Falcons go into camp knowing playoff failures need to end

The unhappy faces of the Falcons' brass said it all after last season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The unhappy faces of the Falcons' brass said it all after last season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Falcons open training camp this week. They play their first regular-season game in seven weeks. They will be judged in six months.

This is their new reality.

The question with this franchise used to be, “Can they walk straight?” The answer generally was no.

Things improved. The question became, “Can they compete?” The answer over the past four seasons mostly has been yes, at least through December.

But after raising the bar with three playoff appearances in four seasons following mostly decades of infamy, the question now is a more difficult one to answer: Have they have hit a wall?

Some within the organization believe the criticism for postseason failures has been a bit too harsh. After all, two of the team’s three playoff losses have come against eventual Super Bowl winners (Green Bay and New York). The other came in quarterback Matt Ryan’s rookie season and against a team that went to the Super Bowl (Arizona). But for those believing too much is being expected for a franchise that now is fielding a respectable product, these contrasting numbers might explain the dissatisfaction.

•The Good: The Falcons’ regular-season record the past four years is 43-21. That’s an impressive .672 won-loss percentage for a franchise that entered the Thomas Dimitroff-Mike Smith-Matt Ryan regime in 2008 with a won-loss percentage of .405 (256-378-6). The 43-21 record also ranks fifth best, behind only New England (48-16), Pittsburgh (45-19), New Orleans (45-19) and Baltimore (44-20). However …

•  The Bad: Among the 11 teams with the best records since 2008, the Falcons (0-3) are the only one that has failed to win a playoff game. Six of the 11 have gone to Super Bowls. Four others have won at least one postseason game: Baltimore (5-4), Philadelphia (2-3), San Diego (1-2) and the New York Jets (2-1). The Falcons  are among six of the NFC’s 16 teams not to win a playoff game in that span (the others: Carolina, Detroit, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Washington).

So yes, this little run of infamy is gaining significance.

It follows that grand projections shouldn’t be made after the team’s season opener at Kansas City on Sept. 9. Or after games against Philadelphia and Dallas. Or following the two meetings with New Orleans. We saw double-digit win totals and home-field advantage and a bye fail to equate to playoff success. The Falcons were body-slammed by Green Bay two years ago at home and, after vowing this time things would be different, went into New York last January and was shut out (save a safety, 24-2).

Smith understands the team will be graded on the playoffs, as will he. With five assistants from 2011 staff gone — either by their choice or fired – the focus is on him more than ever.

“I think [the playoffs] is how everybody measures themselves,” he said. “We didn’t talk about expectations in the first year. We talked about milestones. One of them we wanted to reach was to participate in the second season. Where we are now and how we’ve developed in our first four years, we’re going to judged on the playoffs.”

When asked if he has picked up on something that the team has been missing in the postseason, Smith said: “It’s been a group effort. We haven’t played well in all three phases. We’ve turned the ball over. We haven’t protected well. We’ve given up big plays. We haven’t coached well. We made some coaching decisions that, when we took a second look at it, didn’t turn out well.”

There is some reason for optimism. The acquisition of cornerback Asante Samuel from Philadelphia should help the defense. Dunta Robinson’s likely move inside in the nickel will play to his strengths. If we assume that most of Ray Edwards’ problems in his first season with the Falcons were injury related, then the defensive front and the pass rush also should be improved.

But there also is reason to wonder. The offensive line remains a work in progress (theoretically). It would help if either draft pick, Peter Konz (guard) or Lamar Holmes (tackle), can contribute. But the possible return of Sam Baker at left tackle again doesn’t provide much comfort. The website ProFootballFocus.com ranked Baker 74th out of 75 offensive tackles in the NFL in “pass blocking efficiency” last season (after allowing 28 “pressures” in 242 snaps).

We’ll find out something in Kansas City, and in the 15 games that follow. But it won’t be determined until the playoffs whether they’ve hit a wall.

By Jeff Schultz

NFL won-loss records and cumulative playoff results since 2008:

TEAM            SEASON  PLAYOFFS
New England     48-16    2-3 (lost Super Bowl)
Pittsburgh      45-19    5-2 (won, lost Super Bowls)
New Orleans     45-19    4-2 (won Super Bowl)
Baltimore       44-20    5-4
Falcons         43-21    0-3
Green Bay       42-22    4-2 (won Super Bowl)
NY Giants       39-25    4-1 (won Super Bowl)
Philadelphia    39-25    2-3
Indianapolis    38-26    2-3  (lost Super Bowl)
San Diego       38-26    1-2
NY Jets         37-27    2-1

219 comments Add your comment

hogdog

July 21st, 2012
11:12 am

BRING ON TACKLE FOOTBALL

ernisTbass

July 21st, 2012
11:14 am

Sheez, who was 75?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

July 21st, 2012
11:21 am

they need to step up bigtime this year…no excuses.

