More kudos for the Falcons: Is it all too much too soon?

It was just a year ago we weren’t sure the Falcons would win a game. Now they’re all the rage. From Mike Smith being ranked the league’s eighth-best coach by RealScouts to five Birds being listed among Peter Schrager’s top 99 NFL players on FoxSports.com to Roddy White being named the fourth-most indispensable player by Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders

And now this: Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com rates the Falcons’ coaches the best staff in the NFC South. Which, given that Sean Payton has taken New Orleans to the NFC title game and John Fox has led Carolina to the Super Bowl, is saying something.

And part of me thinks it’s great. It’s been a while since anybody had nice things to say about this franchise, and the folks in charge are good people. But another part of me — the part that says, “You know, this organization still hasn’t had consecutive winning seasons” — wonders if it’s too much too soon.

The 2008 Falcons were a delight because nothing, almost literally, was expected of them. The Sporting News, as we all recall, picked them to go 1-15. (I picked them to go 5-11 and felt charitable.) They went 11-5 and made the playoffs. But now the forecasts are for bigger and better, and the schedule is much tougher and …

The huzzahs regarding the Falcons are:

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Have we ever spent a summer getting excited about the Falcons only to wind up in the gutter along the boulevard of broken dreams? Only about a dozen times.

I’m thinking it won’t happen this fall. I’m thinking this organization is too sound and this roster too gifted. But honesty compels me to report felt the same in 1999, when a team coming off a Super Bowl went 5-11 after Jamal Anderson hurt his knee; and in 2003, when the giddiness of the playoff win at Lambeau was lost once Michael Vick broke his ankle, and in 2005, when Jim Mora’s NFC runners-up started 6-2 and managed not to have that second consecutive winning season.

My head tells me these Falcons are different. But my gut keeps growling and saying, “Yeah, but they’re still the Falcons.” And here’s where I reach for the Rolaids.

149 comments Add your comment

rob

June 24th, 2009
6:33 am

NO NO NO these are birds of a different feather..They flock together. This season will be just as exciting as last year. Sure the expectation to succeed is there but the main thing is attitude. These birds know how to fly south during the winter..

Fred

June 24th, 2009
6:46 am

And here we go………..

SG

June 24th, 2009
6:59 am

Hopefully this is going to be the turn around point for the Falcons. Before we did not have an organization with the mind set like we do now. Mr. Blank has finally (last year) decided to install the right people in the management positions who have a keen eye for talent and coaching. so while they continue into this year making some great decisions, we fans will reap the rewards of being able to watch back to back winnig seasons. This is a TEAM. starting at the top all the way down to the practice squad. Personally my son and I cannot wait until the season begins.

GO Falcons

You gotta remember...

June 24th, 2009
7:01 am

…these are the Atlanta Falcons to whom you refer…so, unfortunately, the past is very good predictor of the future. So, with the past you brought up Jamaal getting injured, then the former QB getting injured, and both times the seasons went downhill in a hurry. SO, while I hate to even think it, this year both the QB and the RB will probably be out for the season by the 3rd pre-season game, and as history has shown, there goes the chance for consecutive winning seasons, and the hoopla of having a good coaching staff and good players.

MightyQuinn

June 24th, 2009
7:01 am

I’m sure this is a good offensive team. I’m NOT sure how they will do with the much tougher schedule this year, and a pretty much completely retooled defense. I’m thinking we will be in a lot of offensive shootouts. And the addition of Gonzales at TE makes me feel better about that. I would feel even better if we could reduce the number of carries for Turner (I believe we ran Jamal into the ground) by getting another durable back to share the load. I am hoping Smith will show that he was a great defensive coordinator and surprise us all with the D.

mitch

June 24th, 2009
7:20 am

Dear Mr. MB–”boulevard of broken dreams?” Really? How ’bout “avenue of anxious expectations” instead? Your pal, Mitch

Bailer

June 24th, 2009
7:26 am

we have been through this many times before,we will just wait and see.

Mitch Kumstein

June 24th, 2009
7:31 am

I have the same concerns I had when Mora was here. You have very good skill players but your base, your lines-of-scrimmage, are thin, at best. No Grady, the brittle Abraham & a patchwork OL. The OL was a smoke and mirrors deal under Mora & I’m not at all sure it’s that much better now.

