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A TDWII Observation: Kyle Shanahan Isn't Walking Through That Door...but the Falcons Keep Waiting


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Like it or not, the shadow of SB LI hangs over the Falcons.  Super Bowl losers are rarely immortalized…usually they simply become a footnote to the story of that particular NFL season.  But for the Falcons, instead of showcasing a Lombardi Trophy @ Flowery Branch…their identity and siubsequent legacy since and to this day is 28-3.

While the Falcons have sought to distance themselves from that day and collapse, at the same time they’ve been their own worst enemy in keeping that narrative alive.  And no action speaks to that more pointedly than the fact they are still running Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Let’s rewind…

When Shanahan was hired in 2015…he was seen as a great get.  A young, but coaching lifer…his upbringing included being reared in his fathers offense.  In terms of football speak – the offense he had brought from stop to stop in his coaching career was the equivalent of his native language.  Famously inflexible with regard to its’ execution and aubibling…Shanahan borders on being a control freak when it comes to playcalling.  This was not at first a welcome development for Matt Ryan who struggled through his initial season with Shanahan to perhaps the worst year of his career.  But year 2 produced a different dynamic…one that saw trust given and received by both Ryan and Shanahan and we know the rest.

Kyle Shanahan has not been a Falcon since February 6th, 2017, but his presence on the Falcons still looms.  The Falcons are on their second OC since then and both have been tasked with trying to run an offense that is not theirs in deference to players who were already familiar with the playbook Shanahan left behind.  Has an NFL team run an offense from 2 OC’s and 4 years ago?

This is not to say the criticisms of Sarkisian (then) and Koetter (now) aren’t fair.  At the end of the day, you need to be accountable for the role you have.  And the Falcons offense simply never returned back to the incredibly efficient and explosive levels of 2016.  But both Sark and Koetter were not set up to succeed either.

Shanahan has become who he is, not just because of his playbook…but because of his ability to navigate within that playbook in real time since it’s second nature to him.  To predictively understand the nature of what the defense is trying to do stop his offense and counter it.  Always a step ahead.  As great as Ryan and that offense was in 2016…the Falcons inability to realize that a large part of their success from that season stemmed from Shanahan himself, not simply his offense feels like it's become a critical factor in why the Falcons are stuck in neutral...or worse, reverse.

Hindsight is always 20/20.  In 2017, the season outlook was based on a historic offense returning a full compliment of players trying to avenge a historic outcome.  It seemed that all that was needed was a tweak here and a tweak there and SB LII, here we come.  But it didn’t turn out that way.  And now, here we are in 2020, still trying to unlock the full capability of a playbook that once had the Falcons at the doorstep of ultimate glory.  That seems to be the hallmark of a organization still looking back, not forward.  Perhaps doing so requires deeper cuts and harder times which is why TD and DQ are still employed.  It also seems clear though that the Falcons are chasing a mirage of a franchise that stopped existing a long time ago, ignoring the reality of what they've become.

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Like it or not, the shadow of SB LI hangs over the Falcons.  Super Bowl losers are rarely immortalized…usually they simply become a footnote to the story of that particular NFL season.  But for the Fa

It’s a good point by OP.    Hiring of Koetter I’ll never understand, but hiring him to run an offense he’s not well-versed in...Shanny’s WCO... is bat **** crazy.

Beating a dead horse, but the offense (passing wise) was efficient in 2018 in a couple of different metrics. Sark was scapegoated, plain and simple. The offense struggling for the 5 game losing streak

Beating a dead horse, but the offense (passing wise) was efficient in 2018 in a couple of different metrics. Sark was scapegoated, plain and simple. The offense struggling for the 5 game losing streak was directly correlated to injuries on the O-line, but the defense wasn't stopping anybody either.

DQ is just hit or miss (badly) with coaching personnel decisions. Matt LeFleur should have never been allowed to walk. Mike McDaniel should have never been allowed to walk.

No use crying over spilled milk though. Koetter is back in the booth and for the foreseeable future, he's the one calling plays. It is what it is at this point.

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I’ll reserve judgment for a few more weeks because I really liked our first half last week.  But my gut says you’re right.  When the chips are down we instinctively revert to what’s comfortable.  This may prevent Dirk from ever being great in this system.
 

Cause ultimately, Dirk can run his preferred system but do it using WCO terminology.  That makes it Dirk’s system, not KS’s

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2 minutes ago, Vandy said:

It’s a good point by OP. 
 

Hiring of Koetter I’ll never understand, but hiring him to run an offense he’s not well-versed in...Shanny’s WCO... is bat **** crazy.

It's hard to believe we did this.  

The best part of the article is where it talks about being one step ahead of the defense.  Knowing what they are trying to do & adjusting. 

Not just adjusting, but countering it immediately with instant play calls.  If Dirk Koetter has a list of plays that he's running & just checking them off, then we have a huge problem because that's never going to work well.

You must be able to read & react on the fly.  Make them pay by exploiting their personnel or countering their aggressiveness on the spot.   We have to execute too.  It's only one game so let's see what happens.  

