“Structurally Un-Sound” by Jamie Walker
Well, the Atlanta Falcons may have sunk as low as they could possibly go on Sunday with a 41-28 defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game in all actuality did not look as close as the score indicated, with Tampa up at one point by the score of 38-6. This has indeed been a long season for the Falcons with such high expectations going into this campaign; however they are now suffering from a severe case of the “Bird Flu”. Look, all jokes aside the Atlanta Falcons are in a crisis situation right now. For the first time under the Dimitroff-Smith-Ryan regime there are some serious doubts about the abilities of this squad and visually you can see the decline of production both offensively and defensively. Naturally one could point to the mounting injuries on both sides of the ball but the lack of depth is evident. The turning around of the team from the Michael Vick-Bobby Petrino debacle can only buy you a certain amount of time. With a raised expectation resulting from the organizational success over the last five seasons, the quick downward spiral has left fans and experts alike scratching their heads. The answers are very simple once you truly go back to the basics of football.
I have been privileged enough to study and work with some of the brightest minds in football; from both the professional and collegiate ranks. I have seen virtually every kind of offensive and defense but even I lost sight of a very fundamental rule; football is a game of blocking and tackling. Now I drank my own “Kool-Aid”, because I said after the 13-3 record from last season all the Falcons need to do is have the ball bounce their way and they will be in the SuperBowl. Even after the off-season where the likes of Tyson Clabo, Todd McClure, Dunta Robinson, and John Abraham were lost, I just chopped it up as the front office sees that these “young birds” are ready to play. Then after free agency where the team picked up Osi Umenyiora and Steven Jackson and the draft was primarily geared towards improving the pass rush, I said great, we can run the ball, and Mike Nolan wants to come at teams in waves. I now realize that I had forgotten what those in football demonstrated and told me; football is a game of blocking and tackling. Now keep in mind that the National Football League has a salary cap and you have to construct your team within the confines of those rules but I have come to the realization that the supposed “New NFL” is the same NFL redressed. I looked at two teams that have demonstrated to me consistency in the trenches, on either one side of the ball or the other; The San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants.
Now some people are giving that “arf” look to whatever device they are viewing this piece because why in the world the Giants would even enter this conversation. Well, just look at the team. They started 0-6 but now have won 4 straight with the same game plan that has worked for years; a pass rush that does not quit, effective running of the football, and a downfield passing attack. The San Francisco 49ers has constructed one of the best offensive lines in the National Football League. That unit flat out “mauls” people which makes their running game superior to most and always keeps them in games. Their defense is not shabby either with a steady pass rush and dynamic linebackers. In the NFC South, a team following the same mold is the Carolina Panthers. They have adopted the philosophy of having a physical defense and a superior running game on offense. The Falcons were once that team however, after the New York Giants loss in the playoffs by the score of 24-2 in 2011-2012 playoffs, the catch phrase “more explosive” caught fire and the Falcons got away from a physical philosophy. I again drank the “Kool-Aid” in believing that this was a proper approach and that the changing of playcallers from Mike Mularkey to Dirk Koetter was a good thing and it seemed to be with the improvement in scoring. Hindsight is 20-20 but maybe the concentration should have been on versatility in play calling. Greg Roman, Offensive Coordinator for the 49ers seems to have this down pat. He realizes what he has on the offensive line so instead of getting away from what they do well, he changes the attack and gives the offense to you from another look. Even the pass heavy offense for the New Orleans Saints changes the look and attack while continuing the same philosophy.
The offense for the Falcons presented itself as a quick strike, explosive unit having the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and Matt Ryan, but when the parts failed, particularly by injury, the attack is not interchangeable, and the ineffectiveness of the remaining roster cannot support it. Then which it tries to go back to the basics and establish the run, it looks foreign. It is a systematic failure of the Atlanta Falcons Front Office and signifies something that I did not believe it valued…..STYLE over SUBSTANCE. Going forward, the Atlanta Falcons are a solid franchise, but I do not want them falling into the trap that Jason Goff, Night Show Host for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game profoundly eluded to, saying that next year this team will go 10-6 and all will be well with the world but in all actuality the same problems will exist with the foundation of the team if structural changes are not made.
Jamie Walker is a Producer and the Atlanta Falcons Blogger for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. You can follow him on Twitter @coachjdub21 or on Facebook at J. Walker Sports Media Services.