Jump to content

How did the Falcons go from Super Bowl contenders to perplexity so quickly?


Goober Pyle
 Share

Recommended Posts

https://theathletic.com/1266533/2019/10/03/how-did-the-falcons-go-from-super-bowl-contenders-to-perplexity-so-quickly/

 

It wasn’t too long ago that the Falcons were playing for a Super Bowl title. But coming out of that heartbreaking loss, which put a lid on the 2016 season, there was a great deal of excitement for the future. The Falcons’ offense rarely was slowed throughout that season, with Matt Ryan winning the league’s MVP honor. The defense started six players who were either rookies or in their second year.

This front office was so confident about its situation, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I really believe that we don’t have any major holes in this roster,” less than a week after his team’s loss to New England in Super Bowl LI.

Fast forward to this point, and Atlanta opened the 2019 season with 22 players who were on that Super Bowl team. But in the time since, Atlanta exited the playoffs in the divisional round in 2017, went 7-9 last year and is off to a 1-3 start, with each of these three losses showcasing myriad issues.

With 12 games remaining, there is more than enough time to turn the season around. But more so than the losses themselves, how the Falcons lost has been discouraging for those following this team. With Atlanta heading to Houston this week, it seemed apropos to question why this franchise was unable to keep pace with where it was four seasons ago.

A lot of what made that 2016 team special had to do with the unsung veteran leaders inside the locker room who served as mentors for the younger contributors. Dwight Freeney and Tyson Jackson were instrumental for Vic Beasley, who recorded 15.5 sacks that year. Paul Worrilow proved to be a great presence for Deion Jones, who was in his rookie season. Patrick DiMarco was always there when Devonta Freeman, in his third year, needed him.

Absent Freeney, who was nearing the end of his career, those players weren’t exactly household names. But they were glue guys for a young roster that needed guidance.

“Those guys will have always value just because of the experience, leadership, the way they go about things,” safety Ricardo Allen said. “All of the dudes you named were some of the best pros I’ve ever had the chance to be around. Naturally, me being younger than them, you will feel it when they leave, when some of the experience leaves.”

And this team did. As those role players trickled out of the franchise, leadership positions opened up. Two leaders to emerge on the defensive side of the ball have been Allen and Grady Jarrett. Ryan and Julio Jones maintained their leadership presence on offense, with Alex Mack anchoring the offensive line. Therefore, it came as no surprise that this year’s team captains are Allen, Ryan, Julio Jones and Mack.

Allen believes this year’s leadership is strong but noted how special that 2016 crew was. He also noted the transition it took as players aged into their roles.

“I also think you look at this locker room, too. We’ve got some players who have been in the league for a while. It should be the same,” Allen said. “You would hope it would be the same, that once some veterans have left, that we have people on this team now who have been here for six, seven, eight years. It should be a direct transition, too. When it’s time to get out of here, I hope I’ve trained the young dudes up to be able to take over the role of me, too.”

But for some players, it’s hard not to wonder why, or if, they were able to make the transition into a leadership role. And if they don’t by a certain point, has the window of opportunity passed them by to do so?

That 2016 team possessed the mentality of fighting until the last play, whether it was winning big or not. No matter the opponent, the Falcons expended every ounce of energy they had. The offense was rolling and grabbed big leads in a lot of games. The defense came together late in the year, created turnovers and always played a physical brand of football.

That season was the blueprint of how head coach Dan Quinn would have hoped his roster, which no one has ever doubted the talent on, could perform week in and week out the past two-plus seasons. Instead, beginning in the 2017 season, what was seen the season prior on a consistent basis started to change.

Unexplainable games began to occur, as Atlanta didn’t seem to have it together from the start. The first game that comes to mind was when Atlanta traveled to New England in late October of 2017. The buildup to that game was immense, considering the two teams played in the Super Bowl the season prior. But even after a solid week of practice, something was amiss after kickoff.

In 2018, there was no better example than when Atlanta visited Cleveland. No one expected the Falcons to lose, especially after they crawled back to a 4-4 record. Instead, the Browns thumped them 28-16. Already this year, losses to the Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans have felt this way, where the energy needed at the start was absent.

The thing is, no one seems to have a tangible answer to the endless questions about this team.

Are there certain opponents Atlanta won’t get up for? Why don’t good practice weeks always result in sound play during games? Are there players getting too cocky heading into certain games? Did the franchise, from the top down, get too cocky after reaching the Super Bowl?