Just like everyone else, I am concerned about our coaching staff.  There is a reason we don't get that loving feeling lmao.  When we see the Shannys, Reids & Paytons of the NFL consistently out coaching other teams you become envious.  But when you see consistent underachievement in crucial situations, it wreaks of predictability.  Blank needs to hold this staff accountable.  We're wasting incredible talent with mediocre coaching. 

Our team needs to dictate, not be dictated to.  We need to be the aggressors & put other teams on their heels. We seem to always be playing not to lose.  So sick of this crap.

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17 minutes ago, E. T. said:

There's bigger issues than that. Where's this freakin defense we've been waiting for!

When a team performs poorly or underachieves, there are generally multiple reasons as to why.  But if I’m making the claim that this team continues to try and strive and replicate the 2016 team...that team in the second half of the season ALWAYS played with a lead.  They scored A TD on their first possession a record amount of consecutive times.

Defensively, that allowed them to play an attacking style which also resulted in an extraordinary turnover +/- ratio.  If the other team scored, we simply knew we could match it.  To boil it down...we always had more punching power right from the get go.  But now, it seems like this team is built to fight the same way we did in 2016, but without the punching power Shanahan gave us.

Certainly, continual defensive breakdowns and underachievement are a big contributing factor for the Falcons mediocrity (being kind) the last two seasons.  But I’d attribute that in part to trying to establish an identity they’re no longer equipped to execute.

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1 hour ago, HASHBROWN3 said:

It's hard to believe we did this.  

The best part of the article is where it talks about being one step ahead of the defense.  Knowing what they are trying to do & adjusting. 

Not just adjusting, but countering it immediately with instant play calls.  If Dirk Koetter has a list of plays that he's running & just checking them off, then we have a huge problem because that's never going to work well.

You must be able to read & react on the fly.  Make them pay by exploiting their personnel or countering their aggressiveness on the spot.   We have to execute too.  It's only one game so let's see what happens.  

Just like everyone else, I am concerned about our coaching staff.  There is a reason we don't get that loving feeling lmao.  When we see the Shannys, Reids & Paytons of the NFL consistently out coaching other teams you become envious.  But when you see consistent underachievement in crucial situations, it wreaks of predictability.  Blank needs to hold this staff accountable.  We're wasting incredible talent with mediocre coaching. 

Our team needs to dictate, not be dictated to.  We need to be the aggressors & put other teams on their heels. We seem to always be playing not to lose.  So sick of this crap.

I agree, and like I said I wasn’t a fan of the Koetter hire because I believe Ryan’s game is best suited for WCO.
 

Koetter did a decent job here with his offense first time around, but (to OP’s point) seems to me his hands are tied in trying to run an offense he’s just not in mastery of.

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7 minutes ago, Vandy said:

What makes you say that? We arguably have more offensive talent on team now than we did in ‘16.

Coaching - the Falcons aren’t going to mutiny.

To add...think about what Shanahan did in SF.  He has a lesser QB (Jimmy G). His best RB is Raheem Mostert who is the definition of journeyman.  His WR1 in 2019 was acquired at the deadline (Sanders).

That type of ingenuity on the sidelines is not by mistake...it’s part of who Shanahan is and what he brings to the table.  I know the defense was the driving force behind that team...but he turned an offense I would classify personnel wise as unspectacular, into a formidable unit.

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8 minutes ago, TheDirtyWordII said:

When a team performs poorly or underachieves, there are generally multiple reasons as to why.  But if I’m making the claim that this team continues to try and strive and replicate the 2016 team...that team in the second half of the season ALWAYS played with a lead.  They scored A TD on their first possession a record amount of consecutive times.

Defensively, that allowed them to play an attacking style which also resulted in an extraordinary turnover +/- ratio.  If the other team scored, we simply knew we could match it.  To boil it down...we always had more punching power right from the get go.  But now, it seems like this team is built to fight the same way we did in 2016, but without the punching power Shanahan gave us.

Certainly, continual defensive breakdowns and underachievement are a big contributing factor for the Falcons mediocrity (being kind) the last two seasons.  But I’d attribute that in part to trying to establish an identity they’re no longer equipped to execute.

I agree with the punching power of the offense, that makes my point even better about the defense. Its been mediocre since DQ has been here, nothing has improved on that side of the ball and this is what he's known for. It's kind of leaving him exposed.

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6 minutes ago, Vandy said:

I agree, and like I said I’m not a Koetter fan because I believe Ryan’s game is best suited for WCO.
 

Koetter did a decent job here with his offense first time around, but (to OP’s point) seems to me his hands are tied in trying to run an offense he’s just not in mastery of.

Sure, good point.  But we can incorporate some concepts that exploit defenses & keep them off balance & unable to guess what we're trying to do.  Koetter can work on this for sure. 

What's promising is that he does this a couple times per game, but does it infrequently.  He should have more of these plays in plentiful supply on his clipboard & use them more often I think.

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5 minutes ago, E. T. said:

I agree with the punching power of the offense, that makes my point even better about the defense. Its been mediocre since DQ has been here, nothing has improved on that side of the ball and this is what he's known for. It's kind of leaving him exposed.

