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Despite ‘Disorganized’ Offensive Approach, Moving on From Steve Sarkisian Not an Option for Falcons


Goober Pyle
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https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/10/25/steve-sarkisian-atlanta-falcons-dan-quinn-matt-ryan

 

It’s Week 8, and the Fire Steve Sarkisian movement is already gaining steam among Falcons fans. 

Atlanta hired Sarkisian away from Alabama this offseason to take the reins of the NFL’s top offense after Kyle Shanahan departed to take the head-coaching position in San Francisco. Instead, he’s become the butt of jokes across the Twittersphere—and the Falcons’ 23–7 loss to the Patriots in Foxborough, dropping the 2016 NFC champions to 3–3 and third in the NFC South, only intensified that.

Heading into the 2017 season, Atlanta knew there was going to be a drop-off—it would be a near miracle if the Falcons’ offense maintained the level of production from last season—but this one is hard to stomach for fans dreaming of Super Bowl redemption. Atlanta's slip from No. 1 in points scored and No. 2 in offensive yards to No. 16 and No. 7, respectively, through six games is one of if not the biggest NFL storyline as we near the halfway point.

The Falcons’ passing game, particularly when throwing deep down the field and in the red zone, has the faithful worried. Through six games in 2016, QB Matt Ryan was 14-of-23 on passes traveling more than 20 yards downfield through six games. This season, he’s 4-of-21. Ryan was unstoppable in the red zone a year ago, completing 62% of his passes with 23 touchdowns and one interception from inside the 20-yard line. This year, he’s completed just half of his passes with four touchdowns and a pick through six games, and all-world receiver Julio Jones entered the game against the Patriots with a single red zone target to his name.

Some of that, surely, is on Ryan—a handful of throws in Foxborough immediately come to mind. But a big portion of the blame has to be placed on Sarkisian.

This is Sarkisian’s first NFL job since he was quarterbacks coach of the Oakland Raiders over a decade ago. A year after being fired from Southern Cal (following a brief stop at Alabama), he's put in a room with one of the best quarterbacks in the league, one of the best receivers in the league, and two running backs who could both start for just about any team. It’s safe to say that there was never going to be much patience outside of the Falcons facility.

We can all watch a game on television and see through the fog that something is wrong with this offense, but we outsiders don’t know the difference between growing pains and dysfunction. So I asked two Falcons offensive players I trust.

They both used the same word to describe Sarkisian’s approach to the offense: “disorganized.” And we’re not talking about desk clutter. Shanahan had a plan, they said. Every play and every concept employed was an exercise in deception. Set up one expectation in the first half, and then later break that expectation for a big gain in a critical moment. Sarkisian, formerly Alabama’s offensive coordinator and USC’s head coach, doesn’t have that aspect of the pro game in his tool bag, they say. But both players, and two team sources, scoffed at the idea of firing the 43-year-old former CFL quarterback at any point this season, backing up the public vote of confidence offered by coach Dan Quinn this week.

Why?

“We’ve been through this before,” said one team source.

He’s referring to Shanahan’s and Quinn’s first season in Atlanta, in 2015, following the departure of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and the firing of head coach Mike Smith. The offense experienced a similar drop-off, falling from No. 12 in points in ’14 to No. 21 a year later. Ryan had one of his worst years statistically since his rookie season, throwing for only 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. 

But at Flowery Branch, Quinn had a plan. He moved Raheem Morris from his role as a defensive assistant to the wide receivers room to salve a group that had soured emotionally towards the end of 2015. The team brought in Matt Schaub, who has known Shanahan since 2007 during their time in Houston, to help Ryan and Shanahan transition—essentially, Schaub was the intellectual bridge between coach and star quarterback. And the Falcons became the surprise dominant offense of 2016. 

I should point out that it’s difficult to compare the 2015 and ’17 seasons side-by-side; the Falcons were transitioning to an entirely new scheme in the former season, whereas Sarkisian was brought in to as a continuation, having had experience with this type of offense.

Plus the stakes are higher now. A team that led a Super Bowl by 25 points and somehow lost, returned a year later with the core of its roster intact. Then they made the curious choice to hire an offensive coordinator from the outside rather than promote from within. Matt LaFleur, quarterbacks coach, would have seemed like a reasonable candidate for promotion. Ditto for Mike McDaniel, offensive assistant, or even better, Morris, the wide receivers coach.