Bsmith

July 21st, 2012
11:28 am

I like the management, coaches, and for the most part our team, but it’s time to put on our big boy pants and win some significant games in the playoffs.

falCANS

July 21st, 2012
11:47 am

Not scared one bit look for pro bowl years from the newly crowned “shut down corner” Brent Grimes and Hard Hitting safety William Moore!! remember u heard it here first lol

Dr. Warren

July 21st, 2012
11:58 am

Well-written post. I’m impressed the Falcons have done well enough to place 5th in the regular season over the past four years. A stable, regular-season-ready regime, as Braves fans well-know, will ultimately be judged by how they do in the post-season. I doubt Blank will give Smith and Dimitroff as much rope as Cox and Schuerholz were given. Assume at least Smith will be gone if the Falcons produce no playoff wins by the end of the ‘13 season—and if the Birds don’t make the playoffs in ‘12 and ‘13, expect both coach and GM to be history.

Birdwatcher

July 21st, 2012
11:59 am

Great question ernisTbass. I’m willing to bet that guy isn’t preparing to start the season like our guy is.

Marco Pillow Thrower

July 21st, 2012
12:23 pm

So Falcons are content starting Sam Baker knowing hes the worst OT? A great team would address that immediately and replace Baker.

Marco Pillow Thrower

July 21st, 2012
12:32 pm

Hate we gonna miss Lofatoofatoo…

C

July 21st, 2012
12:43 pm

Forget playoffs. Let’s start with beating the Saints to start with.

a country boy can survive

July 21st, 2012
12:44 pm

you can bet Curtis Lofton is happy to be gone from the Flowery Branch Bufoons…

Dr. Warren

July 21st, 2012
12:57 pm

Arthur Blank ain’t getting any younger. Keep that in mind if the Birds can’t get it done in ‘12 or ‘13.

The Real Falcon

July 21st, 2012
12:58 pm

A new season, I just hope with a new ending.
It will be very hard just to make the playoffs this year.

5150 UOAD

July 21st, 2012
1:00 pm

Is that a photo of The Falcon’s brain Trust or Manny Moe & Jack?
The way the Falcons have played in the Playoffs I it is more likely the pep Boys Bobbleheads.

5150 UOAD

July 21st, 2012
1:02 pm

Get to the Superbowl game then you can ask Taxpayers to take a STATEWIDE vote for a New Stadium.

5150 UOAD

July 21st, 2012
1:07 pm

The Bad: Among the 11 teams with the best records since 2008, the Falcons (0-3) are the only one that has failed to win a playoff game. Six of the 11 have gone to Super Bowls. Four others have won at least one postseason game: Baltimore (5-4), Philadelphia (2-3), San Diego (1-2) and the New York Jets (2-1). The Falcons are among only six of the NFC’s 16 teams not to win a playoff game in that span (the others: Carolina, Detroit, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Washington).
____________________________________________________________

There is the WHOLE issue. Don’t be like the dWag fans; Buying the Bag of Rose Food the Falcons are overselling that is really just a Bag of Cow Manure.

Mr. Hankey

July 21st, 2012
1:10 pm

Please, enought with the excuses about playing the superbowl winners. That is a luuuuzer mentality. Frankly — and I’m serious — as a life long Falcon season ticket holder and fan from the Bart days (Still sore from the Dallas loss in 79) I’d prefer them stink it up and not reach the playoffs than reach the playoffs and put forthe the crap we’ve seen the last three years. Same for the Braves. No point in prolonging the misery by squeaking in and then laying poo all over the 50 yard line.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

July 21st, 2012
1:10 pm

Those Mike Vick early playoff wins are now not looking so easy :)

Ole Falcon

July 21st, 2012
1:11 pm

Isn’t it a little early to assume being in the playoffs? As the saying goes, let’s take one step at a time.

Connie Lingous

July 21st, 2012
1:11 pm

You are assuming this year’s squad will make the playoffs, Jeff.

Go back to your interview with Art following Jim’s last season as head coach. Art stated that he and the Falcon fan base should be satisfied with making the playoffs 3 years our of 5.

