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FalconAge

2017: The Superbowl Killed Us, The Offseason Buried Us

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Grab a cup of coffee and settle in, this won't be brief

The 2017 Offseason Is The Reason We Suck, Here are 5 Mistakes We Couldn't Overcome

 

Superbowl LI was as traumatic for me as it was for everyone here.

The most heart-breaking loss in sports history was cruel reminder that hope is a dangerous sentiment to a Georgia sports fan.

Outside of one for the Braves and one for the Dawgs, this state does not know how to win, and each team's season is a lesson in moderating expectations.

It was a lesson I did not learn, as I was HOPEFUL after the Superbowl.

It seemed to me that we had several things in our favor at the time, an offense with record-breaking potential, a defense with exciting young players and a brilliant head-coach who had his finger to the pulse of the modern NFL.

…...Then the 2017 Offseason arrived, and we made five decisions that doomed this team to the sad state of affairs we see today. Three of these decisions I questioned at the time, others I had no idea of the later impact, they are listed below.

Decisions I Questioned:

1.Brain Drain :Hiring An Outsider To Run Kyle Shanahan's System

Before Kyle Shanahan even left the building, I was beating the drum on here for us to hire either Matt Lafleur or Mike McDaniel, with McDaniel being my preference.

Both of these guys worked closely with Kyle predating the Falcons, and could be considered members of Kyle's coaching tree, just as Kyle was for Gary Kubiak.

I was particularly fascinated with Mike McDaniel, who was regarded by everyone to be the smartest person in any room he walked into, and was trusted to actually write Shanahan's playbook in Cleveland. To this day he is considered a genius of the outside-zone running game, and knows more than anyone about how Kyle Shanahan designs a game plan.

Instead, we interviewed both, and passed them over for an acquaintance from Quinn's past. Steve Sarkesian was chosen to come from the college game and call plays for our team with no experience in the Kubiak-Shanahan variant of the WCO, and no knowledge of our roster. The results spoke for themselves, as with almost the same exact players, we looked like a shell of the team a season earlier rivaled the "Greatest Show On Turf". 

Firing Sarkesian and switching to the simple, comfortable Four-Verts Kubiak ran for us under Smith, completed the offensive collapse. The scheme, (as we run it), has aged badly in the NFL, and been largely solved by the league's defenses. The component that makes it actually viable, a QB with a cannon arm, isn't present in Atlanta, and has Matt looking like less than the quarterback he truly is. Another aspect of Kyle's system that we are missing, it challenged Matt so much physically and mentally, that he had to travel to California to work on every aspect of his game in order to operate it at the highest level. Going back to Kubiak has allowed him to regress, and revert to merely an improved version of the happy-footed statue that existed in Mike Smith's final years. 

 

2.The Scarecrow: Not Re-signing Dwight Freeney (For Vic's sake alone)

Many people here discount Vic Beasley's 2016 season by saying it was a fluke, and he just got really lucky. I agree and disagree, It was a "fluke", in that he has not experience such success before or after, but he did not just get "really lucky" or not entirely.

While he did have the fortune of facing off against Havenstein and a few backups in his 2016, the truth is Vic was fundamentally a different player that season.

Coming out of Clemson, Vic Beasley was something out of a science lab. He was strong, quick, fast and could jump out of the gym. I was excited to land him at 8, as I thought he fit the LEO concept perfectly, as essentially a 3-4 ROLB, in our 4-3 under scheme. His rookie season had some bad tape, but he finished strong and could build on it the next season. He showed the signs of a player with immense physical ability and low football i.q., but that was always something experience and coaching could correct.

When I found out that we signed Dwight Freeney, I was moderately excited, I didn't know how much he had left in the tank, but he was a vet with a ton of knowledge and would be good for the young players around him.

I had no idea.

For whatever reason, players just didn't seem to connect with Brian Cox. Maybe his old school technique has lost relevance with the modern game's changes, or maybe his abrasive personality caused players like Vic and Shede to tune him out. Either way, when Dwight Freeney showed up, a lightbulb turned on for several players.

