Needed by the Falcons: A veteran to point the way to a title

"Super Bowl is this way," says the Packers' A.J. Hawk. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

"Super Bowl's over here, guys," says the Packers' A.J. Hawk. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The Falcons’ season began and ended against the teams that will meet in Super Bowl XLV. In between there were 13 victories, but the failure to reach the ice-encrusted Dallas area — guess we’re not the only big-event-hosting city that can suffer lousy weather, huh? — has forced us to ask: Why the Packers and Steelers but not the Birds?

Well, both Green Bay and Pittsburgh play better defense, though the Falcons’ D looked OK until the night of Jan. 15. And Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger rank among the NFL’s half-dozen best quarterbacks, whereas Matt Ryan would be in the top 10. But a talent deficit isn’t what barred the Falcons from the game so big we needed the snooty Romans to number it.

When you send nine men to the Pro Bowl, you’re talented enough. In those 13 victories we saw the Falcons’ best players make winning plays. Indeed, seven of those 13 games were won by seven or fewer points. Note, however, that the six games the Falcons won big all came against teams that finished under .500. For all their winning, the Falcons never once played such a complete game against a brand-name opponent that you stood back and said, “Whoa — these guys are good.”

The Falcons were good, but it was never clear if they believed they belonged among the upper crust. (Believing isn’t the same as wishing and hoping.) Go back to the opener in Pittsburgh: The Steelers were coming off a non-playoff season and were without the suspended Roethlisberger, but they played with a fury. They played to prove they could win behind any quarterback. They played to prove they were still the Steelers.

The Falcons took the ball with 1:45 remaining in regulation and the game tied, but their first play became one of those hurtling Troy Polamalu interceptions. That should have been it, but Jeff Reed missed his field goal. Much relieved,  the Falcons won the coin toss for overtime. They managed one first down. The Steelers handed the ball to Rashard Mendenhall and went home winners. Put simply, the Steelers were not going to lose that day no matter how many times they had to win it.

We saw the Saints similarly refuse to surrender here two nights after Christmas. In October we saw the Eagles, working behind backup quarterback Kevin Kolb, dominate from the kickoff. And finally we saw the Packers enter the Georgia Dome and score 42 points in 25 minutes.

Yes, the Falcons beat the Saints in the Superdome in September, and yes, they had beaten Baltimore and Green Bay here in November. It wasn’t as if they couldn’t compete against the big boys. But you could see in those four losses a palpable difference: The teams that beat the Falcons played faster and hit harder. They weren’t any more gifted, but they acted — apologies for the cliche — as if they wanted it more.

Which sounds silly. Why would a team good enough to win 13 games not want to win a 14th, a 15th, a 16th? But the commodity still lacking in the Falcons is the veteran of championship portfolio — in the NBA, that player is known as “a James Posey,” in reference to the sub who has won with Miami and Boston — who can show his mates how it’s done.

Asked if he feels compelled to add such a player, general manager Thomas Dimitroff responded via e-mail: “It would be nice to have [that] as an influence, but [it] won’t be the driving force if we feel the talent is better with somebody who hasn’t won one.”

Then this: “It surely is on our mind.”

It needs to be more than a thought; it needs to be the priority. Of those nine Pro Bowlers, not one has a Super Bowl ring. (Mike Smith does, but a coach can only say so much.) It’s time for the Falcons to start carrying themselves like the champions they can be. It’s time for Dimitroff to find his James Posey.

OK, and now you’re asking: Who’s out there? Well, the Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour is scheduled to become a free agent. (This assumes the coming lockout ever ends.) He played at Georgia. He won three Super Bowls as a Patriot. He’d do.

By Mark Bradley

230 comments Add your comment

Newbomb Turk

February 4th, 2011
11:21 am

Newbomb Turk

February 4th, 2011
11:21 am

Mark Bradley

February 4th, 2011
11:21 am

Kudos once more, Newbomb.

j

February 4th, 2011
11:28 am

he is injury prone, no?

