Special Guest Writer: Roddy E. Nixon, Jr. AKA Seminole Warrior
PRELUDE: Part One.
2015 is yet another lost Atlanta Falcons football season. I had this feeling all year but I tried to have faith. I took my seat on the “Show Me Express” and really hoped for the best. I felt in my heart that 8-8 was the best we would do this year.
Earlier today, shortly after 4pm as I left Raymond James Stadium, all my thoughts were solidified. If you expected me to talk about the Bucs, Winston, Martin, and the rest of that team, sorry. There is something more serious to deal with.
What I had to endure on my quick flight back to the Peach State was a soul search. I knew that there would be time aplenty to assess what I would write once I arrived home. But in what was the strangest irony of all, I found myself at complete peace. I was not angry. Let me repeat myself; I was not angry. I TRULY expected this.
PRELUDE: Part Two.
As I sat in the stadium, it became clear that Tampa WANTED to win this game. I would go as far as to say Tampa was DETERMINED to win this game. Tampa was more physical, executed a true game plan, and made differences when they mattered. I am not going to spend a lot of time re-analyzing what you saw or what you can review.
Instead, I am going to try and explain to you how the Disconnect STILL plagues this team. I am going to try and explain to you that the finger-pointing that is ongoing in Atlanta, the SAME that will only intensify in coming weeks, is a farce and yet another attempt to distract you from the real truth and issues. And I am going to attempt to explain to you that the Atlanta Falcons are not likely to improve this year OR next.
THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH:
The Atlanta team is a mess. We have always known that the defense was a damn travesty and that has not changed. But what was once a considerable strength has now become a significant liability at times. How did this come to be? This has happened for reasons that are not consistent with what most Falcons fans would want to believe.
The REAL issue in Atlanta has been and continues to be an inept front office and an owner that is now settling for mediocrity.
See most fans and the media want to identify the primary targets of their frustration as our new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and our three time Pro Bowl quarterback, Matt Ryan. Hell, some are even beginning to question the coach, Dan Quinn. Save your breath, fans.
Friends, your anger is pointed in the wrong direction.
The REAL issue in Atlanta has been and continues to be an inept front office and owner that are now settling for mediocrity. I said it and I mean it. This regime has run out of scapegoats. And for many of us, it has also run out of time to believe in them.
This organization as a whole lacks balance AND effective leadership. In every facet of its operation, it has failed to show it is capable of sustaining an element of promise long term. From poor drafting, failed free agency, cost overruns on the new stadium, and failure to find quality coaching, there has been one constant over the history of this franchise; a lack of strategic vision.
The primary reason (whether it is offense, defense, or special teams) that the Atlanta Falcons REMAIN a failure to achieve any degree of constant success is due to a fundamental lack of player development, talent integration, solid depth, and yes, LEADERSHIP at all levels. Time and tens of millions, some of which come from you and I, have been wasted.
But for this forum, I will remain with the offense. I am going to defend Kyle and Matt. Sure, it is so damned easy to blame new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and three time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan for this. I recall that it was just as convenient for both fans and the front office to do the same with “Mad” Mike Mularkey or “Dysfunctional” Dirk Koetter.
But who was it that changed the former CFA’s philosophy from a power to finesse? Who was it that signed off on the change from our effective “TRIAD” in which they were a legit threat in all offensive facets; rushing, passing, and receiving? Take a look at the window from 2010 through 2013.
First, even with an offensive line that was suspect at times, the Falcons, EACH year, was able to show balance in rushing, receiving, and passing. Check out the statistical analysis. Call my bluff!! Look at the way that the CFA and his staff complimented things while trying to build on the weakness of this team, the defense.
Then along came a day that would alter the trajectory of the Falcons; a date that we have still yet to recover from. January 15, 2011. The day Green Bay kicked our ass at home by a score of 48-21. The day the balance left Atlanta for good.
Secondly, even in 2012, with Turner showing signs of decline and over-use, the machine kept on rolling as we attempted to use the “newly upgraded” Triad to intensify our offensive power. Our young acquisition, Julio Jones, was taking the league by storm, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez were playing the perfect complimentary roles, and Matt Ryan had his best year to date. All seemed well. However……
Third, along came 2013 and the magnitude of how inept our front office was. Releasing Michael Turner, they decided to go with an aging, injury prone free agent to offset his presence. Steven Jackson was on his last leg and everyone knew it. Added to that fact Julio Jones was lost to injury, the defense became a shame, and the offensive line surrendered 44 sacks.
Fourth, this dysfunction would expand in 2014 as both the rushing attack and the tight end position would become even weaker components of a now diminishing TRIAD. With limitations clearly in evidence, the offensive philosophy, or the lack thereof, became to “force feed” through Julio Jones with White and Douglas as compliments. Again, with issues on the offensive line and defensive failures aplenty, the team failed to achieve even an winning season. Regime change came again.
Fifth, in the drafts of 2014 and 2015, when it was clear that we needed to address depth in all facets of our offensive line, the front office and the owner failed once again. Instead, they went on a defensive spending spree in free agency, the draft, and neglected the weakening posture of the offensive unit.
Congrats Tampa on your win. As far as Atlanta goes, it’s not going to change anytime soon.
So…..it’s time for your thoughts, friends. Let the soul searching begin.