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  1. https://www.ajc.com/blog/mark-bradley/dan-quinn-big-picture-guy-who-making-alternate-plans/RDsA9vWUBjgbmPYoZJWLUJ/ Dan Quinn might just be the right coach at … well, nobody would call this the right time. But if you’re looking for someone who can embrace enforced change and still find reasons to be cheerful, Dan’s your man. The Falcons’ coach held a 30-minute video call via Microsoft Teams on Wednesday. He seemed in his element, and not just because he was displayed at a desk beneath a mantel lined with football helmets. He was in his element because – unlike other football coaches (Dabo Swinney, Mike Gundy) who’ve spoken recently – he sees the whole field. John Prine died Tuesday night. Boris Johnson is in ICU. Our world is reeling. Quinn opened by conceding that there’s something going on that’s “way bigger” than football. Then he struck this grace note: “I know there’s a lot of uncertainty outside, but I would like to start with some things that I am totally certain about. I am certain about my appreciation and gratitude and thankfulness for all the doctors and nurses and first responders; people who work in our grocery stores and pharmacies and are helping us get through this. “I know sports personalities can be seen as heroes, and I think what this time has shown is that people are stepping up, not just here in Atlanta but all over the country and all over the world. It’s one of the coolest things to watch from afar. To know that people have that kind of grittiness and toughness and love, it’s really cool to see.” Then: “Instead of ‘social distancing,’ I wish we had called it ‘physical distancing.’ Because socially, we so need to be connected. That’s one of the most difficult spots here, that feeling of isolation. We’ve gone for it pretty hard in terms of things we wanted to do to stay connected – through phone calls and FaceTime and video conferencing. The ability to be present with somebody – it’s a big deal. I’ve enjoyed visiting with players, coaches, draft prospects. At times, it’s felt like I’m on ‘The Jetsons’ here: I’m a football coach learning how to online-teach. There have been a lot of things over the last month that have been challenging in ways that help you grow and get better.” He turned to football. He talked about the draft, about Dante Fowler, about Todd Gurley. He said what you’d expect. He also upbraided, gently, those reporters who hadn’t activated their cameras, meaning he couldn’t see his questioner. “That’s like cheating. You’ve got to be on screen if you’re on a conference call. I’ve found with the players that they’re more present on a video conference call than a phone call. You can be on a phone call and writing something down or doing something else, but on these calls it’s been good to stay connected with people, especially during this time when we’re not getting as much face time as we normally do.” Football coaches tend to hate that which they cannot control. Quinn has such a lively mind that, instead of raging against grim reality, he has taken this moment to try to make himself a better coach/communicator. (For the record, he has always been a top-shelf guy.) “I missed the locker room like ****, seeing everybody and talking to everybody … (But) one of the silver linings in being away is that, in some cases, the relationships have gotten better. The first thing we’re talking about often times isn’t the football side. You come into the building, and it’s, ‘Hey, what’s up? All right, let’s get started – this is Cover 3; that’s what we’re playing.’ Right now it’s a deeper check-in. It’s, ‘Tell me about your family. Is everybody OK? Is your grandmother able to get the medication?’ “When you start talking about the family piece first, there’s been some connections that might’ve not normally happened had we all just met at the complex and gotten going. I definitely miss seeing everybody on a regular basis, but trying to do it this way has helped. That kind of connection – it’s been important, for sure.” Then, asked about alternate plans that could be needed for OTAs and the like: “What we’ve really learned a lot and grown a lot on is, ‘How do we teach online?’ How do we teach when we share a screen and we watch tapes and we try a voice-over? What the coaches have been doing is practicing teaching each other. Is it best to have a call with one person, two people? How do you do it when there’s a group of O-linemen? Is it best to have smaller groups? How do you have a team meeting? Hopefully we won’t have to use much of that, but we’re planning that way. We can throw a **** of a virtual offseason, if that’s possible. “You can get a lot done with technology. … We’re finding better ways to teach when you’re not in the same room and you don’t have the same eye contact. We’re digging into as many resources as we can – from other sports, college professors. I’ve contacted people in the military. We’ve been on with basketball people who are right in the middle of their sport: ‘How are you staying connected?’ I’ve reached out to my former roommate who’s a college professor: ‘Tell me about these online classes, man.’ Those are fun things that we’ve grown on, and that’s how we’re practicing coach-to-coach.” At the end, someone wondered what exactly would have to happen for there to be a football season. Said Quinn: “It feels a little tricky even to have this conversation. I would say the medical people I would trust more than anything else. The safety part of it, for me, is where it’s at. If we had ways of establishing safety for fans and players, that would be some part of the discussion. Fortunately for me, I don’t have to (decide); I follow along like everyone else. There are so many different things out there, I just don’t have a good answer for you – other than player and fan safety. That would be at the top.” That’s really the only answer there is. Dan Quinn nailed that, too. Nobody could possibly have seen this coming, but the Falcons should be glad they’ve got this guy to guide them through it.