DARNELL

February 4th, 2011
11:29 am

I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL SUNDAY NIGHT WHEN THE BEST PRESIDENT USA EVER HAD CALL UP COACH MIKE TOMLYN TO CONGRATULATE HIM ON BEING THE BEST NFL COACH IN HISTORY!

YOU KNOW THE ONLY THING THAT COULD MAKE THE SUPER BOWL VICKTORY PARTY ANY BETTER IS IF THEM STEALERS HAVE A PRESS CONFERENCE RIGHT AFTER THE GAME TO ANNOUNCE THEY SIGN MIKE VICK HIMSELF!

DON’T HATE CELEBRATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Newbomb Turk

February 4th, 2011
11:29 am

Nice assessment, MB….but Stevie Wonder could see that the Falcons really lacked veteran leadership. I do, however, like the thought of Seymour on the D-Line. With the core group of young players we have, we are only going to keep, ahem, Rising Up…..we need to continue to draft well, and add a couple of the right veteran pieces to the mix.

Larry

February 4th, 2011
11:32 am

Mark,

I think Seymour is a great idea for the reasons you mentioned plus that little extra edge in him wanting to prove to the team that trading him, New England, that he can still lead a defense to a title–and how special would be against the Patriots?

This team needs to pour every available penny into the defense. It is not by coincidence that the two teams playing the best defense in the playoffs for their respective conferences are paying Sunday night.

Touché on this topic!

Fish Bisch

February 4th, 2011
11:32 am

Marcus

February 4th, 2011
11:34 am

Interesting. MB, I see your point, but also you have to determine if it also matches a position of need. We have youth and talent at DT, even with a still-developing Peria Jerry and splitting Jamal Anderson between DT and DE.

If there is a vet OL w/Super Bowl experience …..

Larry

February 4th, 2011
11:34 am

Plus, shame on Dimitroff for not addressing this obvious and glaring need by pursuing Peppers last season!

AlphaDwag

February 4th, 2011
11:34 am

No veteran leadership is needed. With the QBs we face in the NFC, we need another DE to help contain them. We can get that in the 1st round of the draft (Heyward/Houston). This draft is full of RB/WR, we can add one in the mid rounds(Quizz Rodgers / the do it guy from Kentucky) and then OL and OLB depth in later rounds.

If we could get Champ to come home for his final few years it would a pleasant surprise, but its not needed.

Rickster

February 4th, 2011
11:35 am

At least I’m in the top 10!

PMC

February 4th, 2011
11:35 am

Dear Santa Claus, we’ve been very good this year. Please bring us a playmaking outside linebacker (or 2)

Would love to have Woodley or Harris.

JohnBRAVES

February 4th, 2011
11:35 am

Yes, I completely agree. Even though we beat many talented teams this year, we never really established ourselves as one of the best teams in the NFL. We didn’t act like it. We don’t just need one guy to help with veteran leadership, we need about 3 or 4.

Rickster

February 4th, 2011
11:36 am

But I still hope you pick the Steelers.

AlphaDwag

February 4th, 2011
11:37 am

If Heyward drops to us, we have to get him. he completely dominated a really good Offensive line in the ARK game.

krishatl

February 4th, 2011
11:46 am

Seymour is likely to be franchise tagged…Oak is not gonna let him go that easily. but i agree, we need someone else on the D line. We have one end who is possibly a year away from dipping down (J.Abraham) and another one who is too busy with some Housewives (K.Bierrman). we at least need to stock up a little bit more. i frankly don’t see us changing our secondary: we spent a ton on Dunta and Grimes just got played in the Pro bowl. William Moore is going to be there along with DeCoud as well. that leaves a hole maybe at OLB, even though Peterson performed well. Not entirely sure about Spoon, but he’ll be given another shot, esp after being fully healed. What we really need: a HYBRID OLB/DE. but i’m sure that’s easier said than done…not many of them around, who can make an impact right away out of the draft, and not sure what FAs fill that need.