Bill

June 24th, 2009
7:34 am

Detriot KC,the Rams,and Oakland come off the schedule.The Giants,Cowboys and Patriots come on.That is a huge difference.

Be-little, BeBOLD

June 24th, 2009
7:39 am

This season depends on how the defense plays . . . we know what the offense can do!

Nobody's April Fool

June 24th, 2009
7:48 am

Mark, you make some very good points, but please let us Falcon fans enjoy the anticipation and high expectations that we are all currently feeling without being reminded of past failures. This team is different and I hope they prove all the naysayers wrong. Go Falcons!!!

Bubba

June 24th, 2009
7:48 am

I don’t think you’re wrong to reach for the Rolaids, Mark. True, this is a team with a lot of potential. However, this is a team that isn’t very deep. The Patriots, for example, had the talent to overcome the absence of Tom Brady to have a winning season. The Falcons, in the past, have failed miserably in their attempts to overcome the adversity of losing a star player. It isn’t the talent loss that gets them so much as it is the “here we go again” mentality that permeates the locker room. Those of us who have been in Atlanta for a while and who are fans through thick and thin are equally infected.

That said, the coaching staff is excellent. Blank & Co. have done an excellent job of reshaping the paradigm of the team. The players work hard and say the right things. Mr. Dimitroff seems to have done a good job of assembling players who play beyond the printed accolades of success. Thus far, they have overcome the “we can’t win this game” attitude. One would hope that this is a team that can overcome adversity. I, for one, hope that they don’t have to. At least, not this year.

The mentality will not be completely changed until they overcome the “back-to-back” onus. Making the playoffs, I think, is secondary to throwing that monkey off our back. Can they do that? I’m cautiously optimistic. But, I have a Missouri attitude: Show me.

Mark Bradley

June 24th, 2009
7:56 am

You know, I kind of cringed over “boulevard of broken dreams” myself. But it was that or “Desolation Row.”

rainman

June 24th, 2009
8:09 am

It’s a hard call predicting what the Falcon’s record will be this year.
The offense should be somewhat improved with a year of experience playing together under a new system. TG will help Ryan avoid the sophmore slump. If one of the starting OT’s goes down, it would be a problem.

On the defense, replacing Brooking, Milloy, and Grady should improve the unit. On the other hand, I would probably feel better if Foxworth and Boley were still on the team. Our D-line could become a strength if JA98 and Trey Lewis come through. There will be some mistakes due to inexperience, but either Moore or DeCoud should emerge as a quality SS. Overall — they are thin at OLB and one of the CB’s needs to really step it up.

Keisha Waites

June 24th, 2009
8:20 am

The Falcons have the foundation to do Big things: A great City, a good fan base, and solid coaching staff. I may pass on the season tickets, but I will be in the stands.

The Dogfighter Returns

June 24th, 2009
8:37 am

Wow. Why did you choose a pic of MV7 and his loverboy Arthrur Blank? I am sure Arthur wants to bury this image once and for all. You Mark have revived it again.

MatthewH

June 24th, 2009
8:48 am

No,no, this is good. Keep writing bad things about the Falcons. With your track record, MB that guarantees that they’ll have that winning season and make the playoffs.

Doyle, Winder

June 24th, 2009
8:53 am

Do you ever sleep? As for me, I believe you choose the perfect photo with Mr. Blank and Vick because it vividly demonstrates the differences between that Falcon franchise and this one. We now have a professional at every level from GM to Mike Smith to water boy. No more emotional decisions (see past off season) making a mess of everything. Now it’s all about winning football games. Too much too soon? I’d say we are way over due!

What!!!

June 24th, 2009
9:12 am

Last year I picked them to go 10-6. This year 12-4. The defense will be a top 10 defense before mid-season. NFC south CHAMPIONS and from there………………….the picture is fuzzy. Updates as I get them. lol

dean

June 24th, 2009
9:42 am

Does DJ have a legitimate shot at making the team this year? Who is The Man who steps up to the pump if something were to happen to Ryan? Ps.the pain of 1980 is still there for me. It’s ALMOST gone but not yet. (Whatever did become of Roland Lawrence?)

Herschel Talker

June 24th, 2009
9:47 am

BOBBY COX MUST GO!

