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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 11:08 pm 
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Mentality be damned. You may be right about their mental states but I don't think that is a Falcon-specific trait, and IMO is irrelevant if you can't run the ball. That's what good teams do, they throw the ball and then pound it down their throats.

IMO that was the Falcons impetus and idea behind for keeping Turner, thinking his physical style could grind defenses down late. But they weren't paying enough attention to his actual on-field performance, rather than an idea.

That's what they hope Jackson is this year. Whether he is remains to be seen. You know I personally don't think running the football is like it used to be where you could just get a couple of thugs and impose your will. So much of today's game is built around athleticism, why isn't it the same in the trenches?

Its one of the reasons why I'm not down on the new OL. A right side that features Konz, Johnson, and Holmes in the starting lineup will be an uptick in the athleticism up front. I'm neither pessimistic, optimistic, just completely neutral on the OL's prospects (wait n see mode).

I'm not optimistic that Jackson will live up to the idea in the heads of Falcons brass. But I'm not gonna repeat my former mistake of doubting a Falcons free agent signed RB (the last few have worked out well: Turner, Dunn, Heyward), especially when I do in fact like/respect Steven Jackson a ton.

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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 2:36 am 
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I think you're way off on this Mularkey thing Pudge. It may be because I wanted a new OC starting very early, but I don't think it's accurate to say Mularkey was good for Ryan until Julio. Perhaps the most accurate statement is he was good for a team that had only one receiving threat...but not a good fit for Ryan.

I don't think it's any coincidence that they spoke about how they were working on cutting down mistakes, paring down the playbook, etc. and then Ryan started missing long on the deep ball, and dropped his YPA. Watch his rookie year, and you'll see lots of ball thrown up for Roddy to make a play on.

Then you hear tons of "never making a mistake" talk (from Mularkey and Smith) and then we see the constant overthrow of deep balls and reliance on dropoffs (he didn't even throw it up for Julio to make a play often...always trying to hit him in stride) and then the year Mularkey leaves...that style of throwing changes. Back to how Ryan threw as a rookie.

Now, I'll not say that was all of it. I think Ryan got notably stronger this last year, and likely made some of the changes himself. But I think being told to make plays, instead of never make mistakes, was a big deal.

Further, with a legit OC/QB coach (a Peyton type) coupled with a group of weapons, I'm confident Ryan would have made strides in years 2 and 3 (particularly 3) that we didn't see until year 5 due to the Mularkey train. That's basically the deal. I think you could have seen the Ryan of this last year, in year 3. And I think with a legit 3 receiver and 2nd TE, you could see an uptick from here forward. I agree that Ryan is generally more like the Ryan of the 2nd half of the season, but still feel if you give him a good RG (he still has a very quick clock) and more instead of elite weapons, and he can appear better.

I think you give Mularkey too much credit. Year 1, maybe. But then he went on a mistake free kick, and that's not a good way to build a QB.


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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 9:23 am 
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But why are you laying that blame at the feet of Mike Mularkey? Who is the head coach that preaches mistake-free football? Who is the coach that prides himself on being the least penalized team in the league year after year? Who preaches about minimizing and eliminating turnovers every week when the Falcons lose largely due to them?

That's why last off-season most of my questions about this team centered on Mike Smith, because those were Mike Smith issues, not Mike Mularkey issues.

I'm not saying Mularkey was the greatest thing ever, but I'm not going to blame him as the primary reason why the Falcons lost. Look, we can go back and change the outcome of 1 play vs. the 49ers and it likely changes the results of the game (e.g. Ryan's fumble), but the mistake that so many people make is that they then believe that was the 1 thing that determined the outcome of the game. Completely forgetting that there were 8 other things that also had just as much impact on the game, that also didn't go in the Falcons favor that easily could have. Thus why I'm not that distraught over the 49ers loss because I know the 49ers were simply a better football team, and that's the simplest and most accurate answer to why the Falcons lost, not poor coaching or lacking toughness, etc.

The main reason why the Falcons lost in the playoffs prior to 2012 was again because they played better football teams. The Packers were clearly a better team than us, and the Cardinals certainly were on that particular day, and the Giants were as well. Look, in that NYG game, you can certainly blame Mularkey for the teams poor performance in their loss, but the reasons why we lost was because our O-line got their butts kicked, our QB played scared, our No. 1 WR couldn't get open against Corey Webster, our offensive gameplan revolved a washed up RB (the only factor in which Mularkey deserves any blame), our coverage broke down as Dominique Franks, Dunta Robinson, and Thomas DeCoud all had noteworthy mental errors, our tackling wasn't great, our pass rush was largely non-existent, etc.