However, neither McDaniel nor LaFleur were even considered for the position. Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff let McDaniel walk, and he joined Shanahan in San Francisco as his run game coordinator. LaFleur, who at the very least wanted to retain his role as quarterbacks coach, is now offensive coordinator in Los Angeles under playcalling head coach Sean McVay. Lafluer was replaced by Bush Hamdan, the former Boise State quarterback in his first NFL role. The Falcons’ braintrust felt the most important offensive coaches to retain were Morris, and Chris Morgan, the third-year offensive line coach who actually has this run game humming; Atlanta’s backs are averaging 4.9 yards per attempt in 2017. 

The Falcons brass remains supportive of Sarkisian, and to speed up the adjustment period, the team is adding extra red zone and third down periods in practice this week. And Quinn reminded his team on Monday that he and his coaching staff are not beyond reproach; if players have ideas about how to right the ship, Quinn wants to hear them.

Just don’t tell coach you want a new offensive coordinator, because this one isn’t going anywhere soon.

 
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Well this doesn't make me feel good about the current state of affairs.  Good find, though.

 

As a little bit of an aside, though, anyone who used to chafe that Kyle wanted the audibles limited in the offense, this is why.

11 minutes ago, Goober Pyle said:

They both used the same word to describe Sarkisian’s approach to the offense: “disorganized.” And we’re not talking about desk clutter. Shanahan had a plan, they said. Every play and every concept employed was an exercise in deception. Set up one expectation in the first half, and then later break that expectation for a big gain in a critical moment. Sarkisian, formerly Alabama’s offensive coordinator and USC’s head coach, doesn’t have that aspect of the pro game in his tool bag, they say. But both players, and two team sources, scoffed at the idea of firing the 43-year-old former CFL quarterback at any point this season, backing up the public vote of confidence offered by coach Dan Quinn this week.

 

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5 minutes ago, PeytonMannings Forehead said:

Well this doesn't make me feel good about the current state of affairs.  Good find, though.

 

As a little bit of an aside, though, anyone who used to chafe that Kyle wanted the audibles limited in the offense, this is why.

 

The very part you quoted is what has been bugging me the last few weeks. KS would run a variety of plays from the same formation, but Sark seems to tip off the D with the formation. There’s no deception at all. It would give credibility to Malcolm Butler’s statement about knowing what was coming based on the formation. 

Edited by Goober Pyle
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I hate anonymous sources. And I hate this article for making me far less confident.  To call the OC disorganized is very telling.  Wish those two players had simply kept it in house.

The fact that they said “we’ve been through this before” makes it easy to narrow down the source.  Also makes it sound they view coaches as revolving doors and not their bosses.  

Edited by Falconsin2012
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Just now, Goober Pyle said:

The very part you quoted is what has been bugging me the last few weeks. KS would run a variety of plays from the same forma, but Sark seems to tip off the D with the formation. There’s no deception at all. It would give credibility to Malcolm Butler’s statement about knowing what was coming based on the formation. 

Pretty much.  It's all stuff we've discussed before.  It's still Kyle's offense, it just doesn't have his rhythm with regards to how he'd mix it up.  Playcalling is as much art as science, imo.

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3 minutes ago, Jesus said:

It worked last year. Doesn't mean it would this year.

Defenses have made adjustments.  The Buffalo game for instance, those safetys were lined up waaaayyyy off the LOS.  But Sark has to do a better job running different plays out of the same formation -- that's where the big plays came from last year.  That may not be his style, but that's what works for this offense.  

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11 minutes ago, PeytonMannings Forehead said:

Well this doesn't make me feel good about the current state of affairs.  Good find, though.

 

As a little bit of an aside, though, anyone who used to chafe that Kyle wanted the audibles limited in the offense, this is why.

 

Yup.  And Quinn hired KS because coaching against him he knew his attention for detail and schematic brilliance.  Said Shanny was the most difficult to gameplan for.  Quinn never coached against Sark.  Doesn’t know how he would respond once forced off script.  It would have been far more prudent for Quinn to hire someone he has matched wits against on Sundays.  We have been plunked by Pete Carroll.

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2 minutes ago, Falconsin2012 said:

Yup.  And Quinn hired KS because coaching against him he knew his attention for detail and schematic brilliance.  Said Shanny was the most difficult to gameplan for.  Quinn never coached against Sark.  Doesn’t know how he would respond once forced off script.  It would have been far more prudent for Quinn to hire someone he has matched wits against on Sundays.  We have been plunked by Pete Carroll.

Pete-Carroll-Patriots2.jpg

 

I'm still not totally down on Sark.  Coaches have a learning curve too, just like players, and this offense still has an execution problem.  Basically, everyone needs to get their stuff together.

