Goober Pyle

Schultz: Falcons’ season decline stems from bad decisions, not just injuries

180 posts in this topic

https://theathletic.com/693324/2018/12/04/schultz-falcons-season-decline-stems-from-bad-decisions-not-just-injuries/

 

Schultz: Falcons’ season decline stems from bad decisions, not just injuries

Let’s begin with the words that nobody in the Falcons’ organization publicly will acknowledge right now but are a given when an NFL team slides from Super Bowl run to second-round playoff exit to barreling through “Stop! Road closed!” signs, then off the edge and down the embankment.

There are going to be changes. Some will come within Dan Quinn’s coaching staff, probably on both sides of the ball. Some may come in the personnel department. Many will come on the roster.

The Falcons are 4-8 in large part because they lost too many significant starters to injuries early in the season and the players who stepped in were either woefully inadequate or unprepared for expanded roles. That’s not an unusual malady in a salary-cap league, where the backups often are either young or on the fringes of league-worthy.

But the organization needs to come to terms with this reality: Injuries are not the only reason things went south.

The Falcons have ignored warning signs in these three areas for two seasons:

Leadership

It was noteworthy Quinn referenced “leadership opportunities” for players as he scrambled for positive talking points in his Monday news conference. It was his way of saying, “Step up.”

But the Falcons have played 12 games. By this point, we know there’s a leadership void. Except for a few players, it’s not a great locker room when things are going south. There doesn’t necessarily seem to be much in the way of backbiting or personal agendas, but there’s very little in the way of tough veteran leadership.

Quinn is big on the “Brotherhood.” It conveys a sense that no matter the circumstances or negative influences that attempt to permeate the locker room, the “Brotherhood” will hold things together.

The problem with this version of the “Brotherhood” is it’s comprised mostly of players who are either young or have no clue how to lead or just aren’t cut out for the role when things go bad. There aren’t a lot of stand-up guys. There aren’t many (any?) players who seem inclined to get in a teammate’s face when they’re dragging. There aren’t many who others clearly look to in difficult moments.

This team needs a couple of tough veterans — preferably who carry two-by-fours.

That’s why teams lose eight out of 12. That’s why teams lose to Cleveland. That’s why seasons fall apart. Fix the room.

Offensive line

It’s no coincidence that the Falcons went to the Super Bowl following the same offseason when they fixed an important position: center. Alex Mack made everybody else on the line better.

But that was the last significant thing the Falcons did to improve their line. Going into the offseason, offensive and defensive lines were the most glaring needs. But the team spent its first draft pick on a wide receiver, Calvin Ridley. I questioned the decision then, and I question it now.

We’ll never know how good the run-blocking and pass protection might have been if guards Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco had stayed healthy. I suspect better but not good enough. They brought back Levitre, who failed to finish the 2017 season because of a triceps injury. He went down this season in Week 2 with … a torn triceps. Fusco was a modest free agent signing to fill the right guard spot, but Fusco went down in Week 7 after average play.

Mack has struggled. In his defense, starting between Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland can’t be easy. Right tackle Ryan Schraeder has had the worst season of his career (ditto on starting next to Garland). Football Outsiders recently ranked the Falcons 30th in run blocking and 18th in pass protection. Ryan has been sacked 36 times, which projects to a career high 48, and in past three games, he has been sacked 12 times and hit 29.

Some often ask how Tom Brady can be so effective with seemingly average weapons around him. Simple: 1) He’s great; 2) The Patriots prioritize protecting him with their offensive line. This game is still about blocking and tackling.

Pass rush

I mentioned to an NFL scout recently that the Falcons have a number of major money decisions to make on the roster after this season, listing Vic Beasley, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman for starters. He looked at me sideways and responded, “There’s no decision with Beasley.”

As in, he’s done. The Falcons logically won’t exercise Beasley’s $12.8 million option for 2019. The question is whether they try to bring him back at a significantly lower number as a role player. He has played better the past few games but overall hasn’t been nearly the player the Falcons expected when they drafted him in the first round in 2015. He had 15.5 sacks in 2016. He has 12 total in the other three.

But this isn’t all about Beasley. The Falcons’ 23 sacks rank 28th in the NFL. Pressure directly impacts takeaways, and the defense has only 11 of those (also 28th overall). The team lost two defensive linemen after last season: tackle Dontari Poe and end Adrian Clayborn. But they didn’t draft a defensive lineman until the third round (tackle Deadrin Senat) and did little else until adding Bruce Irvin late in the season. (Irvin has played 96 snaps in four games and has registered one quarterback hit and no sacks.)