  2. https://www.ajc.com/blog/mark-bradley/this-not-just-matt-ryan-top-shelf-quarterback/ZsYTDXVP6f7vrtGfiE7jGK/ This NOT just in: Matt Ryan is a top-shelf quarterback Nov 16, 2018 By Mark Bradley, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Nov 16, 2018 The odds are against the Falcons making the playoffs, but let’s say they do. (They’ll need to beat Dallas here Sunday; let’s say they do that, too.) Should they qualify, it would mark their third consecutive postseason appearance. Know how many times in their history they’ve done that? Once – from 2010 through 2012. The quarterback then was Matt Ryan, who’s also the quarterback now. Wait. I’m not done. Know how many times the Falcons had reached the playoffs in consecutive years before Ryan showed up? Never. Over the 42 seasons predating the Matty Ice Age, this franchise reached the postseason eight times. Since he got here in 2008, they’ve done it six times. If we add the playoff runs of the second-, third- and fourth-best quarterbacks in Falcons annals – Steve Bartkowski, Michael Vick and Chris Chandler – we get six. The point being: We around here have gotten to know Matthew Thomas Ryan very well – of the Falcons’ past 179 games (counting playoffs), he has started 177, which is flat-out ridiculous – but rarely do we say out loud what’s indisputably the truth. Namely, that he’s the best player (not just the best quarterback) in franchise history. We were conditioned early to regard Ryan as what he was not. He was drafted to replace the franchise quarterback who’d gone to prison, and there were those who insisted he would never be better than Vick. (Wrong.) Then we doubted if he could lead this team to the Super Bowl. (He did.) Even now, in Year 11, we tune in ESPN and get caught up in the E-word debate – I will not type the silly word itself, but it rhymes with “petite” – and we take as gospel that Ryan, as grand as he has been, is somehow not grand enough. Meaning: He’s not Brady/Rodgers/Brees/Roethlisberger. I won’t argue that any of those four is anything less than an all-timer. Tom Brady: best ever. Aaron Rodgers: most talented QB ever. Drew Brees: apt to win his first MVP trophy at 39. Ben Roethlisberger: consummate winner. But at this moment, what is there about Ryan that relegates him, just below the favored four? You don’t need to shout. All together now: “He hasn’t won a Super Bowl.” And he hasn’t. That’s the fact, Jack. But here, not to get all Kellyanne on you, is where we offer alternative facts. In Ryan’s one Super Bowl, he was better than Brady/Rodgers/Brees/Roethlisberger were in any of theirs, and they’ve been in 13. Ryan’s passer rating Feb. 5, 2017, was 144.1, fourth-best in Super annals, trailing only Phil Simms, Joe Montana and Jim Plunkett. Those three quarterbacks saw their teams win big. Ryan’s team should have. If they played that game again, the Falcons would be more likely to prevail 42-10 than lose in overtime. That losing was some fault of Ryan’s is a big fat lie. (He didn’t touch the ball in OT, you’ll recall.) Ryan in that Super Bowl – 284 yards on 23 passes. His yards-per-attempt average was 12.3, also fourth-best in Super history. His completion percentage was 73.9, sixth-best. Brady threw for 466 yards that day, but – this remains incredible – had nearly as many incompletions (21) as Ryan did passes. Brady eventually dinked and dunked the Falcons into submission, but his passer rating (95.5) was the second-lowest of his five Super wins, and Robert Alford’s pick-6 was a big reason the Patriots trailed 28-3. Put it this way: In the biggest game of his life, Mr. Tier 2 was statistically superior to the greatest ever. And we hold that AGAINST him? This year, Ryan leads the NFL in passing yards per game. (He’s 46 YPG ahead of Brees, FYI.) Ryan is fourth in passer rating and completion percentage, tied for fourth in touchdowns. He’s not the reason the Falcons are 4-5; he’s the reason they aren’t 1-8. We once regarded his MVP season as a career year, but this one is of a piece: Yards per game and completion percentage are better; touchdowns per game are roughly the same; yards per attempt, while down from that peak, is still the second-best of his career. Career passing numbers are problematic, given how skewed the modern game is toward slinging the pig. (Fran Tarkenton retired as the career leader in passing yards; he’s not in the top 10 today.) But here, for comparative purposes, we go: Ryan is fifth in yards per game, ahead of Brady, Rodgers and Roethlisberger; he’s fifth in