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AJC article - Players owning scheme


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By D. Orlando Ledbetter

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons coach Mike Smith's measured approach has his team off to a 5-2 start for only the sixth time in the history of the franchise, which is in its 45th season.

If they continue to prepare and stay on his path of consistent preparation and production, the Falcons could post their third consecutive winning season and make a return visit to the playoffs.

Of the previous five teams that started 5-2, three of them went to the playoffs. The 1998 team went on to win nine straight to finish 14-2 on their march to the Super Bowl.

Smith believes the key to his team's start has been the structure of the offseason, practices and the team meetings.

"When things don't go the way you anticipate, you can't change," Smith said. "You've got to have conviction in the foundation that you've set."

Smith doesn't run a top-down ship. The players have a role to play in the planning and preparation each week.

"I don't believe in kings, queens and dictators," Smith said. "That's just not the way you want to run an organization or you want to run a football team. You need to have input from everybody because they may have a completely different perspective on it."

That's happened at least twice over the first seven games.

Defensive end John Abraham wanted to battle solely with Cleveland's Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas. The coaches wanted him to rotate sides because they thought he could run roughshod over right tackle Tony Pashos. They eventually sided with Abraham, and he turned in a monster two-sack game.

Last week against Cincinnati, the offense started taking shots down the field and throwing the ball out of running formations after suggestions from several players.

Naturally, some of the player recommendations are taken into consideration, but not applied.

"It doesn't mean that we are going to use what they suggest, but it definitely makes you be a critical thinker as a coach or as a manager that you're taking the input from your players," Smith said.

Smith plans for the peaks and valleys that his team will inevitably go through during the season. That might explain why they have lost consecutive games only twice since 2008.

A week after a gut-wrenching 15-9 overtime lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, they pummeled the Arizona Cardinals 41-7. After taking a 34-10 shellacking from Philadelphia, the following week they jumped on the Bengals 24-3 before pulling out a 39-32 victory.

"We preach all the time to our guys that we want to be very on point all through the week and to know that we don't want to go up and down with the outcome of the previous game or how big the next game is. We want to be very consistent."

But Smith wants them to cut loose on Sundays -- and in a few weeks on a Thursday night.

"It's an emotional and passionate effort that you've got to have out there in the games," Smith said.

It doesn't hurt that the players know Smith also is on full emotional blast for the games. He keeps his challenge flag on the ready. He goes for it on fourth down and will mix it up in a scrum if he has to, as he did in the Washington game last season.

"Everybody is in to it," Smith said. "You get those 16 opportunities as an organization to perform. That's the only thing you're guaranteed."

http://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-falcons/mike-smith-has-falcons-699277.html

Great write-up. I like the part that the players suggested we throw more from run formations and abe wanting one on one with joe thomas.

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Smitty keeps an steady hand on rudder,except sometimes on gameday. :lol: Stability is important to the players,especially the young ones.Gives them a chance to settle in into a much different world.Good to know they're openminded to suggestions and don't think they know it all.Might as well use everybodys brains and experience.

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Great write-up. I like the part that the players suggested we throw more from run formations and abe wanting one on one with joe thomas.

****, I've been saying they need to on occasion throw from run formations and run from pass formations for weeks now. I'm just glad they listened. Sad the players had to tell them to do it -- it seems to be a no brainer, honestly.

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its good to know they at least take into consideration what players think.

And I just realized that we only have a two or three day rest after the bucs game to get ready for the ravens. Ironically the ravens have their bye week this sunday also. So it will be fair game. (Except their in THE NEST)

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Last week against Cincinnati, the offense started taking shots down the field and throwing the ball out of running formations after suggestions from several fans on the Atlanta Falcons Message Boards.

Naturally, some of the fan recommendations are taken into consideration, but not applied.

"It doesn't mean that we are going to use what they suggest, but it definitely makes you be a critical thinker as a coach or as a manager that you're taking the input from your fans," Smith said.

^_^

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I LOVE how Smitty runs this team. Business during the week; passion on Sundays; respect and high expectations all-around.

It really says so much that no one on here is even thinking about stringing together consecutive winning seasons anymore. It's more or less taken for granted that this will be a winning season; the only question is, will it be enough of a winning season to secure homefield advantage in the play-offs?

In only Year 3, that mindset in itself is a pretty amazing thing when you think about it.

Edited by BCEagleATLFalcon
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Last week against Cincinnati, the offense started taking shots down the field and throwing the ball out of running formations after suggestions from several players.

I just wonder why it took players suggestions to throw out of a running formation. "Hey coach, when I was in middle school we would trick the defense by lining up in a run formation and we would throw the ball instead of running it. Think we could try that sometimes?"

"Yeah coach, we did too but we started doing it in pee-wee ball. It works and keeps the defense guessing."

"And get this coach, every now and then we would even run the ball when lined up in a pass formation. Wow would it trick those guys on D."

Mularkey: "OK we'll give it a shot but I'm not promising anything."

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+1 I like the idea of letting players like JA55 saying i want to go 1 on 1 with Pro-bowl LT Joe Thomas I really like how MS listened and allowed that to happen thats great coaching right there.

Also like most throwing in running down situations makes us a different kettle of fish to defend and long may it continue.

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Ryan has had consecutive losses 2 times as a starter. Redman also had consecutive losses. That is 3 times since '08 - not 2.

We scored 17 points in the game against the Iggles.

Our '98 team won 11 straight after that 5-2 start to get to the Super Bowl.

Just a little fact correction.

Great article though!

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Our '98 team won 11 straight after that 5-2 start to get to the Super Bowl.

For a second, I was confused by your post until I realized you were counting the playoffs.

Bedwetter was right only because he was thinking regular season wins. Simple word differentiation. ;)

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For a second, I was confused by your post until I realized you were counting the playoffs.

Bedwetter was right only because he was thinking regular season wins. Simple word differentiation. ;)

I agree that it is semantics - but he is a paid, professional journalist. Things like that should be defined.

His Quote

The 1998 team went on to win nine straight to finish 14-2 on their march to the Super Bowl.

To be accurate - it should have read 11 straight or defined as 9 straight to finish the regular season 14-2

OR

some reference to getting to the playoffs after that point.

No big deal - I was just pointing out the discrepancies in his article. As I said - I liked the article - they should just have a proofer over there!

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I agree that it is semantics - but he is a paid, professional journalist. Things like that should be defined.

His Quote

The 1998 team went on to win nine straight to finish 14-2 on their march to the Super Bowl.

To be accurate - it should have read 11 straight or defined as 9 straight to finish the regular season 14-2

OR

some reference to getting to the playoffs after that point.

No big deal - I was just pointing out the discrepancies in his article. As I said - I liked the article - they should just have a proofer over there!

Yeah, always typos going into his articles too. He probably gives it a once over and then hits the Submit button.

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I love hearing Coach Smith say that he actually listens to the players input. That is huge and brings big dividends in getting the players to buy in as well as gives the team flexibility to make changes. Clearly we needed a reset after the Philly game and we got it. We played max protect and changed play calling tendencies. I have a lot of respect for Coach Smith who is enough of a man not to be worried about being challenged about schemes and play calling but instead welcomes constructive criticism.

Some posters in the MB should have the same attitude as Coach Smith when someone brings up valid criticism. Instead of mindless cheerleading and attacking the messenger they should engage in a rational dialoge impartially looking at the pros and cons of the argument. It is instructive for example that most players (including Matt Ryan, Keith Brooking, etc) will own up to their own shortcomings instead of denying the obvious. I still would like the Falcon coaching staff to own up to what happened in the Cardinal playoff game when they either had a read on our snap count or knew it.

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