Have certain players become complacent? Did the team re-sign too many of those then-young 2016 stars? Is Quinn’s message not resonating anymore? Is this coaching staff not developing these players? Were some of these players overhyped following Super Bowl LI? Did some of these players buy into their own hype following Super Bowl LI?

These are all legitimate questions for those outside of the building to ponder as the team itself enters, quite possibly, the most pivotal week in Quinn’s head-coaching career.

This week, players pointed the finger at themselves for how the season has started. Julio Jones said what everyone has said the past couple of weeks — this is a better team than what has transpired for four games. It’s hard to argue this since the talent appears to be there.

So just how does this team play like it’s capable of doing?

“We can’t get that right until everybody collectively does their job instead of worrying about someone else’s job,” Julio Jones said. “I have to take care of Julio. Everybody’s got to take care of themselves to play and be accountable. Once everybody is doing that together, we can go out there and play Falcon football.”

The star wide receiver was later asked if there was any reason why teammates of his wouldn’t be solely focused on their primary job.

“It can be numerous things, whether it’s something — who knows?” he said. “It’s not an excuse for what’s going on. We just have to fix it at the end of the day. It could be any and everything. We’re human. We could have things going on at home. Or a guy was in for eight plays and then that one play he decides to take a little break, and it throws off the whole play.

“Who knows? There’s a lot of stuff that can go on in a ballgame. (The team needs) 11 guys on one play doing the right thing. That’s on us. It’s bringing awareness to it as far as practice. Hopefully, it carries over to the game.”

Whatever it is, the lack of focus and attention to detail from players who came ever-so-close to winning a Super Bowl has been stunning, to say the least. It has also come across as a poor reflection of Quinn and his staff. If 22 players from a Super Bowl contending team remain on the roster, with many still in the prime of their careers, how could the results diminish during such a short period of time?

Quinn pivoted from this line of thinking when he was asked how the team has evolved to this point.

“This is not the time for quiet reflection,” he said. “For me, the action is now. How do we get better today, right now? That’s really where my focus lies. I think that’s a fair question for you, but there’s a lot of reasons that we’re 1-3. I would say, in the last game, I didn’t like the tackling. I don’t like our turnover margin where we’re at. There are some things that need to get addressed. We’ve got a lot of football to play. My focus is only on now and this year’s team.”

If Quinn is gone after this season, that could mean Dimitroff is, as well. And if both are no longer employed by Atlanta, you can bet a new regime will do its part to rebuild the roster in the way it sees fit. That could mean a lot of players, outside of those with the big contracts attached with tons of dead money, could be on the way out.

Ryan, Allen, Jarrett, Julio Jones, Deion Jones, Devonta Freeman, Jake Matthews and Desmond Trufant all received big paydays while Dimitroff has been in his position. Generally speaking, when a franchise re-signs that many picks, especially to the contracts they received, it suggests the team knows a thing or two about drafting.

But if the team fails to produce with those players? Then, in this instance, the narrative of co-team builders putting together a roster with no “major holes” crashes and burns. It’s then left up to the next general manager to piece together a new-look NFL roster.

On Sunday, Atlanta’s first return trip to Houston since Super Bowl LI could be a stepping stone in either direction. At 1-3, who’s to say the Falcons don’t rally and put together a great season after all? The Indianapolis Colts reached the 2018 playoffs after starting 1-5, so anything’s possible. But if they do falter against the Texans, especially if it’s similar to their other three losses, it could signal that this, in fact, will be an incredibly long season.

And at this point, no one has a clue which Falcons team will show up.

“We’ve all got to play better,” Ryan said. “We’ve got to put ourselves in better positions. I think more so than anything, it comes down to being more consistent. Doing the little things over and over and over really well. Good football teams do that. We’re certainly capable of doing it. We haven’t done it, but we’ve got to go out there and change that narrative.”

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Letting Dwight Freeney go after one season with Vic, and not hiring one of Shanahan's disciples for O.C. were the two dumbest mistakes this team made after the Superbowl.

Even moreso than paying a running back elite money for looking good in an offensive system designed to make runningbacks look good.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, tldr said:

No one ever mentions it but our drafts the past 2 years have been really bad. The first two under DQ was one of the reasons we made the SB but the last 2, not inc. 2019, have been awful. Wasting 3rd-5th round picks on rbs and ol then cutting them a year later. WTF happened?

