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 Post subject: Building on last year's success
PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 3:10 pm 
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During the long tenure of Dan Reeves, it was a rare occassion at least for me in the weeks leading up to the draft to feel confident about how our team would turn out. I would still get the same giddiness that I do now, but it was never coupled with the expectation that we would have a good draft. The best I ever really hoped for was that Reeves & Co. could get 1 or 2 pretty good players and not totally screw the pooch on the other picks.

But with McKay, it's a different story. He's historically had some good drafts, particularly when it came to drafting defensive players, and it seems that is the focus of the team at least for the time being.

But there are several questions I have. How much will Ruskell's loss hurt the front office? You can't just dismiss losing a top dog like Ruskell as no big deal, because he was the go-to man in terms of the draft for all those years in Tampa Bay and seemingly last year in Atlanta. One wouldn't call his loss debilitating, but it definitely hurts McKay's ability to run and manage a good draft.

Then you also have to look at his history in Tampa Bay. The Bucs drafts although very promising at the beginning of McKay's tenure there sort of fizzled as the years went on. If you look at the drafts between 2000-03, you see more players that made Zero impact, were only average role players, or were relative busts more than you see actual genuine contributors. Granted it was a time where the tema only had 1 1st round pick, but that's also because of McKay, as he had put the emphasis on acquiring veteran talent (Brad Johnson, Keyshawn, and Gruden). Sure, the Falcons haven't hit that phase yet, but the point is that McKay is not infallible.

I would say that last year's draft was definitely among hte 5 best in the league. Maybe we didn't walk away with the most talent in the draft, but we got very good value for our picks, and potentially as many as 4 of last year's picks will already be contributing this year as starters. How many will turn into stars? That's still up in the air, but at least we know we got some decent value.

But with that as the setting bar, should the standards be higher this year? I'm not sure. I do have confidence that McKay & Co. will do a good job this year, but I think there seems to be an underlying element with many comments I read from fellow fans (and myself included) that we expect us to do a very good if not better job than last year. We consistently say we need this and this and this, but the truth of the matter is, and I have studied the draft over recent years and its trends, a team is quite lucky if it can walk away from a draft with 3 good players. Considering most teams have 7 picks, that means that you are more likely to miss than make in this thing we like to call a crapshoot.

Are we being overzealous in believing that McKay will be able to fix many of the Falcons holes in just this one year? We all seem to agree that DE and S definitely need to be addressed. And we all agree that the OL, DT, and CB need to be bolstered with better depth at the very least. And we all seemingly agree that if the Falcons can walk away with a good RB, WR, TE, or LB, it will do a lot to help us down the road.

And considering we have only 8 picks, and considering us picking late in each round, that number is more likely to dwindle with draft day trades than grow, are we really in a position to think more than maybe 3 of these needs will be significantly addressed with the right player?

So I then ask myself if I'm in McKay's situation, what do I shift my focus to, knowing that I can't solve all the problems? I can try, but I know I can't strike gold with every pick and even the ones I feel really good about may turn out to be average or duds in the end.

If I had to pick 3 things from our current needs that I think the team must focus on this draft and in other words saying I've done it right in these 3 areas if nowhere else, I would say:

1. DE
2. S
3. OL

I would think the Falcons would be in a bad predicament if we exited the first day of the draft without addressing at least 2 of these positions, preferably all 3, but if not, just 2 and with a firm plan on addressing the last one in Round 4.

The other areas of needs in comparison are luxuries and I don't think any are too dire that if on the chance the Falcons do not exit the draft with an addition at those positions, that we cannot simply go out into what remains of free agency and put a decent band-aid on it.

What are others thinking?...

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"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 5:50 pm 
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After reading McKay's pre-draft press conference, I feel much more confident of his plans to improve this team. For one, he and his staff are focusing on getting players with good productivity in college and good character. The measureables are important but not to the extent that it overrules production and character. In my opinion, McKay was not responsible for the issues that developed as a result of sending 2 1st rd draft picks to OAK for a coach! He himself has said that his goal in the draft is not to find a star but to find solid players who will eventually start and possibly excel within the team's scheme. He also takes the pressure off himself to draft to fill a particular need in order to win by bringing in FAs to round out the roster. I expect him to draft well again and make some solid decisions that might not produce the absolute best players but could give us the depth to out last all the other teams this season.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 7:19 pm 
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What I liked about the press conference was this statement right here:
Rich McKay wrote:
We don't have to have anything in our mind to play next year and win. But we do need a lot of players and good players to build on for the future. And to me, what need gets down to is looking at your players: who's getting older, who's coming out of contract, who are the potential free agents -- who do you need to get guys behind and grow.


