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Falcons better off with blank slate


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Falcons better off with blank slate

So much for the Bobby Petrino era in Atlanta. It's pretty much over before it started. Petrino's decision to return to the college coaching ranks at Arkansas leaves the Falcons, well, looking for a whole bunch of answers for the 2008 season. As if the year wasn't trying enough for owner Arthur Blank with the fallout from Michael Vick's dogfighting fiasco, he now has lost his first-year head coach 13 games into the season.

But in a way, I think Blank having no franchise quarterback or head coach at the end of the season is a good thing. Atlanta's '07 season deserves to blown up and never be brought up again. And Blank and the organization might as well have a clean slate as they try to move on.

I immediately think back to the 2005 New Orleans Saints. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is a whole different situation than losing your star quarterback for off-field misdeeds, but the results for them and the '07 Falcons are the same: a lost season.

The good thing about the NFL is that there is always hope for a quick turnaround, no matter what you've lost in the most recent season. The key is bringing youthful energy team to this team, both on the sidelines and on the field.

Petrino, like other successful college coaches who made the jump before him -- see Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier -- would always have been keeping an eye on out prized college openings, such as those at SEC schools. So Blank's first job is to get a hungry young offensive-minded assistant who wants to stay in the NFL. If I'm Blank, my first two targets are Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Petrino's departure also means Blank's franchise isn't tied to taking a Petrino-system quarterback in the first round of the '08 draft. All thoughts of drafting Brian Brohm and then praying that Brohm doesn't become a big bust should be gone. Like the Saints did by bringing in Reggie Bush, the Falcons should focus all their attention on bringing a dynamic, explosive rookie that can help the Atlanta fans forget about Michael Vick -- coincidentally, that's Arkansas junior running back Darren McFadden, who probably will leave school early rather than play for Petrino.

Of course, there's the job that still remains, regardless if Petrino had stayed or left: finding a quarterback. Again, they should just draft McFadden and not consider the possibility of Brohm or any other quarterback such as Matt Ryan, Colt Brennan or Andre' Woodson. Instead, they should go after a young veteran who should be available rather cheaply via trade: J.P. Losman.

Losman showed promise last season, and the Bills prematurely shut the door on him being their long-term starter. He has the mobility and strong arm to develop into a Tony Romo type, given the right coaching. Wait, hasn't Garrett done a good job with the actual Romo in Dallas? Interesting.

Atlanta is not without existing offensive talent, as Roddy White has emerged as a capable No. 1 wide receiver, and Alge Crumpler is still a top tight end. And imagine having the speed of both Jerious Norwood and McFadden in the backfield. The defense is young and already has an elite playmaker in Michael Boley. In addition to McFadden, the Falcons should also draft several offensive linemen.

And oh yeah, have you seen what has happened to last-place finishers in the weak and wacky NFC South? They tend to finish first the following season.

There is no need for Blank and the Falcons to panic in Atlanta. Vick isn't there, and Petrino didn't want to be there, but there are plenty of paths to quick rebuilding -- something the man behind Home Depot should know.

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