None moreso than Vic Beasley. Vic was screaming off of the edge, making plays in the flats against mobile QBs, and even managed to find the endzone off of his own strip-sack.  Each game he walked out there with a plan, and the 15.5 sacks (with a couple more negated by penalty) are proof that the plan was effective.

The difference was that for that shining, special season, Vic Beasley had a brain, and that brain was Dwight Freeney. Beasley was willing to tell anybody who asked about how Dwight broke down the opposing tackle's tape during the weak, and gave suggestions on gameday about ways to attack. The most incredible thing about all of this is that Vic scored 15.5 sacks without even having a true counter to his outside speedrush. Were he to learn a countermove, perhaps an inside spin, he could have been Von Miller 2.0 in future season.

The one person more qualified than any to teach Vic that counter was Dwight Freeney, but Quinn/TD felt that the person who unlocked the potential of at least three different young defensive linemen wasn't valuable enough to keep around for another year, and Vic has reverted to a worse version of himself than before Dwight even came. Gone is his plan, and tragically, after so much disappointment so is his effort. He looks broken, and he probably needs to find another team with a savvy veteran if he has any hopes of resurrecting his career. It is good and easy to say he is a grown man and professional athlete, but some just don't "get it" like others do, and need to be guided by a respected authority figure. 

I have no doubt that keeping Dwight Freeney around would have changed the trajectory of this young man's career.

 

3.The Illusion: Paying Devonta Freeman Elite Money For Looking Good In A System Designed To Make Running backs Look Good

I was mad about this at the time.....still am....sorry, that's all I got for this one.

 

 

Decisions I Didn't Question (At The Time):

 

4. Bad Blood:Paying Desmond Trufant Elite CB Money

I will admit that I love NFL bloodlines. When Desmond Trufant was the Falcons pick in 2013, I was pretty confident we at least going to get a competent NFL professional, and one who had an older sibling in the league to lean on for advice. I was torn between Trufant and Xavier Rhodes, as by that year I was obsessed with the idea of the long, physical press corner that we had seen in Seattle for a few years at that point. I had Xavier by a hair, but was more than happy with Trufant's play early on.

I loved how well he played tight coverage, and just knew that he would take a step and become a true playmaker by learning to take away the ball. That....didn't happen, and we soon hired Seattle's DC that made me instantly wish we had selected my first choice, though I was still satisfied with Tru. 

We lost him for the final six games and the Superbowl, but I was confident that with a pass rush finally happening up front, he and our other DBs would finally shine.

However, now that the dust has settled, its looking like Tru has regressed and is nowhere near playing up to his high-dollar contract. I have outside hope that our weakness at D-line and this system change are hurting him, but players who sign his size checks are supposed to rise above the circumstances around them. Tight coverage was the one aspect of Tru's game that we could count on early, and now that that is seemingly gone, he is more or less just a guy out there.

Ironically, the poor play of the Seattle style corner we drafted, Isiah Oliver, makes it less and less viable to move on from Tru for the foreseeable future. Without Oliver being picked on, it's possible Tru looks even worse out there. 

 

5. Grandma's Boy: Drafting Takkarist McKinley (With No Plan To Develop Him)

 

(Huge Caveat: I STILL LOVE TAKK)

The 2017 Draft was not my finest hour as a talent evaluator. I was ****-bent on walking away with Jordan Willis (!) in the first, Eddie Jackson in the second, and Daeshon Hall in the third(!!!)....so yeah (but those spider-charts though....). 

As per usual when I saw we drafted somebody I didn't want, I obsessed over their college/combine tape, and checked their measurables against elite talent in the NFL. It's how I decided that Jordan Willis could become the next John Abraham, and Daeshon Hall had a Chander Jones-esque ceiling.