This is exactly what a good GM does. Basically you use free agency to get your roster set for the season. If you don't have starters in place at every position by draft day, you're going to be in big trouble.

A perfect example of this is the Dallas Cowboys. Although the Cowboys made some big splashes in free agency, they still have some holes left on that roster in the starting lineup. I see holes at RT, RDE, and FS. Now, there is hope in Dallas that Jacob Rogers and possible Pete Hunter can fill two of these holes, but basically the Cowboys are entering this year's draft thinking that they won't know until after the draft. If they can add 3 top players at those 3 positions, then they won't need guys like Rogers, Hunter, and Eric Ogbogu to be the starters for them. But that IMO is a mistake. Instead of paying huge sums of money for guys like Marco Rivera and Jason Ferguson, it may have been a better strategy to go after 2nd tier guys at those positions and use the excess $$$ to fill those other areas.

Now I know the Cowboys have 2 first round picks, so they have a good shot at filling 2 of those 3 key needs early on, but it sort of pigeonholes them into drafting a few positions. Can the Cowboys "risk" taking a WR at #20 like a Mark Clayton, while a player like Jammal Brown or Brodney Pool fills a larger need, and there's no guarantee a quality player will be avaialble at those positions come Round 2 and 3? That's a very hard question the Cowboys have to ask themselves. Clayton, arguably the better player overall will enter the season as the No. 4 WR, while both Brown and Pool could start right away. Sure, a WR probably has the greater long-term value than a RT or FS, but all are expected to be solid players in this league. So the Cowboys are in a bit of a pickle. It's not something that is impossible to get out of, but they may find themselves taking Brown or Pool not because their the best option, but because they fear the dropoff in quality after those players at those positions.

Now this doesn't mean the Falcons have concerns as well. But the Falcons are prepared and willing to enter this season with certain players at certain positions, notably LT, LG, NT, and SS. Sure, the Falcons would love to upgrade all 4 positions in the draft with a top notch player, but the team is not locked into taking a player high at any of those positions. I stress willingness, because in the Cowboys case, I don't think they are willing to enter this year with guys like Hunter, Ogbogu, and Rogers as their top options at their weak spots. If you're not happy with your starting lineup come Draft Saturday, I think it is putting towards the wrong path, which is making reaches and poor choices.

Now the Falcons are in the business of building a perennial winner. The Cowboys on the other hand are probably looking more short-term since Bill Parcells has no desire to make a long-term commitment to the franchise at this point in his career. He's a guy that commits year to year. See if the situation was reversed, I'd be much more certain the Falcons would take Clayton because he has greater long term value & potential, because that's the sort of mindset McKay is in.

Rich McKay wrote:
I've never been one who believed that the draft is going to provide the impetus to winning the next season. What the draft provides the impetus to do is to win for a long period of time.


Another telling quote from McKay. Again, McKay is trying to build a tradition of winning, something that Ron Wolf did in Green Bay in the early 90s, Tom Donahoe helped do in Pittsburgh in the 80s and 90s, Bill Walsh with the 49ers in the 80s, what Belichick & Pioli are doing in New England now, and several other examples. Without the contributions of these men, these teams would not have carried their tradition of winning into years after their departure.

McKay knows that Rome is not built in a day, and he hopes for success in 2005, but he is always hoping for success in 2015, probably when he is long gone from the organization. He wants people to look back 10 or so years from now and say that the Atlanta Falcons now are successful every season because McKay turned that organization into a winner. And that takes time, so McKay is in no rush to field a Super Bowl team. I'm sure he's much aware that the success we had last season was due mostly to overachieving, particularly on the defensive side of the ball (why he is still stressing defensive improvement) and an overall weakness of competition in the NFC. I look at it like this, if you switched the Bills and Falcons, or Falcons and Jaguars, the results probably would have been the same, meaning the Bills/Jags probably would have gone to the NFC Championship game, while the Falcons may have missed the playoffs.

Now I realize McKay is not going to strike gold every year in terms of free agency and the draft. I still believe the biggest mistake McKay made this off-season was not securing better depth at QB. But unlike Reeves, I know McKay has a good head on his shoulders and I know the team is headed in the right direction and should be able to stay the course for upcoming years.

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"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.


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