Edited by PeytonMannings Forehead
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37 minutes ago, Goober Pyle said:

They both used the same word to describe Sarkisian’s approach to the offense: “disorganized.” And we’re not talking about desk clutter. Shanahan had a plan, they said. Every play and every concept employed was an exercise in deception. Set up one expectation in the first half, and then later break that expectation for a big gain in a critical moment. Sarkisian, formerly Alabama’s offensive coordinator and USC’s head coach, doesn’t have that aspect of the pro game in his tool bag, they say. But both players, and two team sources, scoffed at the idea of firing the 43-year-old former CFL quarterback at any point this season, backing up the public vote of confidence offered by coach Dan Quinn this week.

 

12 minutes ago, PeytonMannings Forehead said:

Pretty much.  It's all stuff we've discussed before.  It's still Kyle's offense, it just doesn't have his rhythm with regards to how he'd mix it up.  Playcalling is as much art as science, imo.

The part above you bolded is what I (and others) have been saying about Shanny even though many wanted him gone because of he SB loss. He was a genius at play calling and using plays to set up other plays. I think I even said to you in a post that he was a 'chess master' or something along those lines. I wouldn't even be surprised if he used a play in one game to set up a play in another game because he knows they'd be studying the game film. I was begging to have him for just one more season. I really would like to have seen how this O was with one more year under their belt. 

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15 minutes ago, PeytonMannings Forehead said:

Pete-Carroll-Patriots2.jpg

 

I'm still not totally down on Sark.  Coaches have a learning curve too, just like players, and this offense still has an execution problem.  Basically, everyone needs to get their stuff together.

I’m not either.  One other concern that has surfaced is that it’s  been more than a decade since he coached in the NFL.  The game has changed quite a bit.  More concerning is that what works in college no longer translates to the NFL.  These Urban Meyer offenses with RPO don’t convert and they are the norm across college football.  

Is that a foolish concern?

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1 minute ago, fuego said:

 

The part above you bolded is what I (and others) have been saying about Shanny even though many wanted him gone because of he SB loss. He was a genius at play calling and using plays to set up other plays. I think I even said to you in a post that he was a 'chess master' or something along those lines. I wouldn't even be surprised if he used a play in one game to set up a play in another game because he knows they'd be studying the game film. I was begging to have him for just one more season. I really would like to have seen how this O was with one more year under their belt. 

I remember I did a thread some months back entitled: Why I'll Miss Kyle.

Needless to say it didn't wind up being that popular.

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30 minutes ago, Falconsin2012 said:

I hate anonymous sources. And I hate this article for making me far less confident.  To call the OC disorganized is very telling.  Wish those two players had simply kept it in house.

Well, I don't think most coaches call plays like Shanny. So when they say 'disorganized', they could be saying that only because they've had Shanny for 2 years and now that they don't, they're basically saying all coaches are disorganized. Maybe once you go 'Shanny' it's hard to go back.

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16 minutes ago, PeytonMannings Forehead said:

Defenses have made adjustments.  The Buffalo game for instance, those safetys were lined up waaaayyyy off the LOS.  But Sark has to do a better job running different plays out of the same formation -- that's where the big plays came from last year.  That may not be his style, but that's what works for this offense.  

Yep so true. The falcons were getting big plays out of 3 TE sets last year.

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3 minutes ago, Falconsin2012 said:

I’m not either.  One other concern that has surfaced is that it’s  been more than a decade since he coached in the NFL.  The game has changed quite a bit.  More concerning is that what works in college no longer translates to the NFL.  These Urban Meyer offenses with RPA don’t convert and they are the norm across college football.  

Is that a foolish concern?

Well, yeah, the concern about such long stints between NFL gigs could be something to take into account, but his offense was never like Urban Meyer's.  Even with all of the gun stuff, it was still anchored in pro concepts.  

I've never been a huge fan of Urban Meyer's offense, but that's football right now.  Every NFL team has those run-pass-options built into their scheme -- Kyle did too.  You look at the Chiefs right now, what Andy Reid is doing right is essentially a pro version of one of those college spread option offenses.

It's a brave new world out there, my friend.  All of this stuff, college and pro, are more mashed together now more than ever.

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I think it's telling that the term disorganized was even mentioned. I'd really like to know if the term disorganized is used around Bill B.? I never saw anything about the patriots that made me think disorganized. Bill has that team in such a plug and play mode it's not even funny. Just like Bama.

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Be grateful we're 3-3 and not 1-4 which was quite a realistic possibility. Beat the Jets and we're a respectable 4-3, if you don't consider losing to Miami. But with the divisional games still to play I'm hoping for 9-7, but thinking 8-8 for the season. At least let use win all our home games. Although the Cowboys game is going to be a home game for them. ******* hate the fact people sell tix to Cowboy fans.  

Edited by TakkSakkAttakk
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