For Takk, I loved the intensity on tape, and his unique physical profile. He is blessed with a unique profile of a relatively short stature (6 2"), while also having freakishly long arms (34 3/4). This means he should have no problem with getting natural leverage on much taller Olinemen, while also having the length to defend against them controlling his chest. Combined with his strength and explosiveness, I was on board with him developing into a force on the edge for Dan Quinn's defense.

However, as a measurables addict, there was a combine number, and a area of tape that did have me worried.

Takk showed very little flexibility and bend as an edge rusher, and this was reinforced by his rather alarming 7.48 second 3-cone. Here was a guy with incredible burst and even play speed (4.59 40 at 250 lbs), who had absolutely no lower body flexion.

I read in the past about how an outside rusher must see the arc in the field, through the tackle, right into the quarterback. Arc too close and you will be stonewalled by the tackle, arc too wide, and you will be pushed right past the quarterback, often within fingertips length. The key to being able to dominate this arc is to beat the tackle to the spot, and bend the lower body on a line that leads right into the pocket.

That wasn't Takk's game, but I fully expected him to be developed in that aspect by Quinn, who Michael Bennett credits for making him into the player he is today. That has not happened thus far. Takk is now a specialist in almost sacks, a fact he references on his own twitter homepage. He still has great hustle and explosion, but is unable to actually make it count, even in those rare instances when he is given enough time by the secondary.

Von Miller was often referred in his pre-draft profile as being like "Gumby" with his ability to "slalom" and drive his foot into the ground and bend skier-style parallel to the ground and into the quarterbacks lap. It's an ability that likely has a large part to due with genetics, but it is also something that he works at tirelessly. Von Miller works on his flexibility whenever possible, from the basic hoop drills, all the way to at one time taking up yoga along with Jason Peirre Paul (Yoga was also big in L.O.B. era Seahawks). It seems he abandoned it after he adopted the relevant exercises, but it is an invaluable asset for an edge guy, specifically one with as stiff a lower body as Takk. There are any number of hand-fighting techniques that Takk could be learning, but with his natural length and leverage advantage, being able to bend outside would be his most lethal one by far. 

I figured that in between Quinn having intimate knowledge of D-line development, and being a foreword-thinking, progressive coach, this issue would have been isolated and addressed, even if it ended up with our 2017 1st overall pick conducting part of his training in Lululemons.

This is one that has a chance to turn around, and despite myself, I have hope(!) that Quinn's successor is able to give us the D-line we thought we were buying with his hire.

 

There were other things that year that didn't help (Sean Harlow and Duke Riley were wasted picks) and we made plenty of mistakes in following years (not entertaining a Julio trade, signing re-treads at OC), but I fundamentally believe that the root of the divergent path we took from our Superbowl pinnacle were the 5 decisions in 2017 listed above.

They sucked, now we suck, but hopefully these will be valuable lessons for the next G.M.-

 

  • When something is working extremely, do whatever is necessary to keep the ball rolling through continuity. Whether it's promoting a subordinate to continue a system, or keeping a mentor and pupil together for a second year, recreate as best you can the conditions that led to success the first time around.
  • Don't be fooled and then overpay when a previously mediocre-to-just-good player excels in a system designed to make them succeed.
  • Be wary of paying top dollar for a one dimension skill position player, because when they lose that one dimension, they are useless to you.
  • If you draft or sign a player with a fatal flaw in their game, it is your responsibility as a coaching staff to isolate and attack that weakness, to develop it until it no longer stops the player from reaching their full potential.

 

 

Thanks to anybody who stuck around and made it through this, I don't think we will be all that competitive until at least 2021, but I will continue to support my Falcons and I hope you will too.

 

 

 

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A lot of things went wrong but this points out the main ones. Still don't agree with the whole "Freeney-Vic" thing. If letting Freeney go was a mistake, keeping Vic was going to always be a mistake. Drafting Takk was an eye opener and a clear reaction to Vic's soft nature. Should have taken Watt when you go back to the measurables. But at the end of the day, this should be posted inside the GM's office at FB going forward.