Daniel

June 24th, 2009
10:00 am

I agree with Doyle, no such thing as too much too soon for this orginization. We are WAY overdue. However, this is the NFL and injuries will derail any team, so luck is a part of it. But, barring serious injuries I don’t see us fallin off at all.

Zoomie

June 24th, 2009
10:07 am

I’d like to see the Falcons overcome the back-to-back winning seasons jinx. It will be tough based on the current view of the schedule. I’m not going to fall back on the “here we go again” mentality based solely on a statistical losing season, though. I’ll be watching to see if we truly have a “new” team, or if it’s the same old Falcons.

I’ll be paying close attention to all those “intangibles” people talk about all the time. Did the players obviously fight to the end in the loss, or did they just give up at some point (old Falcons)? Do the players take responsibility, or cast blame (old Falcons)? Does the coaching staff make scheme and personnel adjustments, or stand there with a look of dejection as their game plan comes apart (old Falcons)? Is there evidence of leadership top-to-bottom in the organization, or does cult-of-personality prevail in the locker room (old Falcons)?

If leadership, professionalism, and organizational strength are evident even in a losing season, I’ll keep the fire burning for this team. The addition of Dimitroff and Smith, and all the changes and the decisions they’ve made regarding this team, give me hope that we are developing a long-term organizational strength. If the Falcons play their best, keep their heads up, and act like a group of professionals, I’ll give them the courtesy of not judging them based on a single losing season.

Personally, though, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think the back-to-back winning seasons curse goes down in flames in 2010!

Phillip Shobo

June 24th, 2009
10:12 am

This team is set up for success. I don’t know about you all but it’s been a long time coming for these Atlanta Falcons. I stand up for these team through everything. However, anything less than a Super Bowl win this season is NOTgood.

Greg

June 24th, 2009
10:12 am

Mark, you are on the button. Last year’s relatively weak schedule gives us little to go on as a basis for prediction, given this year’s very tough schedule. Of, we hope. ‘Fan”, after all, is short for ‘fanatic’. As several have mentioned, we have yet to see a good defense show up. Look at the schedule. We’d better get one in a hurry. I also second what MightyQuinn said about getting another durable back. Maybe Snelling or somebody else on board can pull the load; maybe not. Verron Haynes looked pretty good while he was with the Steelers—maybe he could be the guy. But we may need to pick somebody up.

jarvis

June 24th, 2009
10:19 am

It’s an economy of scale…the whole division plays the NFC and AFC East. We will win the NFC South. I think 10-6 will win it, and I think we have that in the bag.

Mark Bradley

June 24th, 2009
10:19 am

Chris Redman remains the No. 2 quarterback. And the Falcons seem to like D.J. Shockley.

GOTech610

June 24th, 2009
10:27 am

Falcs will go 10-6 put back to back winning seasons together, win the division, and go to the playoffs.

Sidslid

June 24th, 2009
10:30 am

The Jamal Anderson analogy is the one I fear the most. If everybody stays healthy, we should be fine intradivision as I think everybody but Tampa Bay has taken a step or two back.

Mark Bradley

June 24th, 2009
10:32 am

And that’s a major consideration, Sid: They didn’t have many injuries last season apart from Sam Baker.

BugKiller

June 24th, 2009
10:42 am

- I walk this lonely road, the only road that I have ever known,

Don’t know where it goes, but it’s only me and I walk alone -

I don’t know Mark, but Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” seems to apply to this franchise more than any other.

You mention the not ever having back-to-back winning seasons. To put it in perspective, the Florida Marlins, who came into baseball in 1993, were the team with the SECOND longest streak of non-back-to-back winning seasons, but that ended in what, 2004, at eleven?

The Falcons have been playing football since 1966. This is the 44th year of their existence. So that’s 42 years of never having back-to-back winning seasons.

Has there EVER been a more snake-bitten team in all of sports not named the Chicago Cubs?

I think you should do a column about the sports franchises in this country who are the most snake-bitten, writing down and going over their travails.

- I walk this empty street, on the boulevard of broken dreams
When the city sleeps, and I’m the only one and I walk a… -

jarvis

June 24th, 2009
10:46 am

D-Line is a concern at depth and O-Line to a lesser degree… I have some serious concerns about our secondary, but it can’t be any worse than last year’s. Abraham is the key. If he’s healthy, we’ll roll. He was the secondary’s best-friend last year. If we can just find someone to contribute another 7 to 9 sacks, I think we’ll be pretty dominate, but that would be a huge step for someone else on that line. Hence my 10-6 prediction.