Back to the veteran thing: I suspect it’s not a coincidence Beasley had his best season when veteran Dwight Freeney was on the roster. Even if Freeney was at the end of his career, he mandated attention from opponents and provided leadership. When Freeney was not re-signed, he was not replaced with another edge rusher.

Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who make personnel decisions in concert with each other, grossly miscalculated the growth and impact of others on the roster when they neither signed nor replaced Poe and Clayborn. It’s reminiscent of when the team let center Todd McClure go years ago, believing Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes were ready to step up.

This isn’t just about injuries. It’s about mistakes. The Falcons have to live with them for four more games.

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How many TATF members will agree with this because Schultz said it, whilst ridiculing the many TATF members who said the same things? 

The FO, TD and DQ own a lot of the responsibilities here, not just lower level coaches!! As well as some paper chasers, to which the team has many on board. 

 

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14 minutes ago, Goober Pyle said:

I mentioned to an NFL scout recently that the Falcons have a number of major money decisions to make on the roster after this season, listing Vic Beasley, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman for starters. He looked at me sideways and responded, “There’s no decision with Beasley.”

Yuup

Rgunzz and Flying Falcon like this

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Decent article, nothing really surprising in there...although i thought i read that we have already exercised Beasley's 2019 option?

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9 minutes ago, jidady said:

Anyone questioning the Calvin Ridley pick doesn't know enough about football to talk about football.

He might be a good player but the results speak for themselves 

4 wins.

Ridley might not really pan out until the next staff.

You get two consecutive non playoff years with Arthur Blank... unless you’re Dan Reeves

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Just now, Sun Tzu 7 said:

He might be a good player but the results speak for themselves 

4 wins.

 

Blaming that on a rookie receiver is absurd. And it's lazy critical thinking to believe that the Falcons should have expected the entire secondary and half the offensive line to get wiped out by injuries.

We picked the best player on the board, and he has performed like a player that shouldn't have been on the board 15 picks prior to that. He's pacing for 800 yards and 10 TDs as a rookie. Julio was 959/8. It's like the moronic "we shouldn't have traded up for Julio" posts back in the day.

I've got no patience for that kind of stupid.

Vandy, stingbee, falcons007 and 6 others like this

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5 minutes ago, etherdome said:

Wow!  An AJC writer criticizing the Falcons in a coherent manner!  

Stranger things.  

He's with The Athletic now!

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6 minutes ago, jidady said:

Blaming that on a rookie receiver is absurd. And it's lazy critical thinking to believe that the Falcons should have expected the entire secondary and half the offensive line to get wiped out by injuries.

We picked the best player on the board, and he has performed like a player that shouldn't have been on the board 15 picks prior to that. He's pacing for 800 yards and 10 TDs as a rookie. Julio was 959/8. It's like the moronic "we shouldn't have traded up for Julio" posts back in the day.

I've got no patience for that kind of stupid.

Didn’t say he was a bad player.  I’m saying that Quinn may not be around to reap the rewards.

Go back and tell me the coach that made it 2 consecutive non playoff seasons under Blank.

Injuries? Blank don’t give a **** about those excuses.  Reeves lost Vick.  Smitty lost Julio one year then half the oline the next year plus other guys and even then they weren’t elimated from the playoffs until the last game of the season.

Mora.... Smitty..... 2 years missing the playoffs. That’s what they got.  Didn’t matter who was injured.

1 down 1 to go

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10 minutes ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

Didn’t say he was a bad player.  I’m saying that Quinn may not be around to reap the rewards.

Go back and tell me the coach that made it 2 consecutive non playoff seasons under Blank.

Injuries? Blank don’t give a **** about those excuses.  Reeves lost Vick.  Smitty lost Julio one year then half the oline the next year plus other guys and even then they weren’t elimated from the playoffs until the last game of the season.

Mora.... Smitty..... 2 years missing the playoffs. That’s what they got.  Didn’t matter who was injured.

1 down 1 to go

Mora sealed his fate when he went on Radio as Falcons HC and said His dream job was to become College HC at washington.  IIRC in 2006, Falcons had both Kearney and JA 55 hurt, so was Finneran. Vick and Roddy didn’t do him any favors towards end of the season.

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49 minutes ago, falcons007 said:

What this team needs is a no nonsense coach who teaches sound fundamental situational football. Not some one lifting logs with rah rah messages. TD failed in replacing the talent after 2012, can he and DQ avoid another repeat of 2013 and 2014 next year.  

Quinn has to let his ego go, and hire him a real DC, that will draft his own personnel. That's why I'm not to fast to call out MM. He's a product of a defensive minded HC. I would steal Mike Nolan from the Saints. Anyone noticed that the Saints LB are playing great now?

falcons007 and GreggT like this

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17 minutes ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

Didn’t say he was a bad player.  I’m saying that Quinn may not be around to reap the rewards.