Here's your answer:

In typical Quinn fashion he said he’s just focused on how the team improves. He answers the question with questions of his own. How the team gets better, improves, tweak this and that. Here’s the problem. He doesn’t seem to have the answers to those questions himself and if he does, now’s a darn good time to bring them out. Quinn also doesn’t seem to get, if you don’t find answers to those questions, well you won’t have a job, in Atlanta at least.

By saying, "I’ve always coached to win".  . . . . Huh?  by letting opponents covert more than half the time on third down, giving up nearly 25 points a game. That’s a winning formula? And the turnover margin? Not in their favor in either. So where are the winning points? Missed tackles? By the way, it’s week five of the NFL season and the team is spending time working on how to tackle. 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

42 minutes ago, tldr said:

No one ever mentions it but our drafts the past 2 years have been really bad. The first two under DQ was one of the reasons we made the SB but the last 2, not inc. 2019, have been awful. Wasting 3rd-5th round picks on rbs and ol then cutting them a year later. WTF happened?

This definitely is a contributing factor. Not entirely the reason but a small part of it. Bad drafting eventually catches up to you. It was the main reason the team fell off a cliff after the 2012 season. 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 minutes ago, ZoneOne01 said:

This definitely is a contributing factor. Not entirely the reason but a small part of it. Bad drafting eventually catches up to you. It was the main reason the team fell off a cliff after the 2012 season. 

 

 

Falcons fell off a cliff after 2012 because they neglected the trenches and they had a real problem when it came to the dline and identifying/developing talent.

By the time they realized it it was too late.

There are some repeating themes.  Focusing on the offense so much at the expense of the dline.  No pass rush. Pass rushers not developing.  During the timespan every other team in the division develops multiple pass rushers...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 
This front office was so confident about its situation, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I really believe that we don’t have any major holes in this roster,” less than a week after his team’s loss to New England in Super Bowl LI.
 
 
That right there ^ is why we are where we are and why TD should be fired..... like right about now. 
Link to comment
Share on other sites

28 minutes ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

Falcons fell off a cliff after 2012 because they neglected the trenches and they had a real problem when it came to the dline and identifying/developing talent.

By the time they realized it it was too late.

There are some repeating themes.  Focusing on the offense so much at the expense of the dline.  No pass rush. Pass rushers not developing.  During the timespan every other team in the division develops multiple pass rushers...

The falcons wasted so many first round picks on defense with no pass rush to show for on the field. Heck the last legit pass rushers falcons had was John Abraham. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

30 minutes ago, sdogg said:
 
This front office was so confident about its situation, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I really believe that we don’t have any major holes in this roster,” less than a week after his team’s loss to New England in Super Bowl LI.
 
 
That right there ^ is why we are where we are and why TD should be fired..... like right about now. 

Don't agree with all of this, but I'm starting to feel similarly about TD. I worry that we don't have someone who can look objectively at this team anymore and make the necessary changes. The "brotherhood" makes that tricky for Quinn too.

This is the make or break week imho. They either show up or Quinn's time in Atlanta is over.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Seahawks  have a system that is about as perfect as can be for the NFL.. and They run it to perfection.. Russell Wilson is like a machine in that he has not had to jump from one O# to another like we have had to TRY AND DO!!  yes, we have only tried too.. But it don't work...  The more simple an O# system is ,, the better.. what a mess we are in this year.. It's sad that our FO who are suppose to be Professionals at what they do.. But to be honest ,, WE can all tell.. They don't have a clue.. Blank needs to clean house.... And this is the first time I've ever said that. But it's that bad.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1. Over confidence- A major fault of man

2. TD not spending money wisely.

3. DQ and TD too stubborn to make change Or adjust their MO

4. No BIG back.

5. DQ was great when things were going good BUT  he is not the type of Coach who knows how to fix things when they are broken, how to right rhe ship. He'll just come up with good-sounding rant but you get the sense he really doesn't know or have the strength to fix this.  WE HAVE TO PRAY!!!

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, sdogg said:
 
This front office was so confident about its situation, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I really believe that we don’t have any major holes in this roster,” less than a week after his team’s loss to New England in Super Bowl LI.
 
 
That right there ^ is why we are where we are and why TD should be fired..... like right about now. 