By the way, I can’t believe I’m saying this, the Falcons are deep at receiver. The world is on it’s ear.

Mark Bradley

June 24th, 2009
10:49 am

The Cubs, yes. And the Clippers. But I can’t come up with many more contenders. (Or non-contenders, as it were.)

JRM

June 24th, 2009
10:56 am

MB! – Why hasn’t anyone written about the Stephen Nicholas story from last year or referred to Pat Y’s recent article on it? It’s great stuff and makes you proud to be an Atl fan

Paulie OldSchool

June 24th, 2009
10:57 am

I think that a SB appearance this year is extremely unlikely, but that we should break the streak for non-consecutive winning seasons. There is an energy with this team, from TD and AB on down that is quietly comforting. We don’t hear a whole lot of tripe, we don’t get a whole lot of negative headlines in the off-season, and the trash talkers are gone. As long as we continue to win, I’ll take boring off the field anytime. On field, I think that they are gonna become the scourge of the NFC. TEAM has become the process, rather than INDIVIDUAL. All very, very important to establishing winning traditions here. Instead of fearing the upgrade in the schedule this year, I am looking forward to the challenge of playing some better teams, ’cause I think our boys can win. Again, that quiet confidence is what is driving my admiration for this team and its components. No prediction on record, but I’ll say that I think it’ll be a real good, exciting year.

Mark Bradley

June 24th, 2009
10:59 am

I’ll endeavor to get around to Stephen Nicholas, JRM. Thanks for asking.

Matty Ice-man

June 24th, 2009
11:12 am

Yes, Mark you would not be a long suffering Falcons fan if you did not let those “here we go again – something bad is bound to happen” thoughts creep in. However, the only way I see the Falcons being worse than 8-8 is with major injuries to our star players (Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, John Abraham and Curtis Lofton) – if those five can stay healthy – the Falcons should rule the roost and compete for playoffs and division. Here is to the “back-to-back” curse finally being broken!

michaelgee

June 24th, 2009
11:23 am

are the ajc writers afraid of not putting Vick in every damn article.

Please Mark, let us move on without having the criminal rubbed in our faces every day.
come on ajc writers, someone please suck it up and try to write a “Vick less” article just once.

Surely you guys are better than this.

falconidiot

June 24th, 2009
11:28 am

Granted it would be great if the league never saw us coming like last year, however, this team is full of athletes with character and the best leadership in our history, only injury will derail us and still our depth is better than ever. No hype, SUPERBOWL!

BugKiller

June 24th, 2009
11:30 am

Hmmm… maybe the Buffalo Bills as well? I know, especially for the many Bobby Cox Apologists on this board, just “getting there” is good enough for a great many people… but losing four Super Bowls in a row, especially the first one and the last one (which people forget, they led in the third quarter)… that’s a kick in the groin.

Tee

June 24th, 2009
11:30 am

If the falcons are “all the rage”……why does Arthur Blank have to give away FREE jerseys to get folks to buy tickets??? And don’t blame it on the “economy”, I haven’t heard of any other NFL owners GIVING away jerseys!!