completion percentage, ahead of Rodgers and Brady; he’s 10th in passer rating, ahead of Roethlisberger; he’s ninth in interception percentage, ahead of Brees. Again, this isn’t to say that the Tier 1 guys don’t belong. This is only to suggest that Ryan does, too – and has for a while. This is his 11th NFL season. (That’s another thing: At 33, he’s younger than Brady/Rodgers/et al.) Ryan has worked under four offensive coordinators; should he make the Pro Bowl this season, he’ll have done it under all four. He has spent 10 years and nine games trying to outscore his own defense, which over the past decade never finished among the league’s top 10 in yards against and is third-worst now. Brady and Roethlisberger have won seven Super Bowls between them. How many would they won have won with Falcons-like defenses? And really, isn’t the issue of Super Bowl “wins” for a quarterback something a faux stat, like wins for a pitcher have become? (Jacob deGrom just took the Cy Young with 10.) The only reason Ryan isn’t a Tier 1 fixture is the lack of a Super Bowl “win” – and had his team held on that day, he’d have been the game’s MVP. (And he didn’t call the overtime coin toss wrong; the Pats called it right.) Ryan was the reason the Falcons made the Super Bowl. He’s the reason they’ve been a very good team for the better part of the past 10 years, and he’s the reason they still could make something of this one. He’s not just the best quarterback this team has had; he’s among the best there has ever been. There, I’ve said it.
  3. Last statement threw major shade lol He does make some good points, however Sark is OC for another season so here's to hoping he "figures it out"...
  4. http://www.myajc.com/news/sports/football/major-falcons-changes-are-surely-coming/npjhy/
  5. Didn't see it posted yet http://blogs.ajc.com/mark-bradley-blog/2012/06/20/koetter-is-out-to-upgrade-the-falcons-one-explosion-at-a-time/ Flowery Branch – Dirk Koetter doesn’t come across as a guy who plans to reinvent the wheel or the screen door or even the screen pass. There’s not one whiff of Boy Genius about him, probably because he’s not a boy (he’s 53) and surely because a coordinator who at his last stop presided over the NFL’s lowest-rated offense has been served a heaping helping of humility. But that’s OK. In football, “geniuses” tend to flame out quicker than you can say, “Mike Martz and His Greatest Show on Turf.” Koetter knows he’s not here to rip up everything; his job is to nip, tuck and tweak. As he said Wednesday, speaking after the morning session of Falcons minicamp: “Atlanta has won a lot of games the past few years — I’m in no position to second-guess anybody.” So don’t expect him to bad-mouth his predecessor, the unlamented Mike Mularkey, or to proclaim that the Falcons’ offense, which under Double M had become a singularly ponderous thing, is now in defter hands. For one thing, that’s not the way professionals behave. For another, Koetter cares nothing about what happened before him; he’s interested only in today and tomorrow. Koetter again: “My concern is, ‘How do we maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses?’ ” Here’s his appraisal of inherited talent: “We have proven playmakers at running back, at tight end, at wide receiver and at quarterback. And we’ve got a nice competitive situation along the offensive line. We do have a good group of guys on offense.” Five months on the job, Koetter already is crazy about Matt Ryan. Asked if the quarterback who has yet to engineer a postseason victory is cut from championship cloth, Koetter said: “Absolutely. Absolutely. The guy has everything you want and more. “A lot of guys can throw it around the park, but I’m impressed by his work ethic, his dedication, his leadership — the way he talks to his teammates — and the way he handles the amount of pressure he’s under. He’s an excellent communicator. As an offensive coordinator, you love a quarterback who’s a good communicator.” OK, there’s Koetter’s answer to one hot-button question. (Yes, Ryan is good enough.) As for the other: His offense will incorporate screen passes. (Unaccountably, Mularkey’s did not.) “I just think the screen should be a part of any offense,” Koetter said. “I’ve been a big believer in screens my whole life. It’s a way to slow down a pass rush, and it’s a way to get the ball to your playmakers in space. I tell our guys, ‘Think of a screen pass as a punt return.’ ” That does not — bad joke upcoming — mean Koetter’s offense will necessarily feature more screens than a mall cineplex. Yardage-wise, he’s agnostic. “I don’t care if Matt has to scramble for 12 yards,” he said, and that’s because he cares most about yards gained in chunks. “We want explosive plays, whether they’re runs or passes,” Koetter said, and then he defined his terms. “When I think about explosive plays, I mean 12-yard runs or 16-yard passes. [Those yardage figures are minimums, please note.] Next to turnovers, 12-yard runs and 16-yard passes are the biggest factors in winning. If you have eight of those plays in a game, you’ll have a great chance to win.” Koetter isn’t just talking out of his hat. (Actually, he was sporting a Spurrieresque visor.) He has seen the research done in Jacksonville, his previous place of employment, and by other NFL clubs. “Different people use different numbers for explosive plays,” he said, “but people who are way smarter than I am have determined that those are the important ones — 12-yard runs and 16-yard passes.” Unlike some offensive coordinators, Koetter chooses to downplay his gray matter. Speaking of those crunched explosive-play numbers, he said: “I didn’t create those numbers, but I’m smart enough to figure out that they mean something. I didn’t figure out that the world is flat, either.” Wait a second. Is the world flat? Said Koetter, sheepish now: “I meant round.” Then he smiled. “Shows you why I’m a football coach.” By Mark Bradley
  6. http://bleacherreport.com/tb/bcAkx In praise of Smitty, the best coach the Falcons have ever had 8:50 am December 14, 2011, by Mark Bradley For everyone's sake: Take care of yourself, Coach. (AP photo) To borrow from Dr. Johnson, nothing concentrates the mind like being rushed to the hospital with chest pains. To those of us who follow the Falcons, news that Mike Smith’s team had returned from Charlotte without its coach had a different concentrating effect. It made us ponder a sobering question: If the Falcons were to be without Smitty for however long, how would they be? Answer: Not nearly as good. Because Mike Smith works so diligently to take no credit, we forget how much credit is due. He isn’t just the best coach in Falcons history — he’s the best coach in Falcons history by the width of Grady Jackson. If we don’t count the assorted interims and we count Marion Campbell only once — although we do list Grover Cleveland as both the 22nd and 24th President of these United States — the Falcons have had 11 head coaches in their 46 seasons. Only three of those have compiled a winning record while based here: Leeman Bennett, who was 46-41; Jim Mora, who was 26-22, and Smitty, whose worksheet of 41-20 renders him the Birds’ version of Vincent Thomas Lombardi. This is how good Smith has been: No other Falcons coach — not even the estimable Dan Reeves, who took this team to a Super Bowl — ever managed consecutive winning seasons. If the Falcons beat Jacksonville on Thursday night, Smitty will have gone 4-for-4. Add Norb Hecker and Norm Van Brocklin and Dan Henning and Jerry Glanville and June Jones and the 13 games of Bobby Petrino and the two terms of Swampy Campbell together, and you’ll get a total of four winning seasons. For more than four decades a forlorn franchise sought a man this good, and now that one has been found and retained the man himself acts as if the Falcons are still doing him a favor to let him coach. Actually, it’s the other way around. With Mike Smith, we don’t get the rages of Van Brocklin or the smugness of Henning or Mora or the gimmicks of Glanville or the exit strategy of the Tyrannosaurus Rat Petrino. We get instead a professional coach coaching professionally, and thank goodness for that. No, Smith hasn’t yet won a playoff game, and that gnaws at him. Everything gnaws at him, which might be a reason he wound up in the hospital. He doesn’t want to win a Super Bowl to burnish his own legend. In Smith’s mind, there’s nothing legendary about him. He’s just a guy who goes to work early and stays late, same as all the other guys coaching in the NFL. Like every assistant, he wanted to run his own club someday, but the feeling persists that Smitty could have spent another 10 years as a defensive coordinator and retired a happy man. In Smith’s mind, he got outrageously lucky. A franchise that had been wrecked turned to a Jacksonville assistant who, far from being a Hot Name, had the sort of name seen on registers at no-tell motels. The Falcons gave him a chance, and 11 1/2 months later they were in playoffs. He hasn’t dazzled us with verbiage or blinded us with ego. He