I'm not saying Mularkey was perfect from 2008-10, but whatever issues he had were minimized by the fact that he brought more to the table than he was taking away at that time, certainly not enough that he needed to be axed in that time. It's just that the same person making that claim is also saying that Mike Smith needs to be fired as well. Not to pile on RobertAP, but if he had his way the Falcons would roll through coaching staffs like a kid goes through candy on Halloween.

I just think it goes back somewhat to my whole "Super Bowls are magic" argument. Tony Dungy coached 13 years in the NFL, leading his teams to the playoffs in 11 of those years. In 6 of those 11 years, his teams were 1 and done in the playoffs. 2 of those years with the Colts where they did win the playoffs, but didn't make it to the Super Bowl they were the #1 seed in the AFC. But he wins 1 Super Bowl and it completely white-washes the fact that in 10 (2 non-playoff years + 6 years of being 1 & done + 2 years of being the #1 seed) out of 13 years, you could consider his teams "failures."

People just should have a little perspective.

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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2013 4:04 pm 
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Pudge wrote:
Look, in that NYG game, you can certainly blame Mularkey for the teams poor performance in their loss, but the reasons why we lost was because our O-line got their butts kicked, our QB played scared, our No. 1 WR couldn't get open against Corey Webster, our offensive gameplan revolved a washed up RB (the only factor in which Mularkey deserves any blame), our coverage broke down as Dominique Franks, Dunta Robinson, and Thomas DeCoud all had noteworthy mental errors, our tackling wasn't great, our pass rush was largely non-existent, etc..



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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 1:44 pm 
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Hey Pudge, so that you know, after seeing the team fold twice in the 2nd half of our playoff games this year, I decided that Mike Smith had to go as well. Mularkey held Ryan back, but Smith is holding the team back. Maybe Smith learned his lesson after last year's playoffs. Trying to play mistake free football is impossible. Better to have your QB go out there and put up 60 points rather than trying to protect your defense by driving the ball down the field for 20 plays.


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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 3:52 pm 
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RobertAP wrote:
Trying to play mistake free football is impossible. Better to have your QB go out there and put up 60 points rather than trying to protect your defense by driving the ball down the field for 20 plays.

I agree 100% with that first sentence, but the last one I disagree with 110%. Like I said 3 months ago, if you think Smitty milking clock at the end of the game was poor coaching then frankly you don't know what you're talking about.

Playing mistake free is not a strategy conducive to winning in January, a stance that was discussed ad nauseum last off season. But again the key point of contention we have is that I don't think he really has much choice because the Falcons lack the talent to be that dynamic, ability to score from any point on the field.

I know many look at the play of our offense in the first quarter as an example that the Falcons could do that for all 4 quarters. But again, this is an oversimplified way of looking at football. IMO I think a lot of the Falcons initial success was because the 49ers were jet lagged and also cocky that they would come in and pound the Falcons into the ground. Then the Falcons came out fast, and the 49ers got rattled a bit. But then Harbaugh got his troops together and the last 3 quarters basically went the way it should have all along. Putting up 60 is easier said than done, esp. When you're a team that is lucky to muster 5 successful runs each week and ranked 29th in the league in explosive pass plays. But I'm betting your counter is that if the Falcons were coached better, that wouldn't be the case.
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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 4:52 pm 
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Ok, so you agree with point 1, then you come back and roll your eyes at me when you say, "if they were coached better, that wouldn't be the case." Isn't that the exact same line of thinking as point 1? If they were more aggressive instead of protecting leads, perhaps we wouldn't be 29th in the league in explosive plays. If we didn't try to execute record setting drive lengths, then perhaps we'd put more points on the board. Yes, if we were better coached, then we wouldn't be talking about these things as issues. That's kind of my point, and apparently, you agree with it, even though you don't... :snooty:

By not being aggressive, we make it easier for teams to beat us. If we're going to run the ball, then they put 9 in the box, and we're 3 and out. If we stick to the short/mid passing game, then they put 9 in the box and protect the middle of the field. If the Falcons are playing with a full playbook, it is hard to stop our offense. If we cut down on our playbook and try to protect the lead, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice.


