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 …
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.