1 hour ago, FalconAge said:
  • When something is working extremely, do whatever is necessary to keep the ball rolling through continuity. Whether it's promoting a subordinate to continue a system, or keeping a mentor and pupil together for a second year, recreate as best you can the conditions that led to success the first time around.
  • Don't be fooled and then overpay when a previously mediocre-to-just-good player excels in a system designed to make them succeed.
  • Be wary of paying top dollar for a one dimension skill position player, because when they lose that one dimension, they are useless to you.
  • If you draft or sign a player with a fatal flaw in their game, it is your responsibility as a coaching staff to isolate and attack that weakness, to develop it until it no longer stops the player from reaching their full potential.

 

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  • When something is working extremely well, do whatever i,s necessary to keep the ball rolling through continuity. Whether it's promoting a subordinate to continue a system or keeping a mentor and pupil together. Recreate, as best you can, the conditions that led to success the first time around.
  • Don't be fooled and then overpay when a previously mediocre-to-just-good employee excels in a system designed to make them succeed.
  • Be wary of paying top dollar for a one dimensional skill set employee, because when they lose that one dimension, they are useless to you.
  • If you sign an employee with a fatal flaw in their skill set, it is your responsibility as a boss to isolate and attack that weakness, to develop it until it no longer stops the employee from reaching their full potential.

THANKS !!! Excellent Post !!! These bullets will be part of my office << TO DO ! >> Bulletin Board at my engineering firm.

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10 hours ago, BLACK WATCH said:
  • When something is working extremely well, do whatever i,s necessary to keep the ball rolling through continuity. Whether it's promoting a subordinate to continue a system or keeping a mentor and pupil together. Recreate, as best you can, the conditions that led to success the first time around.
  • Don't be fooled and then overpay when a previously mediocre-to-just-good employee excels in a system designed to make them succeed.
  • Be wary of paying top dollar for a one dimensional skill set employee, because when they lose that one dimension, they are useless to you.
  • If you sign an employee with a fatal flaw in their skill set, it is your responsibility as a boss to isolate and attack that weakness, to develop it until it no longer stops the employee from reaching their full potential.

THANKS !!! Excellent Post !!! These bullets will be part of my office << TO DO ! >> Bulletin Board at my engineering firm.

That's pretty cool, good luck at the firm man.

An engineer would likely do a better job of rebuilding the team than this front office.

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Good stuff. The Sark hire was as puzzling then as it is now when you think about it. What was Quinn thinking? Hiring a guy who had never coached in the NFL to replace one of the great playcallers in today's game?..we had real options..and we had LeFleur in the building?..

And over paying Freemen especially after he whiffed on Hightower's pass rush? You think Belichek would have made that move?..

We were in a win now mode when it should have been a partial rebuild to fix obvious flaws..

 

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Really nice effort although I disagree with several things that you wrote.

Trufant was a top 10 corner at the time of his injury and he's a top 10 corner right now. By nearly every metric used to grade cornerbacks he's a top 10 corner, save interceptions which is always been his down point but in terms of actual coverage when he is not told to cover grass and play 15 years off.    He is as good as you're going to find.

I appreciate the effort though....   I truly do

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Bottomline is Quinn is a good position coach but a terrible head coach. He was hyped as “The Next Great Coach” by Peter King among others.  Many of us (myself included) bought into that hype. Quinn bought into that hype. His shortcomings were masked by KS and ultimately he has destroyed the team. 

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22 hours ago, falconsd56 said:

Really nice effort although I disagree with several things that you wrote.

Trufant was a top 10 corner at the time of his injury and he's a top 10 corner right now. By nearly every metric used to grade cornerbacks he's a top 10 corner, save interceptions which is always been his down point but in terms of actual coverage when he is not told to cover grass and play 15 years off.    He is as good as you're going to find.

I appreciate the effort though....   I truly do

If you think Desmond Trufant is "as good as you are going to find", I don't think you watch many other cornerbacks.