If the squad misses the ‘offs this year, Art is on record as stating that would be Ok and would be consistent with his reasonable expectations.

Mr. Hankey

July 21st, 2012
1:13 pm

Well, one last thought. Let’s see. Holmes is hurt. Tattoo-fu is injured. So much for off season acquisitions and getting better through the draft. !0 bucks — and I’ll gladly eat my hat — says neither Holmes nor ta-poo-poo contributes one bit this years.

Sid

July 21st, 2012
1:14 pm

Can they compete? Well hell yeah. Decades of infamy? Thank you Rankin Smith. Some within the organization believe the criticism for postseason failures has been a bit too harsh? I seem to recall some minimal effort, lax bad game plans, and significant injuries in the playoff losses. Too harsh, I don’t think so. Optimism if not expectation. They ALMOST don’t even have to worry about their arch rival whom will self implode of epic proportions, especially if Brees goes down. Sans Carl Nicks and they might just see that happen. OK, maybe Ray Edwards’ lack of effort was injury related but it sure seemed to me he was simply taking some plays off. Anything less than a healthy Edwards giving 100% is unacceptable. As our O line goes probably so does the Falcons season, but don’t be surprised if the Panthers don’t give us a run for the NFC South Championship.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

July 21st, 2012
1:14 pm

What’s the over & under that CHOKE and Smith and Dimitroff will be around for a 6th season of playoff losses?

In the meantime Joe (30 million dollar man) will be shooting for playoff wins 6, 7 and 8 :)

Sid

July 21st, 2012
1:15 pm

Matt “CHOKE” Ryan

July 21st, 2012
1:10 pm
Those Mike Vick early playoff wins are now not looking so easy

__________________________________________

Never heard of ‘em.

Sid

July 21st, 2012
1:16 pm

Matt “CHOKE” Ryan

July 21st, 2012
1:14 pm
In the meantime Joe (30 million dollar man) will be shooting for playoff wins 6, 7 and 8
____________________________________________________________

The dude got a bad agent.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

July 21st, 2012
1:17 pm

PLAYOFF SELECTION IN NFC:

West: San Fran
North: Green Bay
South: Saints
East: Eagles
Wid Card: Giants
Wild Card: Lions

Jeff please explain your delusional Falcons playoff slot :)

5150 UOAD

July 21st, 2012
1:18 pm

What are the ODDS the Aints don’t make the playoffs? Probably very HIGH, & I would throw a few Benjamin’s at that bet this year.

a country boy can survive

July 21st, 2012
1:19 pm

As our O line goes probably so does the Falcons season, but don’t be surprised if the Panthers don’t give us a run for the NFC South Championship.
__________________________________

championship?? how about fighting to stay out of the cellar. the saints rule this division.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

July 21st, 2012
1:23 pm

Sid

July 21st, 2012
1:15 pm

Matt “CHOKE” Ryan

July 21st, 2012
1:10 pm
Those Mike Vick early playoff wins are now not looking so easy

__________________________________________

Never heard of ‘em.

————————————————————————————–

Just for you:

http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=230104009

http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=250115001

Remember now? :)

5150 UOAD

July 21st, 2012
1:24 pm

Choke

Dallas Cowboys
San Francisco 49ers
Detroit Lions
Atlanta Falcons
WC
Carolina Panthers
New York Giants

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

July 21st, 2012
1:26 pm

Sorry Falcants fans, that window of opportunity if there ever was one is…………GONE BABY GONE…..

HA HA HA :)

The Mike Vick curse lives on….. :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

July 21st, 2012
1:28 pm

NFC SOUTH FINAL STANDINGS

Saints
Carolina
Tampa Bay
Falcants

Next franchise qb selected in 2013 draft……HA HA HA :)

5150 UOAD

July 21st, 2012
1:31 pm

CHOKE…..want to bet a GRAND on that being true?
================================
NFC SOUTH FINAL STANDINGS

Saints
Carolina
Tampa Bay
Falcants

Jeff Schultz

July 21st, 2012
1:52 pm

Dr. Warren — Thanks. I generally agree with your assessment of Arthur Blank. He’s a very bottom-line guy. Wants to win in postseason. Will have less patience than corporation that owns Braves.

Jeff Schultz

July 21st, 2012
1:53 pm

County boy — I think that Curtis Lofton mostly is happy that he got paid.

