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I have been reading a lot of threads lately and listening to a little bit of talk radio. I have to say what I have been hearing is worrisome at the very least. I understand the disappointment in the fanbase, as a fan of decades this season is no stranger to me. We have certainly seen many like it. Still, this time it is a bit different. We were winners not too long ago, consistent winners for the first time ever actually. This is obviously not a lack of talent problem we are facing, because we have only lost a few guys from that 2012 NFCCG team. In truth we, as a fanbase, need to step up our game. We need to recognize that this is a coaching league, first and foremost, and a great coach can win championships with near average talent. That said, a really good coach should be able to win with Atlanta's talent on a very consistent basis. In an offensive league, we have potentially the most deadly weapons in the league. We should be playing for Lombardi Trophies over the next 10 years, and that all starts with bringing in the correct guy. So, who is the correct guy? Well, there are a few candidates who look really solid on paper. I won't bother going into it too much because you will hear all about them in short order. I have to say I don't know who the right guy is anymore than Arthur Blank does. Guys that come to mind right from the start would be Daniels from NE, Munchack or LeBeau from Pitt, maybe a Dan Quinn? Blank did the right thing with hiring the firm to help select candidates as TD has never done it before and I'm sure Blank wants a second opinion. I know Arthur is getting some heat for leaking this info before the game yesterday, but I think we need to give him a pass on that one. Blank wants nothing more than to bring a Lombardi to this city, and no city deserves it more than Atlanta. If my owner could only have 1 trait of my choosing then that would be my choice, as it is a trait which has been missing before in this town. So that brings us back to how to reheat our day old pizza, aka how to get back to the 2012 team that was a play away from a Super Bowl...and maybe even go further. What became painfully obvious against the Panties was that we are physically outmatched up front on a consistent basis. We need to find more big, explosive, fast, disruptive athletes to play up front for us. And we need to bring in the best coaches to maximize their talents. We also could use a legit #1 RB, some more OL quality & depth, a Safety, a playmaking TE, and a Fullback. Add those to the horses for the front 7 on D, and it's going to take a couple of years to retool this team to where it needs to be. A lot of people on this board act like this team had a bunch of talent when TD & Smitty got here, but the truth is there are maybe one or two guys who still play regular snaps that were around on that 2007 nightmare team. In six short years, we have put together a solid roster on top of that skeleton crew that was here in '07. That's not too shabby. Keep in mind that we don't have to replace every struggling player on our roster in order to get to the top. No team is capable of that, and we just need to put in replacements that will elevate the other guys we decide to stick with. We could be back in the thick of things next year, honestly.
FIRST PARAGRAPH SAYS IT ALL!!!! In their most noteworthy decisions so far during NFL free agency, the Falcons have signed two players who are coming off injuries and didn’t play a single down last season (good news: Vince Manuwai and Lofa Tatupu should be well-rested), they’re seemingly allowing their leading tackler (Curtis Lofton) and sacker (John Abraham) to walk out the door, and they just gave a three-year, $9.15 million contract to a defensive end (Kroy Biermann) who is three years removed from his best season. This probably isn’t the best time to launch the season-ticket marketing campaign. Yes, it’s only March. No team has played a game yet. Granted, every significant NFL player seems to be holding signing ceremonies or meeting with owners and coaches in other cities. But we’ve experienced the hazards of assuming what big names on paper can mean. So it’s premature to assume the Falcons will be gum on the bottom of every team’s shoe next season, just as it is to believe the road to the Super Bowl suddenly runs though Buffalo. (The Bills gave Mario Williams $100 million and closed the deal with, “See that big waterfall over there? You can have that, too.) But fans are concerned, and it’s easy to understand why. While it’s still possible the Falcons will sign a guy or two, cut a guy or two, maybe even pull off a trade or two, between now and next month’s draft, it is becoming apparent that there will be no major changes to a team that has been drop-kicked in three consecutive playoff games. Mario Williams signals,"My contract is 'This big.'" And that was too big for the Falcons. (AP photo) The Arthur Blank money train was prevalent in springs past. Now it’s parked, in part because the team is hitting its head on the salary-cap ceiling. This doesn’t so much mean that general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith didn’t plan well (as in cap pacing) as it does that some plans just haven’t worked out (as in roster quality). For example: If cornerback Dunta Robinson had been as good as advertised and was living up to his original six-year, $57 million contract, the Falcons might not have felt so desperate to slap the franchise tag on cornerback Brent Grimes (a $10.6 million commitment). If you’re wondering what this muted offseason means for the Falcons’ future, it’s just this: Dirk Koetter, the new offensive coordinator, had better be really good. Mike Nolan, the new defensive coordinator, had better be really good. Mike Smith, the head coach, needs to be better. When there aren’t new players to work with, it means the old players have to be coached up. It means schemes have to be better. It means the Falcons can’t sell you on “new” so they have to sell you on the expectation of “improved.” So far, no obvious help for the offense is on the way, either on the line — assume nothing with Manuwai — or in terms of weapons. That means Koetter has to find ways to get more out of quarterback Matt Ryan and make the offense less predictable. It’s possible. But it’s hard to give the benefit of the doubt when Koetter oversaw the NFL’s worst offense last season in Jacksonville. With another pass rusher (and possibly minus Abraham), Nolan needs to find new ways to create pass pressure and take some of the onus off an error-prone secondary. It’s possible. Nolan is good. But his predecessor, Brian VanGorder, also was good and he worked for a head coach with a defensive background. (We may never know how much latitude Smith gave VanGorder in terms of scheme.) Nolan has to make Dunta Robinson better. He has to make Ray Edwards, a huge disappointment in Year 1, a factor again on game day. Overall, Smith, Koetter and Nolan need to find the reasons why this team keeps hitting a wall in its 17th game. If they determine there was a missing piece, that’s a problem because there’s no indication right now that help is on the way. Think of this as trying to make a new soup with the same ingredients. If by next December we’ve determined that it tasted the same, it won’t be difficult to figure out why. By Jeff Schultz