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I totally agree with mostly #1 - Not choosing LaFleur (or maybe even McDaniel) was a huge mistake. It was the obvious choice and they blew it. If it didn't work you couldn't blame them for going in that direction.

So hard to see two assistants we had in that SB team (one that should of stayed), now Head Coaches and being contenders for this year's SB, while our Falcons have only 1 win on the season only 3 years later.

McDaniel is still out there, I would be interested if he would even be considered. Also Matt's younger brother Mike who was here as well and now also is with McDaniel and Shanahan in San Francisco.

 

I also agree on Freeman.

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The issue is how we dealt with 28-3.  And I don't just mean in the mental sense.  Embrace the suck was the wrong approach.  Changing the way we operated was the wrong approach.  After that game, coaches should have owned that mistake themselves and said they let the team down.  If we run the ball and then kick the field goal nobody is saying we need to be more ball control offense

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2 hours ago, FalconAge said:

If you think Desmond Trufant is "as good as you are going to find", I don't think you watch many other cornerbacks.

Actually I have.

I have seen many of the so called elite "lock down corners" get absolutely toasted.

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On 10/23/2019 at 10:30 AM, 4LoveoftheGame said:

I totally agree with mostly #1 - Not choosing LaFleur (or maybe even McDaniel) was a huge mistake. It was the obvious choice and they blew it. If it didn't work you couldn't blame them for going in that direction.

So hard to see two assistants we had in that SB team (one that should of stayed), now Head Coaches and being contenders for this year's SB, while our Falcons have only 1 win on the season only 3 years later.

McDaniel is still out there, I would be interested if he would even be considered. Also Matt's younger brother Mike who was here as well and now also is with McDaniel and Shanahan in San Francisco.

 

I also agree on Freeman.

I want Mike Mcdaniel here, but if he's an OC he will be a rental. We either need to bring him in as HC and pair him with a veteran DC to serve as assistant coach, or have an interim coach for 2020 while we wait for Mcdaniel to get a year of seasoning as an O.C. under his belt.

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On 10/22/2019 at 10:46 AM, falconsd56 said:

Really nice effort although I disagree with several things that you wrote.

Trufant was a top 10 corner at the time of his injury and he's a top 10 corner right now. By nearly every metric used to grade cornerbacks he's a top 10 corner, save interceptions which is always been his down point but in terms of actual coverage when he is not told to cover grass and play 15 years off.    He is as good as you're going to find.

I appreciate the effort though....   I truly do

 

On 10/23/2019 at 9:11 AM, FalconAge said:

If you think Desmond Trufant is "as good as you are going to find", I don't think you watch many other cornerbacks.

Shows how little you know about CB around the league. Jalen Ramsey got toasted last year and he is getting burnt worse than Trufant. 
good write up despite many assumptions.

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On 10/21/2019 at 5:55 PM, vel said:

A lot of things went wrong but this points out the main ones. Still don't agree with the whole "Freeney-Vic" thing. If letting Freeney go was a mistake, keeping Vic was going to always be a mistake. Drafting Takk was an eye opener and a clear reaction to Vic's soft nature. Should have taken Watt when you go back to the measurables. But at the end of the day, this should be posted inside the GM's office at FB going forward.

 

Yep. A top 10 pick shouldn’t need a baby sitter in Freeney. Takk over Watt is an head scratcher.  Also a lesson of how giving too much power to an unproven HC on roster can be a disaster. 

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6 minutes ago, falcons007 said:

Yep. A top 10 pick shouldn’t need a baby sitter in Freeney. Takk over Watt is an head scratcher.  Also a lesson of how giving too much power to an unproven HC on roster can be a disaster. 

Just because you "shouldn't" need somebody to help you with something, doesn't mean you don't.

Throw skillset and draft position out the window, Vic Beasley has no football i.q. but was able to ball out under Freeney's guidance. 

When the player himself is conducting interviews pointing out how beneficial it was, why the heck would you split them up?