Jeff Schultz

July 21st, 2012
1:53 pm

Matt “Choke” Ryan — Yeah, I think they’re looking good to Vick too. He hasn’t won a playoff game since then either.

Delbert D.

July 21st, 2012
1:56 pm

“Turnstile” Baker at LT is not a winning scenario.

FAILCANTS will FAIL again..watch all you want...

July 21st, 2012
2:02 pm

Failure of a franchise….curly, Larry and moe above is a joke…just become a Saints fan…at least you delusional fans could be part of a winner…if you can’t beat them, join them….who dat, we dat, two dat with second Lombardi this year…fact….truth hurts, dirty birds, huh?

rivercard

July 21st, 2012
2:11 pm

When you actually look at the talent on this team it is hard to imagine how they have even made the playoffs and difficult to imagine they could make a real run

Horrible OL, weak interior D(Lofton excluded), under performing stars in edwards and Robinson, aging running back, etc.

5150 UOAD

July 21st, 2012
2:24 pm

FAILCANTS will FAIL again..watch all you want…

The Aints won 1 Super Bowl but the Aints are not a WINNER by a long shot.
What is their Total Won Loss record?
How many Winning seasons?
Falcons 305-410-6……17 winning seasons(includes Even seasons) Played and LOST a Super Bowl
Saints 299-395-5…..18 winning seasons(includes Even seasons) Played and Won a Super Bowl

tjhook

July 21st, 2012
2:27 pm

Mike Smith needs to shoot for a .500 playoff record this year. Otherwise, if he doesn’t get at least two, the Falcons are wasting the fans’ time. The offense has all the ammo it needs and the defense will get a chance to prove its worth. There will be some exciting contests but the team is too stable to take it on the chin so early in the playoffs again.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

July 21st, 2012
2:30 pm

As pathetic as 0-3 is in the playoffs, having zero offensive points in a single playoff game is as low as it gets.

But its not CHOKE’s fault…..ha ha :)

Stinger2

July 21st, 2012
2:44 pm

Based on most of the above comments, it seems Falcon fans are like Braves fans. They cannot be satisfied with winning seasons unless the team is successful in the playoffs. Be thankful the Falcons have improved to the point they are making the postseason on a regular basis. Think of the fact that they rarely made the playoffs in the Smith regime.

QB/DB

July 21st, 2012
2:59 pm

The Birds can and will do it but only if TD and Coach Smith STOP trying to make their DRAFTS and trades look good! They have to let it all hang out, they can’t keep guys just because they drafted him or he was a nice guy. There will be Stars out there to have on the cuts and wire. I think we need to seriously consider re-signing Olgie Mug, to FB, rework the deal, he had Ryan’s back and a proven STAR. We can’t be cute or cheap. We have to let it all hang out. You have to have quality depth in the NFL now because there are so many injuries. The Birds are so close but it is on TD and Coach to put it all together

RealTalk

July 21st, 2012
3:10 pm

Hey Choke,
Why don’t you move. Your pathetic. I bet you are a Carpetbagger. Your Boy Vick is a complete waste of space. Total classless loser. I bet he has a terrible year. Vick Fans Have NO class….
Arthur Blank and the Falcons are Total Class. Ryan is the Real Deal. Go Falcons.

RealTalk

July 21st, 2012
3:14 pm

If You Still Wear a Vick Jersey and Nut Ride like “Choke” you should just wear a sign that says how Truly Ignorant You Really Are…..It would be the same….
Hey Choke, Vick’s last season in Atlanta was a Joke. Look it up! He sucked and we would have been looking for a Way to get rid of the Inmature,Overpaid, Criminal we had playing quarterback if he didn’t get sent to the Pokey……Go Falcons!

rm

July 21st, 2012
3:58 pm

@CHOKE

Mike Vick curse??? What are you talking about…

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

July 21st, 2012
4:06 pm

JSS

July 21st, 2012
4:08 pm

Choke!!! They talked you up? All of that “like” talk they been fantasizing in since getting thumped in Met Life Stadium hasn’t changed them a bit… Poor mind control cult, they’ve turned on Saints followers blaming them for every thing short of the apocalypse, the rest they blame on Michael Vick! Awwww, smell the desperation and angst in the humid summer air, it must be Matt Ryan’s 5th season?

Dig the new catch phrase, “Still waiting on the chance to goad over MCR since 2008, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting…” :-)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

July 21st, 2012
4:14 pm

I remember back in 2008 there was so much hope for CHOKE on these blogs.

Now all I hear are crickets…..ha ha.

:)