans I sit with at the Dome are black…they support Matt Ryan and some even have “2″ Jerseys…whatcha say to that. Time for you to leave these boards and sport that green #7 jersey and leave us alone.

I'm with ATL teams (Always)

December 28th, 2011
11:17 am

Winning one road game – Acceptable
Winning Two road games – Better
Winning NFC – Success
Winning Super Bowl – Am I dreaming???????????????

Coach Ralph Fontaine

December 28th, 2011
11:18 am

After all the horrid yrs of the Smiths running the show, a winning season and the playoffs are still great. That being said, they are missing a piece. That piece is a LEADER. The team does not have that Alpha male that keeps everyone in line. Look at Indy w/o their Alpha dog. Look at the winning teams/usual playoff contenders: Pats-Brady, Ravens-Lewis, Pitt-Big Ben, Saints-Brees/Vilma, Bears-Urlacher. All great teams have that player that the others do not want to disappoint either by respect or fear. The Falcons need to find that leader on the field. I think Ryan is great but maybe too young to get everyones attention. You would think Gonzalez or Abraham would be the one’s but it does not appear so. They are impressed with them but dont seem to follow. Plus Abe does get hurt and misses games which he cant lead if on the sidelines. We need an Alpha Dog to get over the hump because we have the talent, just not sure about the heart.

ueeediot

December 28th, 2011
11:20 am

Julio Jones is supposed to be “that guy”

Rodster

December 28th, 2011
11:21 am

Success is sustained winning. The Falcons have made several incremental steps toward that end and do show progress. They need to keep getting to the playoffs and taking their shot in the mini season that really matters. I don’t think they are there yet, but I do give them credit for sustained improvement over the last three years. Now they are poised (hopefully) to take the next step. One would think with the good players we have on offense that our point production would be better. The offense seems to work better when Ryan calls the plays rather than the OC. Just sayin’. But if you think coaching doesn’t matter, look at Alex Smith and SF this year.

Brandon

December 28th, 2011
11:22 am

Falcons are a “B” team, so making the playoffs with this roster is a success to some degree. 1 playoff win would make this season a definite success, but I don’t see that happening. The trade for Julio Jones was just the latest poor trade/offseason acquisition for the Bird Brains–”Pedestrian” Price, the stellar Ravens acquisition from a few yrs back, and now the Jones deal. After all, if you buy into Roddy White as a #1 WR, then you have to acknowledge that the Falcons gave up 5 picks including 2012’s #1 for a #2 WR. Not too bright. Basically, they need a DE, a DT, a #1 CB (not Robinson, another free agent miss) and on OLB or 2, so 5 pieces on defense alone. They are what they are–a 9-7/10-6 one and done playoff team. Ryan is solid, not great, but he can win an SB–he just need an “A-” or better D. He isn’t Brady, Brees or Rodgers, but he is still better than 1/2 of the starting NFL QB’s.

buckblue

December 28th, 2011
11:23 am

Define success…by getting beat by only 2 touchdowns when the birds travel back to the Superdome to get spanked by the Saints…..again.

Angelo

December 28th, 2011
11:25 am

If this is any consolation to the Falcons fans the 2008 Cardnals lost in week 16 to New England patriots 47-7 and the cardnals won the super bowl that year.

Rodster

December 28th, 2011
11:29 am

I think you mean the Cardinals ‘almost’ won the superbowl.

falconfiend

December 28th, 2011
11:30 am

FALCON FANS HAVE TO MEASURE THE SUCCESS OF THESE FALCONS FROM 2008. PLEASE DONT GO BACK 50 YEARS, THAT DOES NO ONE ANY GOOD. THE VICK ERA IS OVER. DAN REEVES AND THE 98 FALCONS ERA IS OVER. BILLY WHITE SHOES, BARTKOWSKI, WILLIAM ANDREWS, DIEON SANDERS AND THAT JERRY GLANVILLE ERA IS OVER. YOU HAVE TO MEASURE THE SUCEESS OF THIS TEAM FROM COACH SMITH ERA FROM 08 AND AFTER HIS ERA IS OVER THEN YOU CAN MEASURE SUCCESS. SUCCESS IS GETTING WHAT YOU WANT. THE HUNT IS ON.

