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The Athletic - Schultz: Falcons lose, Raheem Morris isn’t the answer, it’s time to draft a QB


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Raheem Morris’s official interview for the Falcons’ head coaching job came this past week. He spoke with owner Arthur Blank and team president Rich McKay and called it “fun” and “long” and “fair” and added, “Now we play the waiting game and see what the decision-makers say.”

But there’s really no reason to wait. It’s almost a foregone conclusion Morris won’t get the job because his actual interview for the position lasted 11 weeks and ended Sunday. As the 2020 season came to its merciful end, the Falcons’ defense — for which Morris is largely responsible — allowed 44 points and 485 yards — including 399 passing by Tom Brady — in a 44-27 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs never punted.

They scored on eight of their 10 possessions (five touchdowns, three field goals). One of the field goal drives would’ve been a touchdown if not for a drop by Mike Evans in the end zone. These were the two non-scoring drives: an interception by Brady that first bounced off a receiver’s hands; and a clock-bleeding drive to end the game when Tampa Bay easily could have eclipsed 500 yards and scored again from the Falcons’ 19 if they weren’t focused on just getting off the field and resting for the playoffs.

Morris went 4-7 as the interim coach. That’s better than the 0-5 start but not nearly good enough. If he had dramatically improved the defense and the team won more games, he would have an argument for getting the job. Instead, the team’s maligned offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, made a stronger case Sunday for keeping his position with the offense, as the team reeled off 24 points in four straight possessions to close the Bucs’ lead to 30-27 before fading. (No, I’m not making a case for Koetter as the coach.)

The Falcons are expected to resume interviews for at least the general manager vacancy Monday, with coaching interviews also possibly coming this week. They will hire the GM first. Blank and McKay will field questions from the media Monday, a day usually reserved for wrap-up news conferences by the coach and GM. After three straight non-playoff seasons and a cumulative record of 18-30 in that span, it will not be a joyous event.

The Falcons finished 4-12, which means in the upcoming draft that they are slotted to pick …

• OH IT WAS SO CLOSE! The Falcons and Houston Texans (whose pick is owned by the Miami Dolphins) were tied at 4-11 entering the day. The Falcons lost. They needed a Texans win over Tennessee to jump to third in the draft order because Houston owns a draft tiebreaker edge with strength of schedule. The Texans led 35-31 early in the fourth quarter (!!!) … fell behind but tied it at 38 on a field goal with 22 seconds left (!!!) … and appeared to be headed for overtime when Tennessee’s Sam Sloman’s 37-yard attempt hit the upright in the final seconds (!!!) … but the ball bounced through. Titans win. Texans lose. Dolphins win. Falcons lose. Top four in draft: 1) Jacksonville; 2) New York Jets; 3) Miami; 4) Falcons. Reaction after the field goal from Brett Jewkes, senior VP and chief communications officer for the AMB Group (Arthur Blank’s businesses):

• Nothing that happened Sunday changes the big picture, in terms of the draft or the Falcons’ future. They need to draft a quarterback. And no, that doesn’t mean I believe Matt Ryan stinks or is remotely the biggest problem on this team. It’s just the right business decision.

• This is a quarterback-rich draft (Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance). With the fourth pick, the Falcons will have a choice of at least one of those and conceivably could trade up if they want Fields, who could go as high as second. (Lawrence appears to be a lock for Jacksonville.) I believe there’s a good chance Ryan will be back in 2021 because trading him would cause a major salary-cap hit, but that should not prevent the new regime from beginning the rebuilding process now, even if it means a rookie quarterback sitting for a season. (See: Green Bay.) Ryan will turn 36 in May and is scheduled to cause a $40.912 million salary-cap hit if he plays next season. If he’s traded, there will be a $49.937 million dead-money hit, or the Falcons can split the hit across two seasons if he’s traded post-June.

• As a reminder, McKay told The Athletic that Blank would give his blessing to the team’s new GM to trading Ryan and/or Julio Jones if the GM presented an acceptable blueprint for how that would build a championship team. I asked Ryan point-blank through a pool reporter if he thought there was any chance he would not be back with the Falcons next season. His response: “I don’t think so. I think I’m here. I feel like I can be a really good football player for this team for a long time. But no one knows. You never know in this league what can happen. But I feel good about it. I feel I want to be here and want to be a part of getting this turned around and getting back to the playoffs.” Some already have speculated that Ryan could reunite with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco, which is projected to have a lot of cap space in 2021. I’m not sure how realistic that is, but it’s interesting to think about, given Shanahan’s coaching and offensive scheme were big reasons why Ryan had an MVP season and the team went to the Super Bowl in 2016.