Deep South Falcon

February 4th, 2011
11:46 am

Mark,

I agree with your sentiment, but I don’t agree with Seymour as the veteran you get…Seymour is a 3-4 DE, he would not fit in to our D-line unless you put him at DT (which we are stacked at). I agree with your premise, but we need to find a good Left DE that can contribute 8-10 sacks a year. I have no suggestion as to what other potential free agents that are out there, I have honsetly not see a list yet…but I do agree you have to have experience…See the Steelers for an example of that…..and I believe the Steelers win on Sunday because of that experience.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

February 4th, 2011
11:46 am

And that vet needs to bo on the D side of the ball

PMC

February 4th, 2011
11:46 am

Seriously Mark? You look at this defense and don’t see an issue with talent anywhere????

You look at the offense and think… oh yeah they are just as good?

NO they aren’t. The Saints have better overall receivers, a better offensive line, and a better QB.

The Steelers have an unbelievable defense and an unsackable QB with blazing speed at WR and very good quality otherwise.

The Packers have even with old Chad Clifton, a better more talented OL… better QB, (when healthy VASTLY better recievers and probably a better running back because he’s got more skills)

The Eagles, have blazing speed at WR and QB… one of the greatest atheletes on earth at QB, solid TE…a terriffic RB and a more inventive offensive coach. They also have more talent on the DL and in the secondary.

Every team they lost too has A TON more talent than the Falcons. Faster, Bigger, Stronger. Working hard only takes you so far.

PMC

February 4th, 2011
11:48 am

Our best receiver not named Roddy White in the divisional game was old as methusla Brian Finneran.

Love B Finn, I’m glad he’s still around…. but that’s unfreakingacceptable. and I don’t care if that’s not a word.

C'Mon Man

February 4th, 2011
11:49 am

I don’t want anyone who has been a Raider the last 5 years…

C'Mon Man

February 4th, 2011
11:50 am

If you look back at the Green Bay film the reason Aaron Rodgers picked us apart was because our linebackers could not keep up with their recievers…

PMC

February 4th, 2011
11:53 am

Our starting RB scratched out more than 1300 yards. 3 yards at a time. Woody Hayes would have been proud. I think he caught maybe 10 passes out of the backfield. That helped the defense stay fresh some times and it also made the Falcons have to convert boatloads of 3rd downs.

They could improve this team at almost every single position. You can take your pick really. QB is in, WR 1 is in FB is in LDE is solid for next season…. other than that….they can probably improve.

PMC

February 4th, 2011
11:54 am

Seymour is getting franchised anyway.

SawThat1nce

February 4th, 2011
11:55 am

Would having someone with a SB ring really have helped the Falcons from being crushed by the Packers?

The Sham

February 4th, 2011
11:58 am

What? No FIRE THE HEAD COACH assertions? This is Mark Bradley’s blog isn’t it?

I guess the 3 year extension this week cut his “hook” off…

Veteran playmaker or not (btw – who is Tony G if he doesn’t fit that role?), this team overachieved. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the ride as a Falcons fan, but we all knew the season wasn’t going to end in Dallas for us. If you thought so, kudos for your blind faith, but it wasn’t going to happen. This team is a few playmakers (at least 1 more needed on each side of the ball) and some more depth, before we go to the BIG GAME.

I trust the leadership to get us there, it just wasn’t to be this year. But thanks for keeping it exciting!

Apples II Oranges

February 4th, 2011
11:59 am

In the NFL adding a “James Posey” is not as easy as it seems. Many time we have seen a McGinest,Brown or many other Super Bowl pieces leave via FA never to be heard from again. That is certainly a fine line and one that TD saw happen often as veterans left NE in search of big paydays in FA years.