Falcons_in_the_playoff

December 28th, 2011
11:32 am

How do you stop Eli or Romo since our pass rush is null. I’d be shocked if we won a playoff game.. but as a Fan, I’d always cheer no matter what is the outcome..

Scoots

December 28th, 2011
11:32 am

1 or 2 playoff wins should be considered a success this year, because the Falcons are not an elite team this year. Of our 9 wins, only 2 of those wins came against winning-record teams (Detroit, Tennessee). Something was missing this year – not sure what it was – the nasty attitude of Harvey Dahl perhaps?

Anyway, I’m happy that Mike Smith, Dimitroff, and co. have provided a winning tradition for the Falcons – 4 strait winning seasons, when we previously never had two in a row. They have laid the ground work for a successful franchise, and we’ve got all the offensive toys any team could possibly ask for. We just need some OL and DL upgrades, or perhaps some coordinator changes to get us over the hump.

It’s frustrating to have to say ‘there’s always next year’, especially after winning 13 last year- but I just don’t honestly think this is the year unless everything snaps into place over the next couple weeks.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 28th, 2011
11:37 am

Here we go again with the “what if” crap. They lose and are big failures. END OF STORY…..

[...] EARLIER: Poll: How should we define success for Falcons? [...]

Keith

December 28th, 2011
11:39 am

Jeff, I know Ray Edwards was upset with Fans earlier this week for giving the team a hard time, but really why? I love this team I even have built a “Falcons Cave” in my Garage but what do they want from the Fans? Blind support? At the start of this season we (the Fans) thought they (the Falcons) were 1 step from a Superbowl, yet all season long they have had a Jekyl and Hyde persona. they started out a team we did not know against the Bears, great against the Eagles looked sluggish against the BUC’s almost let the Seahawks come back ( I was at that game). You just could not get a handle on which team was going to show up. then they seemed to hit they’re stride when they got the wake up call in Texas, beating a fair Panthers team and a horrible Jags. THis team had a perfect chance to make a hell of a statement on MNF they where in the Playoff (thanks GB, UH I hate saying that) they had no pressure on them, They should have been fired up to send a message to N.O. and let the football world know they had arrived. Instead they went back to the same old thing settling for a FG on the 1st drive, and then something completely different they could not stop the run! the Falcons, HAD the #2 run defense in the league and they could not stop Ivory, Thomas not even Brees, come on guys, just admit you took the night off and get busy show us you deserve our support instead of whinning about Brees getting his record, do something about it beat the snot out of TB and then get ready for your 1st of 4 playoff games you are better than you have been playing now show it!

Football Genius

December 28th, 2011
11:39 am

The Falcons have several problems, and all need to be addressed if they ever want to reach the next level like the Packers, Patriots, Saints, Steelers etc…

1. Get someone on defense that scares the opponent’s offense. Right now they have no plyamakers/game changers on defense and it shows. Abraham is old and washed up……need to cut him loose.

2. Stop being predictable on offense and get more creative

3. Get a RB with some speed

4.. Secondary must be upgraded or this is what will happen every year.

Sonny Clusters

December 28th, 2011
11:40 am

We would take Arthur Blank to the Dairy Queen and buy him anything he wants if the Falcons can win a game in the playoffs. Heck, we’ll take you, too, Jeff. We was noticing the other night that #33 goes down a lot easier this year and he seems to start slow and dance a little like Bubba Bean used to.

Chop-It-Up All-Star

December 28th, 2011
11:41 am

The Falcons imply that anything less than a Super Bowl appearance is a failure; so I agree, anything less than that is a disappointing season.

Sonny Clusters

December 28th, 2011
11:45 am

We was thinking that “Rising Up” would mean winning some games in the playoffs. Sometimes biscuits don’t rise up and sometimes football teams don’t either.

You know...

December 28th, 2011
11:47 am

I got ripped for a vent two weeks ago pointing out the Hawks are the most successful franchise in Atlanta based on their recent playoff series wins. It was stated that the only true measure of success is a championship. Now Falcon fans are quantifying success by ONE playoff victory. I humbly accept Atlanta’s apology for this oversight.