has just gone out and won two of every three games. His winning percentage, you might be surprised to know, is better than Sean Payton’s, better even than Bill Belichick’s. This isn’t to say this season has been a smooth ride. Through 13 games this has been the most nettling of Smith’s tenure. He tries his best never to say anything critical of his players, but a couple of times he has let it slip that his Falcons haven’t yet played anything resembling “a complete game.” (After losing in Houston, he even allowed that was “mad.”) This is the most talented roster he has had, and it hasn’t yet played to capacity. That said … It’s 8-5. If the playoffs commenced today, the Falcons would qualify as the NFC’s No. 5 seed, and if you get in you can stick around. (The Falcons know this too well. Smith’s playoff losses have been to a 9-7 Arizona team and to sixth-seeded Green Bay, both of which reached the Super Bowl.) There’s a chance these Birds could do something similar. They’re talented enough, and they play better defense than Green Bay or New Orleans. If this offense ever clicked for four quarters, who knows what might happen? But enough. We can worry about the playoffs later. For now, it’s enough to know that the most difficult season under Smitty has put the Falcons in position to finish 10-6, and there were times — heck, there were decades — when just breaking .500 would have been cause for civic celebration. In his humble way, Mike Smith has changed all that. He has made us expect more and better. He’s a heck of a coach. By Mark Bradley
  7. Don’t listen to the Falcons: They’re looking to smack the Pack 10:22 am October 7, 2011, by Mark Bradley At Flowery Branch the other day, I was struck to hear one Falcon after another say the Green Bay playoff loss doesn’t affect their thinking as the Packers come to town yet again. “That was last year,” they’d say, and they’d all but scoff at the notion that payback was on their minds. This made me think that the men expressing such sentiments are either liars or fools. And I’m pretty sure they aren’t fools. That one loss hurt the Atlanta Falcons every which way. Sure, it kept them from winning the Super Bowl, but it cut deeper than that. It made us wonder if the 13-3 team of 2010 was as good as its record — a 48-21 home thrashing at the hands of an opponent you’d already beaten will do that — and it impelled more than a few folks who live in this city to adopt an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it approach toward the local NFL franchise. In August, a guy wondered why the buzz regarding the 2011 Falcons — who’d drafted Julio Jones and signed Ray Edwards and who were, after all, coming off 13-3 — wasn’t louder. Respondents tended to point first to the Green Bay loss. Had the Packers come to the Dome in January and absconded with a last-gasp victory, that would have been one thing. To watch the visitor win in such comprehensive fashion caused us to question everything about the Falcons: The defense, the coaching, the talent, even Matt Ryan. Winning Sunday night won’t bring an ex post facto benefit. The NFL won’t confiscate the Lombardi Trophy the Packers just won and hand it to Arthur M. Blank. Winning would, however, do wonders for the Falcons’ exterior image and their in-house psyche. Winning would make us take them seriously again, and that’s no minor consideration. The Falcons had rousing victories early last season — at New Orleans and over (yes) Green Bay and Baltimore here — but they haven’t roused us in a while. They lost to the Saints two nights after Christmas. They lost to the Packers in the playoffs. They lost all four exhibitions. They lost their first two road games this regular season, and even the two games they’ve won haven’t come with a “case closed” imprint. Against Philadelphia they needed Jeremy Maclin to drop a fourth-down pass thrown by a backup quarterback; against Seattle they needed a kicker to miss a 61-yard field at the end. Put simply, we need to see the Falcons play a full and powerful game, and if that game comes against the Packers it will go a ways — not all the way, we stipulate — toward softening the harsh memory of Jan. 15. Winning Sunday would rearrange the dynamics. Winning Sunday would make the Falcons believe, as opposed to think, they belong among the elite. I’m guessing they’re fibbing when they say the playoff loss doesn’t really register. I’m guessing they want this game as much as any team ever wants a regular-season game. I’m guessing — jinx time! — they’ll get it.