SawThat1nce

February 4th, 2011
12:03 pm

In the Steelers and the last Saints game, I think the loses had to do more with poor coaching decisions, by the Falcon’s HC.
In Eagles game the Falcons were outcoached as well as outplayed. Also, Kolb is a little bit more of a higher caliber than a backup QB, even if he does play 2nd to MV.
I don’t question the Falcons desire to win, and certainly don’t believe that any other team wants to win more than they do.

steve brown

February 4th, 2011
12:04 pm

A veteran=old. Blank is old and always seems to be on the field. Give the man a uniform, perhaps he is the answer.

JSS

February 4th, 2011
12:05 pm

“Needed by the Falcons: A veteran to point the way to a title”
Well, excuse me for bringing this point up; but wasn’t that Tony Gonzalez was brought here for?

Now you want Richard Seymour to come to town and to channel “Fred Dean and Charles Haley” and transform this defense?

I think the Falcons problems are much deeper than two impact players. Still, it will be interesting to see once the lock ends is what actually gets done…

JSS

February 4th, 2011
12:07 pm

REPOST
“Needed by the Falcons: A veteran to point the way to a title”
Well, excuse me for bringing this point up; but wasn’t that the reason Tony Gonzalez was brought here?”

Sorry

Who Dat Nation

February 4th, 2011
12:09 pm

We already know when the pressure is on, the falcons so called leader Matty Ice or Matty Choke will choke and will crumble under pressure and will never be the quarterback Drew Brees is.

UGA Advocate

February 4th, 2011
12:10 pm

Bradley…be honest….is Newbomb working out of your building or offices down from you. Or has he tapped into your computer…this guy nails the 1st, & rarely the 2nds..lol
Go Falcons…..I really dont know where we could use a another veteran leader…maybe DL, WR, or LB. I personally thought #55 & #88 were our vets on each side. I’ve come to the conclusion that we really really need a flash/scat back….we currently operate in power mode all game…a Chris Johnson type hiding in the draft surely would be a blessing.

UGA Advocate

February 4th, 2011
12:13 pm

….@ Who Dat Nation…..(in Gare Coleman’s voice) “and Drew Brees didnt choke against us in the Dome this year?”

O-me

February 4th, 2011
12:14 pm

Kiss off Sham…………..Mark is fair and balanced. U no like don’t read.

Who Dat Nation

February 4th, 2011
12:16 pm

UGA Advocate

February 4th, 2011
12:13 pm
….@ Who Dat Nation…..(in Gare Coleman’s voice) “and Drew Brees didnt choke against us in the Dome this year

Who won a Superbowl and Who chokes every year in the playoffs?????

El Bravo

February 4th, 2011
12:17 pm

This is absolute rubbish. Should we go get Garrett Hartley (horrible kicker) because he won a ring with the Saints? Can he point the way? The “knowing how to win” line is such ignorant garbage. Big Ben won a Super Bowl as a rookie even though he didn’t win squat in High School or College. Did he learn how to win in one year? We lost to the Packers because we were out-coached and out-played. It had nothing to do with this magical veteran that can play the pipe and lead us to the promise land. I’m a big fan of your writing MB but this is the kind of dumb garbage that gets perpetuated by the established media. It’s the same kind of crap that sabermetrics has been debunking in baseball…

44ty

February 4th, 2011
12:20 pm

the Falcons absolutley showed no HEART in the playoffs! I was ashamed to be a Falcons fan that evening..LOOK, I have been a fan since 1966! Been through some horrible seasons! BUT, I still am a Falcon fan…will continue to be, but, I was disgustedly embarrased by the lack of effort! I really had a bad feeling when the Falcons ran out on the field flapping their arms…..showed me they were all show and no go!!!!!!

JSS

February 4th, 2011
12:24 pm

SawThat1nce
February 4th, 2011
12:03 pm
“In the Steelers and the last Saints game, I think the loses had to do more with poor coaching decisions, by the Falcon’s HC.”