• Trading Jones seems more plausible. He played only nine games this season because of hamstring problems, the second-lowest total of his career (he played five in 2013 until suffering a fractured foot). Jones generally doesn’t miss many games, but he does miss snaps and practice time. He turns 32 next month, he’s wearing down, and he has other interests. It would make sense for the Falcons to see if they can get a second-round pick for him, especially with Calvin Ridley becoming a No. 1 receiver. One mind-numbing stat from this season: Jones barely finished with more touchdowns receptions (three) than Ryan had rushing TDs (two). But Jones still can make big plays and therefore can get a title-contending team over the top.

• About Morris: He’s a good guy and a good coach in the right circumstances (secondary or defensive coordinator with the right pieces). His postgame comment, “I want to coach every single week of life,” pretty much sums up the man’s attitude. But he’s realistic about the situation. When asked if he would take offers for an assistant coaching position elsewhere before the Falcons make a coaching decision, Morris said, “Unfortunately, you’ve got to do what you need to do. You don’t sit around and wait for anybody. I’m going to continue to coach football. You’ve got to be proactive and do what you need to do.” A man who believes he’ll be the coach probably doesn’t say that.

• Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported the Falcons are looking for a coach with an offensive background. I also lean this way because I believe most of the major sideline decisions are offensive decisions (clock management, red zone, going for it on fourth down, etc.)  I addressed that last month in a column on the team’s offensive failures. Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has been referenced from the outset as a potential candidate, along with Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, Green Bay OC Nathaniel Hackett and Buffalo OC Brian Daboll. Carolina’s Joe Brady (formerly of the New Orleans Saints and LSU) is worth a look. San Francisco also confirmed Glazer’s report that the Falcons will interview 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

• There are five GM openings (Falcons, Jaguars, Texans, Detroit, Carolina) and four coaching jobs available (Falcons, Jets, Lions, Texans). That second number will go up as the Jets, Jaguars and Los Angeles Chargers all might fire their coaches on “Black Monday,” with a few other teams also contemplating a change. One obvious question: How good are the Falcons’ jobs? It’s a topic we’ll explore more in the coming days. But of the five GM jobs, the Falcons are in the biggest hole in the projected 2021 salary cap. Here are the five clubs in order of cap space: Jaguars $81.388 million under the cap, Panthers $16.352 million under the cap, Lions $10.992 million under the cap, Texans $16.359 million over the cap, Falcons $24.692 million over the cap. The Jaguars seemingly have the best job on the board because they have a clean slate and the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Texans’ GM will inherit Deshaun Watson.

• Dante Fowler had a sack Sunday, but it doesn’t change the fact his offseason signing has been a bust. He had an ankle injury before the season and a hamstring strain during it and never really got rolling, finishing with only three sacks and eight quarterback hits in 14 games. And now, the worse news: He signed a uniquely structured three-year, $45 million contract that will see his cap hit jump from $6.67 million this season to $18.667 million in 2021, pending a restructuring. Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff needed an edge rusher so they rolled the dice on Fowler, who was coming off an 11.5-sack season, but he has never been consistent. This year is evidence of that.

• We might have seen the last of Alex Mack and Ricardo Allen. Mack, the center signed before the Super Bowl season, missed the final two games with concussion and COVID issues. He’s 35, his contract is up, and the Falcons might have designs on sliding Matt Hennessy into that spot. There’s no word if Mack plans to retire or wants to keep playing. Allen, a safety, has a year left on his deal, but he also might be done in Atlanta, as the team needs to rebuild the secondary. Allen’s future might be in coaching, and he would be a great one. Few athletes I’ve come across are as honest and as standup a guy as he is, regardless of circumstances. He’s a great teacher and has the temperament for coaching. Allen after the game: “I would love to keep playing. But if that’s not the case I can go somewhere else. I can make my choice to see if I still want to play because I don’t do things just for money. I don’t have to make money anymore. I do this for purpose. If they don’t want me here and I don’t like the opportunities presented to me, I can go into coaching, and then I’ll start working my way up that ladder to be a head coach.”