It didn't. And that roster should have won the SB. TD was robbed of a ring because of terrible coaching decisions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Draftnut57 said:

Seahawks  have a system that is about as perfect as can be for the NFL.. and They run it to perfection.. Russell Wilson is like a machine in that he has not had to jump from one O# to another like we have had to TRY AND DO!!  yes, we have only tried too.. But it don't work...  The more simple an O# system is ,, the better.. what a mess we are in this year.. It's sad that our FO who are suppose to be Professionals at what they do.. But to be honest ,, WE can all tell.. They don't have a clue.. Blank needs to clean house.... And this is the first time I've ever said that. But it's that bad.

Here's a major difference.  Pass rushers.

The Seahawks will persue them in Free Agency and trade for them.

The last great pass rusher for the Falcons came via a trade.

Under TD the Falcons have been content on drafting and then trying to develop them.  And that has had so so results at best.  They did try to bring in a high priced FA once to pair with Abraham but that was a disaster so they never tried it again.

When they do spurge in FA it's been on DTs and not pass rushers.

2013... Falcons just came off NFC Championship appearance and were thought to be the next great team.  What did they do? Replace 3 out of 5 starters on the oline and cut their best pass rusher and sign a future HOF at the end of his career to replace him.  The team they beat in the playoffs?  Signed Michael Bennet and Cliff Avril and won the Superbowl.  Falcons oline is a disaster and implodes.

2014... After neglecting the trenches there is a big push to improve.  Sign FAs and draft to improve the trenches but not pass rushers. Massive injuries along the oline bury the team but Smitty was still in the playoff picture until the last game where they could not overcome the problems on the oline.

2017... At least this was a big step in the right direction.  Drafted a DE in the 1st AND brought in a FA and consequently that may have been the best defense in the Quinn Era.

2018... Let 3-4 guys go on the dline and addressed that HUGE need by drafting a WR and then a 3rd rounder DT.

2019... And this is where the parallels between Smitty and Quinn get scary.  Replaced 3 out of 5 starters on the oline.  After neglecting the trenches there is a big push to improve.  Sign FAs and draft to improve the trenches but not pass rushers.  In 2014 it was too late and it so far it's shaping up to be the same thing.  Meanwhile the Seahawks have Ziggy Ansah and traded for Clowney....

1-3 vs 3-1..... Nuff Said.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, tldr said:

No one ever mentions it but our drafts the past 2 years have been really bad. The first two under DQ was one of the reasons we made the SB but the last 2, not inc. 2019, have been awful. Wasting 3rd-5th round picks on rbs and ol then cutting them a year later. WTF happened?

This. Also, just about all the young drafted players who played well in 2016 have cratered to go along with the more recent players who haven’t done much. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

12 minutes ago, Falcanuck said:

It didn't. And that roster should have won the SB. TD was robbed of a ring because of terrible coaching decisions.

I agree.  TD gets a lot of blame for no reason IMO.  The only signing he’s had recently that looks really bad now is Freeman.  The draft... most on here just pointed  to DQ if the pick turned  out to be good and if the sucked then it was TDS guy.  

I don’t claim to have the answers either.  I don’t know what it is but I’m not blaming TD or DQ for going heavy o-line in FA and the draft.  Sucks that Lindstrom is hurt and these guys aren’t getting it done yet but I think they will.  I guess I just thought they’d play better than they have and that the defense would be a lot better.  I’ve been a huge defender of DQ but so far it appears to be more on coaching.  I hope we at least see them try SOMETHING different on defense this weekend.  That soft zone is awful to watch.  Play some man and blitz, F it if we get burnt.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

A lot of what made that 2016 team special had to do with the unsung veteran leaders inside the locker room who served as mentors for the younger contributors.

 

4 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

 

“We can’t get that right until everybody collectively does their job instead of worrying about someone else’s job,” Julio Jones said.

:ninja: 
 

Love these weekly articles from The Athletic @Goober Pyle. Lotta truth they keep happening on. Now they managed to get Julio to be candid :lol:, albeit it was probably on accident.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, FalconAge said:

Letting Dwight Freeney go after one season with Vic, and not hiring one of Shanahan's disciples for O.C. were the two dumbest mistakes this team made after the Superbowl.

Even moreso than paying a running back elite money for looking good in an offensive system designed to make runningbacks look good.

yeah, we had Matt Lafleur here as QB coach, never understood why he didn't get a shot. now hes a HC

had to get fancy and bring in rehab instead

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...