Go back and tell me the coach that made it 2 consecutive non playoff seasons under Blank.

Injuries? Blank don’t give a **** about those excuses.  Reeves lost Vick.  Smitty lost Julio one year then half the oline the next year plus other guys and even then they weren’t elimated from the playoffs until the last game of the season.

Mora.... Smitty..... 2 years missing the playoffs. That’s what they got.  Didn’t matter who was injured.

1 down 1 to go

O...kay? We seem to be having different conversations. I'm talking about Calvin Ridley, who is a bona fide stud. The rest of it isn't a discussion I'm in.

Vandy likes this

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All of the leaders on defense got hurt. Of course they lacked leadership. The communicator of the front 7 got hurt and the communicator of the secondary also got hurt. It's not just that we had injuries, it's who they were. It was the perfect storm of the wrong people going down. 

 

Pass rush and ol are valid concerns

 

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It is funny now to read articles from Schultz in the Athletic while his former comrade Bradley at the AJC writes virtually similar ones.  In the past, they would alternate, with maybe one writing the Falcons article one week while the other wrote the Hawks or UGA one.  Bradley wrote an article after Sunday's loss saying the Falcons need repairs ASAP.

I don't necessarily disagree with Schultz about the current state of things but actually believe the Falcons thought they had the OL resolved beforehand.  And, spending a late 1st round pick on an OL would really have not been the difference maker this year - a young OG would have sat on the sidelines probably until Fusco was hurt (Schweitzer would have still got first chance at Levitre's spot) and would be in the learning stage for several weeks.

As for drafting Ridley, I really think the Falcons thought Julio might sit out for awhile and had to have something around to fill his space.  If they had known Julio would be here all year, I could see them maybe drafting differently.

FalconJim likes this

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3 minutes ago, jlrfalcon said:

It is funny now to read articles from Schultz in the Athletic while his former comrade Bradley at the AJC writes virtually similar ones.  In the past, they would alternate, with maybe one writing the Falcons article one week while the other wrote the Hawks or UGA one.  Bradley wrote an article after Sunday's loss saying the Falcons need repairs ASAP.

I don't necessarily disagree with Schultz about the current state of things but actually believe the Falcons thought they had the OL resolved beforehand.  And, spending a late 1st round pick on an OL would really have not been the difference maker this year - a young OG would have sat on the sidelines probably until Fusco was hurt (Schweitzer would have still got first chance at Levitre's spot) and would be in the learning stage for several weeks.

As for drafting Ridley, I really think the Falcons thought Julio might sit out for awhile and had to have something around to fill his space.  If they had known Julio would be here all year, I could see them maybe drafting differently.

I think they simply went best player available like a lot of people here constantly scream for....

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Ok........I kinda glossed over when he started talking about Ridley and the offensive line.

I questioned the Ridley pick....but not because of the line ..I questioned it because we were so thin at defensive tackle......and unfortunately I was right.

regardless of that none of the available offensive linemen that were real candidates at that position have helped the that teams picked them

Take Will Hernandez....he  was considered one of the best linemen in the draft and a steal for a a high second round pick

 

Maybe he has improved but he was no better than what we have put out there..

Just lazy writing

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1 hour ago, jidady said:

Anyone questioning the Calvin Ridley pick doesn't know enough about football to talk about football.

I don't think it should be taken as a knock on Ridley. I think the implication is more about opportunity cost. What alternative did you pass on when you drafted him? Ridley is who we know him as after college and 1 year here A great technical route runner than can win 1v1, but who's hands occasionally go on vacation. He was certainly a good pick, but if you take him out and plug Gage, Hardy, or what's his name in, the offense is only marginally worse off. 

I personally like the pick. However, I'm not deaf to arguments against it. 

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1 hour ago, Goober Pyle said:

I mentioned to an NFL scout recently that the Falcons have a number of major money decisions to make on the roster after this season, listing Vic Beasley, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman for starters. He looked at me sideways and responded, “There’s no decision with Beasley.”

As in, he’s done. The Falcons logically won’t exercise Beasley’s $12.8 million option for 2019.

Wanna bet? He'll probably end up the highest paid defensively player on the team and in the league.

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1 hour ago, jidady said:

Anyone questioning the Calvin Ridley pick doesn't know enough about football to talk about football.

Beat me to it. Didn’t hear a peep from Schultz when Ridley was scoring a touchdown a game 1st half of season. 

vel, red falcon and Jpg428gggg like this

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