  8. Serious question: Do the Falcons still know what they’re doing? 9:06 pm September 25, 2011, by Mark Bradley Tampa – The Falcons are too good to be playing this way. They’ve trailed by double figures in all three games. They look great when they finally get serious, but by then their margin for error has been reduced to the nub, and any more wobbles — a dropped pass, a sack that shouldn’t have been taken, a lurch offside with the game literally on the line — can result in a good-looking team taking a big ugly “L.” Asked Sunday night if he has been seeing the team he thought he’d see, coach Mike Smith said: “No, I’m not seeing that team … We’re making way too many mistakes.” The same question was posed to center Todd McClure, who said: “No. We’ve got a great group of players, but we haven’t put it all together.” Then this: “I feel like we’re holding ourselves back. We’re not making the plays that are there to be made.” The obvious next questions: Why not? Why is a team fancied as a Super Bowl winner darn fortunate to be 1-2? Why do the Falcons start so slowly? Why has their devotion to details — a Smith staple — gone missing? Why must the long-promised “explosive” plays be saved for the desperate hours? Nobody seems to know. The Falcons spent three quarters letting an OK Tampa Bay team get ahead and stay there, and it wasn’t as if the Bucs seized every moment. They netted three points from two sacks and recovered fumbles inside the Falcons’ 20. They had a chance to pull ahead by three scores, but threw an interception on the first play of the fourth quarter, whereupon a mystery guest appeared. A team wearing the Falcons’ uniforms drove inside the Tampa Bay 5, then got the ball back and scored in two plays, then got the ball again and surged to the 5 again. At that moment you’d have sworn this team would seize the lead and win the game and talent would have finally been served, but at the same time you wondered: Where had this team been for 2 1/2 hours? Let’s not fault the defense. It held the Bucs under 300 yards. Let’s turn instead to the high-priced offense, which has in two road games managed one touchdown. Asked if the Falcons aren’t a better team when three wide receivers are deployed and the no-huddle offense is implemented, Matt Ryan said: “I think we’re a good football team regardless of our personnel.” For the first time in the four years of their partnership, it’s possible to wonder if Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff are as like-minded as we’d come to believe. Dimitroff traded 21 spots upward to land the hugely gifted Julio Jones, and through three quarters Sunday the receiver had one catch. He had five — for 97 yards — in the fourth. How hard is it to pull a Keyshawn Johnson and say: “Get that guy the darn ball”? But it cuts deeper than tactics. There’s a weird air about this team. On the one hand, the Falcons seem careless. (Three turnovers and five penalties in this first half.) On the other hand, they seem scared to cut loose until circumstances render cutting loose as last resort. Former Falcons punter Michael Koenen, now a Buc, told the Tampa Tribune: “Up there, it’s a lot tighter. There’s a lot more nervous energy.” There’s pressure on this team, yes. Dimitroff didn’t make big moves for Jones and Ray Edwards because he thought the Falcons might win a Super Bowl sometime in the next 30 years, and Arthur Blank — he of the not-exactly-relaxing late-game sideline appearances — has made it clear his only goal is to win a ring. But is a 53-man roster that includes only two Super Bowl winners capable of knowing what it takes without having ever come close? The Falcons’ stated position is a reasonable one: They have enough talent to do whatever needs doing and enough time to correct the errors. Said John Abraham, the defensive end: “We’ve got to be back to playing Falcons football.” For three seasons we thought we knew what that entailed — power football, focused football, precision football. Today we see a team that can’t handle the small stuff and seems, big-picture-wise, not to know what it’s trying to do. It’s as if they keep falling behind because falling behind is the only way they get to play the way they play best. It’s as if this whole grand design has lost all coordination.
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