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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2013 5:13 pm 
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No, what I was saying was that in the past I think the Falcons overly relied on being perfect, which to reiterate the point I made a year ago, is not conducive to winning in the playoffs. We talked then about DVOA and variance, and how the teams that between 2008 and 2011 that had ultimately gone on to win the NFC were highly variable teams. So that the regular season was basically a trial and error period, and then when January arrived those teams had the capacity to elevate their play to the level necessary to win in January.

The Falcons on the other hand were a team that was very consistent with its offensive output, which meant there wasn't much room for growth when it came to the much harder season that is the postseason. Thus the Falcons couldn't elevate their play, and they got passed by teams that at their surface looked to be inferior, but weren't really because they had much more upside.

Now the Falcons of 2012 unlike previous Falcon teams coordinated by Mularkey was much more variant. I had originally written a draft of a piece back before the playoffs about this subject, but never got around to publishing it. Maybe I'll post it here so you can read what Im talking about.

I don't think the 2012 Falcons could be better coached than they were. Well they could, but that level of expectation approaches perfection, not what is reasonable.

And again, I think the key point of contention for the two of us on this subject rests on our beliefs about the overall quality of talent on this team. As I've discussed before, I think there is a certain level of reasonable expectation given this team's talent level.

And again, it goes back tot he point I made last year when discussing the Chargers WRs and TEs vs. the Falcons WRs and TEs. While most might think Julio, Roddy, Gonzo > Vincent Jackson, Gates, Malcom Floyd in overall talent, and they wouldn't be wrong, the latter trio is much more effective at being an explosive offense. Because people have to understand it's less about over talent, and more about how talent complements each other.

Look at Matt Ryan, and his lack of arm strength. Ryan is not weak-armed, but relative to the other 31 starters in the NFL, the highest you could possibly rate Ryan is probably 22nd in terms of his ability/potential to throw with velocity, throw deep, and drive the football downfield. He's probably no lower than 28th on that list. And that doesn't mean he can't be a productive vertical passer, but that is an obstacle that needs to be worked around and it's not something is conducive to having him produce at a high level year in and year out, especially if he doesn't have the right talent around him that is designed to get more than his own physical tools reasonably allow.

And it doesn't help when your top 2 weapons (Gonzo/Roddy) aren't really vertical threats, and they're at their best on short/intermediate routes. As is your 4th weapon in Harry Douglas, who is average when you ask him to run more than 10 yards downfield. That isn't the more we're talking about. Unlike the Chargers, where Jackson, Floyd, and Gates were all vertical threats.

Coaching can't rewind the clock 10 years on Tony Gonzalez or 5 years on Roddy White to make them the vertical threats. Coaching can't make Harry Douglas into Mike Wallace, T.Y. Hilton, or DeSean Jackson to make him a more effective vertical threat.

And the other issue the Falcons had last year that lowered their ranking in the explosive pass plays is the fact that they couldn't run the ball, and the passing game had to pick up the slack to keep the team on schedule because the running game could not. And now the passing game has to sacrifice explosiveness for efficiency because of the Falcons largely non-existent rushing attack.

And the Falcons didn't stop being aggressive vs. the 49ers. As you may recall just before they initiated their time-kiling last minute drive, they went 60 yards downfield on a deep shot to Julio Jones, and Tarell Brown broke up the pass.

And again, if you think that Mike Smith putting the onus on his offense to win the game at the end on a long, time-killing drive rather than his defense to hold the 49ers, something they had not done for nearly 45 minutes up to that point, and you think that's bad/deficient coaching, then you don't have a f-ing clue what you're talking about.

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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2013 6:57 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 12:37 am 
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Pudge wrote:
But why are you laying that blame at the feet of Mike Mularkey? Who is the head coach that preaches mistake-free football? Who is the coach that prides himself on being the least penalized team in the league year after year? Who preaches about minimizing and eliminating turnovers every week when the Falcons lose largely due to them?

That's why last off-season most of my questions about this team centered on Mike Smith, because those were Mike Smith issues, not Mike Mularkey issues.

I'm not saying Mularkey was the greatest thing ever, but I'm not going to blame him as the primary reason why the Falcons lost. Look, we can go back and change the outcome of 1 play vs. the 49ers and it likely changes the results of the game (e.g. Ryan's fumble), but the mistake that so many people make is that they then believe that was the 1 thing that determined the outcome of the game. Completely forgetting that there were 8 other things that also had just as much impact on the game, that also didn't go in the Falcons favor that easily could have. Thus why I'm not that distraught over the 49ers loss because I know the 49ers were simply a better football team, and that's the simplest and most accurate answer to why the Falcons lost, not poor coaching or lacking toughness, etc.