Vic was going off in 2019 using one move. DQ should have recognized that and asked Freeney's help to add his signature spin move to Vic's arsenal, as it was clear that Bryan Cox wasn't reaching anybody on this team.

You have to throw out what "should" be and reckon with what "is". As an NFL head coach the stakes are too high. And all these mistakes together are exactly how we find ourselves where we are today.

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11 minutes ago, FalconAge said:

Just because you "shouldn't" need somebody to help you with something, doesn't mean you don't.

Throw skillset and draft position out the window, Vic Beasley has no football i.q. but was able to ball out under Freeney's guidance. 

When the player himself is conducting interviews pointing out how beneficial it was, why the heck would you split them up?

Vic was going off in 2019 using one move. DQ should have recognized that and asked Freeney's help to add his signature spin move to Vic's arsenal, as it was clear that Bryan Cox wasn't reaching anybody on this team.

You have to throw out what "should" be and reckon with what "is". As an NFL head coach the stakes are too high. And all these mistakes together are exactly how we find ourselves where we are today.

That’s why they hire DL coaches and DC who aren’t counted as part of the cap. It’s the job of coaches. You don’t go sign players to baby sit other players.. 

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Just now, falcons007 said:

That’s why they hire DL coaches and DC who aren’t counted as part of the cap. It’s the job of coaches. You don’t go sign players to baby sit other players.. 

Freeney wasn't signed to babysit Beasley, he was signed to played football. The unexpected result was that Beasley evolved before our eyes.

When a player looks transformed to the extent that Beasley did from 2015 to 2016, and they TELL you what the reason is, it is utter foolishness not continue it as long as it is working. Heck Hageman gave him credit for his improved play as well 

 

 

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12 minutes ago, FalconAge said:

Freeney wasn't signed to babysit Beasley, he was signed to played football. The unexpected result was that Beasley evolved before our eyes.

When a player looks transformed to the extent that Beasley did from 2015 to 2016, and they TELL you what the reason is, it is utter foolishness not continue it as long as it is working. Heck Hageman gave him credit for his improved play as well 

 

 

Freeney wasn’t signed until  late in 2017 coz many teams thought he couldn’t play football. Falcons were not alone. They should have paid him enough money to coach. By that same logic, they should have signed Chester because RS said he helped him play at high level. That points to coaching problem.

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1 minute ago, falcons007 said:

Freeney wasn’t signed until  late in 2017 coz many teams thought he couldn’t play football. Falcons were not alone. They should have paid him enough money to coach. By that same logic, they should have signed Chester because RS said he helped him play at high level. That points to coaching problem.

Freeney was signed late because he wanted to miss team's offseason work. Its the same thing Tony G used to do.

And the fact is we neither re-signed Freeney as a player, nor brought him in as a coach, so my point still stands.

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On 10/21/2019 at 9:05 PM, ⚡Slumerican⚡ said:

What killed this team was going all in hoping for a return trip the next season.. Some bad moves and more bad moves.. After KS left the window was closed 

In hindsight it seems like the window actually closed midway through the second half of the SB. Right now we seem about as far from a SB trip as you can get and still be a team in the NFL. If our SB cycle stays the same, we'll finally be getting back just in time for Super Bowl 71.  :ninja:

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56 minutes ago, FalconAge said:

Freeney was signed late because he wanted to miss team's offseason work. Its the same thing Tony G used to do.

And the fact is we neither re-signed Freeney as a player, nor brought him in as a coach, so my point still stands.

Signing him as a player makes no sense to baby sit others and waste a roster spot. I guess every young player needs a baby sitter who will miss the camp and join the team late. 
 

what hurt them is not making moves to get pass rushers and poor drafting of edge rushers in first round.

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55 minutes ago, PokerSteve said:

In hindsight it seems like the window actually closed midway through the second half of the SB. Right now we seem about as far from a SB trip as you can get and still be a team in the NFL. If our SB cycle stays the same, we'll finally be getting back just in time for Super Bowl 71.  :ninja:

My bet is 2020 or 2024

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