Falcon Devil

June 24th, 2009
11:33 am

Even though our schedule is brutal I’m not worried. Is it a fans unjustified blind faith or clear critical thinking? We shall see come January. For starters our offense is no doubt going to be top 5 and IMO top 3 in the league. We already were the no 2 rushing off in the NFL last year and I see Norwood blossuming with more carries to protect Turner ( which unfortunatley means this might be our last year with the speedster due to an upcoming contract and he’ll want no 1 $$$$). Next Matty Ice is more experienced and going to be improved if things stayed the same. They are not the same though, now he has IMO the best pass catching TE in the history of football as an equalizer to any double team Roddy White will face. The saftey valve TG will play is such an upgrade to our red-zone offense I would be scared to face us. Pick your poison in trying to stop the Burner or TG, can’t do both with Mich Jenkins on the fade. Here comes the big question mark… the defense. Without watching training camp or pre-season no one has any film to study of how our D will look. As a fan it’s nerve wracking, as an opponent off cord it’s kinda scary too. This is where my argument jumps from facts to faith. I believe our coaches can mold a productive defense from the crop of young quick guys and our few experienced vets (Coleman, Abraham, Peterson). They did well last year considering half our D was old and slow, I’d take young, fast and inexperienced over old, slow and wise on D in the NFL anyday. I truly do believe our D-Line is our strongest asset on D with solid run ends (Davis, Anderson), a stout interior (Jerry, Babs, Lewis) and a quick pass rush (Abraham, Sidbury). Our linebackers are solid but not exceptional, Saftey is looking decent but our corners scare me. Thats where the pass rush is crucial. Next topic is our “brutal” schedule. It’s important to keep in mind the huge parity in the NFL from season to season. If schedules worked like they were supposed to there wouldnt be sports betting. Teams that are supposed to suck (Falcons predicted to be the worst team last year) can be great and teams who are supposed to be Super Bowl champs don’t make the playoffs (Cowboys) every year. The bye weeks thing does suck but hey we are in the NFC South. Is there any worse looking NFC division? …. Ok maybe NFC West but I’m expecting San Fran, Seattle, and AZ to be competetive. The Buccs look horrible (cleaned house on D, no established Off). The Panthers are deteriorating and Delomme is in for a rough year. The Saints have a great passing attack but thats it. The division should be ours no problem.

Falcon Devil

June 24th, 2009
11:36 am

The X-factor will be injuries, no one can plan on them. Who will be this years Tom Brady?

uga_b

June 24th, 2009
11:47 am

Yasinskas got it right.

This staff is amazing, but that is my biggest concern. Mularkey will get another chance. BVG may get a chance. Even the position coaches are hot commodities. Not sure we will keep them around that long; then we will find out what Smith can really do.

The reason the Falcons are getting so much coverage and praise is that they are doing it the right way.

Consider:
Blank – supportive, charismatic owner who may be hands on but has delegated. He sells free agents as good as any owner in the NFL. He built the flowery branch complex and makes resources available.
Dimitroff (McKay) – we have 2 GMs experience-wise. Dimitroff scouts the college players extremely well. We are signing our young core. McKay is very influential, see rules committee.
Staff – see above
Players – High character guys like Stephen Nicholas (credit the org here). They genuinely want to be here. We are not hearing people asking out. They buy in.
Performance – they were in every game last year and didn’t quit. Even some good teams take games off; this team isn’t wired that way. This is the number one predictor of our future performance–not the record.

What!!!

June 24th, 2009
11:59 am

I have just one word – “Over-rated”!

What have they done really? They won 11 games last season, but who couldn’t do that with Detroit, St Louis, Kansas City & Oakland, with the benefit of the 9th easiest schedule in the NFL?

What have they accomplished? One of few teams to win 11 games and not win a playoff game – big accomplishment.

This season, they face the 3rd toughest schedule, with 4 consecutive road games in the heart of the season and face 5 teams coming off bye weeks.

History has proven that teams coming off of bye weeks, have a 90 % win average, so if history repeats itself, that’s 5 losses alone.

JEKYLL MY HYDE

June 24th, 2009
12:02 pm

THEY”LL BE GREAT OR NOT!!! IT’S 50/50 AT BEST!!!!

MiltonDawg

June 24th, 2009
12:03 pm

What!!!; before the 08 season started, no one predicted that the Lions, Rams, Chiefs, & Raiders were going to be as bad as they were (ok maybe Raiders). This season..who says the teams on our schedule will have a bad year or not? The bye week does pose an issue, but if this team is tough..it won’t be an issue. all i care about is having back to back winning seasons.

111111111111111111s\

June 24th, 2009
12:16 pm

Enter your comments here

Mark Bradley

June 24th, 2009
12:24 pm

About Michael Vick: Like it or not, he’s a major part of Falcons history. If we’re talking about deflations, I don’t know that there have been any as great — in the history of Atlanta sports — as the preseason of 2003.

db

June 24th, 2009
12:37 pm

I hope this is the year we break the two season curse. I feel alot better now that we picked up Gonzalez. It now gives us a three headed offense attack. If we hadn’t picked him up to add to the overall talent, and with the much tougher schedule we have this year, I would have not given us a chance to break the curse. Go Birds!