2018 really exposed DQ for me. We had injuries, but he was soundly out-schemed defensively by opponents that season. Plus he kept trotting Riley/Richards out there game after game.
 

And his protege Manuel became the fall guy.

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1 minute ago, Vandy said:

2018 really exposed DQ for me. We had injuries, but he was soundly out-schemed defensively by opponents that season. Plus kept trotting Riley/Richards out that game after game. And his protege Manuel became the fall guy.

...even today with Raheem Morris claiming culpability for a bad defensive game plan.  Don’t these game plans need to be run by DQ, a defensive mind himself?

Nobody questioned the logic of trying to stop an RB in his first game back from a fractured hip after a TC where he missed some time to a personal matter instead of Russell Wilson?  

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5 minutes ago, Vandy said:

2018 really exposed DQ for me. We had injuries, but he was soundly out-schemed defensively by opponents that season. Plus he kept trotting Riley/Richards out there game after game.
 

And his protege Manuel became the fall guy.

Agreed. When he took over the DC role that was the worst thing he could have done to his HC career.

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3 minutes ago, FentayeJones said:

Kinda hard for me to give an accurate assessment of Koetter with this current team when hes always playing from two scores down. In most games he has no choice but to go pass happy trying to catch back up. Until we field a decent defense  - I dont know. 

Well, we also fell behind because the offense failed to convert on 4th down four times, and on third and short at least twice (both times with rather predictable, typical DK run it up the gut playcalling).

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Accurate criticisms, but we’re at the point where we just need a competent defense. Even with Koetter calling the shots, this offense is so talented it doesn’t matter. What we need is a decent defense and we can go the distance. I called Shanny a god when we hired him, but I cannot fathom the season he could put together with our current offensive arsenal 

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7 minutes ago, Mr.11 said:

Well, we also fell behind because the offense failed to convert on 4th down four times, and on third and short at least twice (both times with rather predictable, typical DK run it up the gut playcalling).

Yeah but its five first rounders on the oline and they missed key blocks. They cant push the pile enough to get one yard? Matt and Mack sliding protections the wrong way allowing Adams to come in clean. 

Im not a Koetter fan but I cant honestly blame everything on him. 

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3 minutes ago, FentayeJones said:

Yeah but its five first rounders on the oline and they missed key blocks. They cant push the pile enough to get one yard? Matt and Mack sliding protections the wrong way allowing Adams to come in clean. 

Im not a Koetter fan but I cant honestly blame everything on him. 

Unfortunately there is a larger than it should be segment of the fan base who blame the OC for every single mistake that is made.

I have watched the first failed 4thdown a few times.....it was a well designed and well blocked play........with the exception of one guy..... Matthews was too slow getting on to the linebacker after initially  going to the left to give Gono's man a shove....if He does not take that step left then he probably would have gotten to the shooting linebacker.

 

 

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23 minutes ago, HASHBROWN3 said:

It's hard to believe we did this.  

The best part of the article is where it talks about being one step ahead of the defense.  Knowing what they are trying to do & adjusting. 

 If Dirk Koetter has a list of plays that he's running & just checking them off, then we have a huge problem because that's never going to work well.

You must be able to read & react on the fly.  Make them pay by exploiting their personnel or countering their aggressiveness on the spot.   We have to execute too.  It's only one game so let's see what happens.  

Just like everyone else, I am concerned about our coaching staff.  There is a reason we don't get that loving feeling lmao.  When we see the Shannys, Reids & Paytons of the NFL consistently out coaching other teams you become envious.  But when you see consistent underachievement in crucial situations, it wreaks of predictability.  Blank needs to hold this staff accountable.  We're wasting incredible talent with mediocre coaching. 

Our team needs to dictate, not be dictated to.  We need to be the aggressors & put other teams on their heels. We seem to always be playing not to lose.  So sick of this crap.

Well said. We've all been hoping Dirk could learn the language of this offensive scheme and then be able to execute it on a spontaneous play-by-play basis, which is what makes this offense so difficult for defenses to stay on top of.

But Koetter just has his list of plays and runs them ad nauseum. lol. His only adaptive move is running the ball less once we're down by two scores. The predictability of Koetter's version of Shanny's scheme completely negates the key element of its success.

Koetter is a mediocre checker player going up against high-level chess-playing DC's metaphorically speaking. Even with our above-average level of offensive talent, Koetter's play-calling will doubtless severely limit our actual competitiveness. 

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2 hours ago, TheDirtyWordII said:

...even today with Raheem Morris claiming culpability for a bad defensive game plan.  Don’t these game plans need to be run by DQ, a defensive mind himself?

Nobody questioned the logic of trying to stop an RB in his first game back from a fractured hip after a TC where he missed some time to a personal matter instead of Russell Wilson?  

Yes sir, and it blows my mind that us as fans know that yet coaching staff acting surprised by it. SMH. 

We both know DQ’s hands are all over what’s being ran out there defensively. 
 

 

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