What game were you watching? The Steelers had 7 drives that should have accounted in points in that game out of their 12 possessions. The Falcons only mustered 4 drives the entire game including the OT. They only crossed midfield 4 times out of the 14 times they held the ball that day. The Falcons played admirably that day… That (the Falcons D) and Jeff Reed were the only reason that the Falcons were in that game…

44ty

February 4th, 2011
12:26 pm

Faclons need better players…..stronger, faster, tougher and with guts! NOT a bunch of pretty BOYS showing off their dreds and tats….CB Robinson….how much does he get paid? geezz all show!!!!! trade up for AJ GREEN #1, #33….cant even punish anyone unless he catches them by surprise, need a power back and a scat back too….we need to D end too….Abraham couldnt make the big plays consistently…and the LACK OF TACKLING THE QB IN THE BACK FIELD WE MADE ROGERS LOOK LIKE MICHAEL VICK BACK THERE, HUH, ALL HE DOES WAS SPIN OUT TO HIS LEFT…FALCONS MISSED HIM EVERYTIME! TERRIBBLE TACKLING…BVG..THIS FALLS IN YOUR GENRE!

The Sham

February 4th, 2011
12:27 pm

@O-me – on contrare! I do enjoy his pieces, I read his predictions and bet against them! It’s just the hatchet jobs that get tiresome. BTW – is this the Fox News blog?

Besides, it’s a love-hate relationship. He loves to hate on the coaches and I love to hate on role he plays as the AJC’s rile’em up guy.

Brandon

February 4th, 2011
12:29 pm

CHAMP BAILEY!!!! PLEEEEEEEEEEASE COME HOME!!!!!

SawThat1nce

February 4th, 2011
12:30 pm

I was watching the Falcons vs. Steelers game that the Falcons could have and should have won.

Hankie Aron

February 4th, 2011
12:30 pm

MB- I like your thinking here. Not sure who that player is though

The Sham

February 4th, 2011
12:31 pm

@ O-me – It’s nothing personal and after he’s done crying over my posts, I’m sure he looks himself in the mirror and reminds himself how much of a nice guy he is and that he’s just misunderstood.

Hankie Aron

February 4th, 2011
12:32 pm

Also, could it be that the Falcons just ran into the hottest teams at the end of the season. Arizona to SB in 08, Green Bay in 10

Hankie Aron

February 4th, 2011
12:34 pm

Peppers never won a Super Bowl Larry. Did go to one but came up short

Apples II Oranges

February 4th, 2011
12:34 pm

I think this is the maturation process of a young NFL team. We are entering Ryans 4th season next year. I think we forget that even the great Peyton Manning went 3-13 his rookie year, followed it with a 13-3 campaign and then a 10-6 record. Those where the Colts records the first 3 seasons on Manning. The team in on the ascension. Lets be patient and trust that this Franchise is in the best shape now than it has EVER been.

JSS

February 4th, 2011
12:35 pm

El Bravo
February 4th, 2011
12:17 pm
“This is absolute rubbish. The “knowing how to win” line is such ignorant garbage. Big Ben won a Super Bowl as a rookie even though he didn’t win squat in High School or College. Did he learn how to win in one year?”

Why is that bloggers have to make up things to try to sway people?

“Roethslisberger played college quarterback at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. At Miami, he got a chance to start as a redshirt freshman and started three years of Division I college football despite only a single year experience as a high school quarterback. Roethlisberger holds every major passing record at the school and a number of passing records in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). He played just three years before joining the NFL.

As a redshirt freshman, Roethlisberger threw for over 3,100 yards. In 2002, he threw more than 3,200 yards, and in 2003, he threw more than 4,400 yards. In 2003, Roethlisberger led the Miami RedHawks to an unbeaten record in the MAC, a No. 10 ranking in the Associated Press poll and a 49-28 victory over Louisville in the 2003 GMAC Bowl.”