• Two of the players I’ll remember most from this horrible season: safety Keanu Neal and running back Brian Hill. Neal rebounded from season-ending injuries in consecutive seasons and showed the ferocity and instincts he had earlier in his career, finishing third on the team with 100 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery. In normal circumstances, the Falcons would do almost anything to re-sign him, but he almost certainly will get offers in free agency that they can’t match. Hill was a 2017 draft pick, waived, played with Cincinnati, then was brought back. He had a 62-yard run to set up a touchdown Sunday and finished with 94 yards – the second-highest total of his career and the second highest for any Falcons back this season (Todd Gurley ran for 121 against Carolina). Hill signed a one-year contract, but he might be worth bringing back.

• The Falcons need to improve their running game (which ranked 29th entering the week) and their pass defense (which ranked 31st). They also will finish in the bottom third in sacks. Welcome to Groundhog Day.

https://theathletic.com/2299451/2021/01/03/atlanta-falcons-offseason-raheem-morris/

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Says that Tampa scored on 8-10 possessions and never punted proceeds to say we need to draft a quarterback

The Green Bay situation when they drafted Rodgers is not anywhere near the same situation the Falcons are currently in today. Favre was threatening to retire every season and the Packers had Rodgers f

Anybody that thinks the Falcons should trade up to draft any QB, much less Fields, should immediately have their heads examined.  

The Green Bay situation when they drafted Rodgers is not anywhere near the same situation the Falcons are currently in today. Favre was threatening to retire every season and the Packers had Rodgers fall right in their laps at pick 25.

The Falcons current situation is much more like the situation the Saints were in following 2016 when they had just finished their 4th season of 7-9 in 5 years and Brees was going into his age 38 season. The Saints have gone all in on Brees and have won 4 straight division titles since. Ryan isn't the reason the Falcons suck.

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8 minutes ago, Herr Doktor said:

In all honesty, never seen him play.  BYU? 

Yeah. And I know when you hear BYU you don't think much about it. But Zach has great mobility, a rocket arm... He's a playmaker.. now I know he's nowhere near as good or if he ever be  close to the play of Aaron Rodgers ... But he does remind me of a young Aaron Rodgers

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1 minute ago, SavedByGrace1221 said:

Yeah. And I know when you hear BYU you don't think much about it. But Zach has great mobility, a rocket arm... He's a playmaker.. now I know he's nowhere near as good or if he ever be  close to the play of Aaron Rodgers ... But he does remind me of a young Aaron Rodgers

 

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11 minutes ago, AUTiger7222 said:

The Green Bay situation when they drafted Rodgers is not anywhere near the same situation the Falcons are currently in today. Favre was threatening to retire every season and the Packers had Rodgers fall right in their laps at pick 25.

The Falcons current situation is much more like the situation the Saints were in following 2016 when they had just finished their 4th season of 7-9 in 5 years and Brees was going into his age 38 season. The Saints have gone all in on Brees and have won 4 straight division titles since. Ryan isn't the reason the Falcons suck.

Yup.

Ryan shares a healthy portion of the blame for some of offensive struggles but on the list of issues with the team.....he is far far down the list.

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At some point the Falcons will move on from Ryan.

Until then his 40 million plus cap hits are going to be a problem.

The Falcons are either going to be over the cap or extremely over the cap... so there’s no quick rebuild of the defense.

Unless the Falcons have a 60 % success rate in the draft and end up drafting pro bowlers. It could happen but the odds are against it.

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57 minutes ago, AUTiger7222 said:

The Green Bay situation when they drafted Rodgers is not anywhere near the same situation the Falcons are currently in today. Favre was threatening to retire every season and the Packers had Rodgers fall right in their laps at pick 25.

The Falcons current situation is much more like the situation the Saints were in following 2016 when they had just finished their 4th season of 7-9 in 5 years and Brees was going into his age 38 season. The Saints have gone all in on Brees and have won 4 straight division titles since. Ryan isn't the reason the Falcons suck.

Saints have also had the same head coach, offensive system, and GM the entire time Brees has been there.

So that’s also a completely different situation. Their offense was never a problem. In those 3 7-9 years the lowest they were on offense was 2nd in the league.

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2 minutes ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

Saints have also had the same head coach, offensive system, and GM the entire time Brees has been there.

So that’s also a completely different situation. Their offense was never a problem. In those 3 7-9 years the lowest they were on offense was 2nd in the league.

Offense is only a problem because of coaching. Matt Ryan isn't coaching the team.

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44 minutes ago, Atlantafan21 said:

A better Daniel Jones. 
 

On second thought, I don’t know if he’s better. 

 

36 minutes ago, Run 'n' Shoot said:

Ugh

I heard one talking head describe him as "Think Tony Romo."

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