The main reason why the Falcons lost in the playoffs prior to 2012 was again because they played better football teams. The Packers were clearly a better team than us, and the Cardinals certainly were on that particular day, and the Giants were as well. Look, in that NYG game, you can certainly blame Mularkey for the teams poor performance in their loss, but the reasons why we lost was because our O-line got their butts kicked, our QB played scared, our No. 1 WR couldn't get open against Corey Webster, our offensive gameplan revolved a washed up RB (the only factor in which Mularkey deserves any blame), our coverage broke down as Dominique Franks, Dunta Robinson, and Thomas DeCoud all had noteworthy mental errors, our tackling wasn't great, our pass rush was largely non-existent, etc.

I'm not saying Mularkey was perfect from 2008-10, but whatever issues he had were minimized by the fact that he brought more to the table than he was taking away at that time, certainly not enough that he needed to be axed in that time. It's just that the same person making that claim is also saying that Mike Smith needs to be fired as well. Not to pile on RobertAP, but if he had his way the Falcons would roll through coaching staffs like a kid goes through candy on Halloween.

I just think it goes back somewhat to my whole "Super Bowls are magic" argument. Tony Dungy coached 13 years in the NFL, leading his teams to the playoffs in 11 of those years. In 6 of those 11 years, his teams were 1 and done in the playoffs. 2 of those years with the Colts where they did win the playoffs, but didn't make it to the Super Bowl they were the #1 seed in the AFC. But he wins 1 Super Bowl and it completely white-washes the fact that in 10 (2 non-playoff years + 6 years of being 1 & done + 2 years of being the #1 seed) out of 13 years, you could consider his teams "failures."

People just should have a little perspective.


I assume you're speaking to me here. I did put some of the blame on Smith, in my post. But it's a compounding thing. If Smith tends conservative, and Mularkey tends conservative, they can exaggerate the conservativeness. A conservative OC with a defensive head coach, with a good QB seems a poor mix.

I would have wanted Mularkey fired even had we won a Superbowl, because his offense isn't sustainable (due to the low variance and 3 plays to make 10 yards you pointed out.) It also relies on perfect execution, which is silly. Further, never having a legit threat to throw more than 10 yards puts tremendous pressure on your OL, because the defense can sell out without fear.

I completely agree with you about the personnel, and that's why a tall slot/fast seam stretching TE would radically change this offense for the better (as it seems we've both been saying for 3 years). But this year, even without that, they showed they could catch fire, and that nearly carried them into the SuperBowl. The Mularkey version could not catch fire.

I still maintain Ryan would be much better with a legit 3rd WR and 2nd TE, and I can't figure out if that's a coaching issue or FO issue, because I don't know if the coaches are minimizing the importance, or the FO.

My judgement isn't based on the latest game. I didn't like Mularkey when we were winning because I believe his philosophy isn't sustainable. And maybe our reading of the tea leaves is incorrect, but it certainly seemed like he preached the "long can't be wrong" philosophy, refused to do screens, and had very unsophisticated routes, and those are definitely enough to stunt a QB.

Again, think of a Payton or Belichick or even McCarthy or Reid offense. Those make the job much easier on a QB and let them grow as much as possible. They're very different from a Mularkey offense.

On thing I will say about these playoffs is the Falcons didn't go conservative. People think they did because the results were bad in the 2nd half, but it was for completely different reasons...stayed aggressive and had turnovers, instead of conservative and no drives.

As a final...the Falcons simply aren't as good as the Seahawks or Niners (and on par with 5 other teams) so they really need to keep their passing game up and improve it (speed WR, tall slot, 2nd TE) in order to compensate for the other weaknesses.


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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 1:59 am 
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I agree that Ryan needs more weapons on offense. SJax will give him an upgrade over Turner in the passing game, and perhaps we got another weapon with Toilolo. I was hoping for Eiffert or Ertz, but that was not meant to be. I feel that one of them would have really put us over the top this year. That's not to say that Toilolo will be bad... Matter of fact, I think that he will be a more, "complete," Tight End. But I don't seem him as the seam stretcher that many of us have been wanting. I was kind of hoping that they'd work Kerry Meier into that role. Ah well.


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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 12:08 pm 
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takeitdown wrote:
I would have wanted Mularkey fired even had we won a Superbowl, because his offense isn't sustainable (due to the low variance and 3 plays to make 10 yards you pointed out.) It also relies on perfect execution, which is silly. Further, never having a legit threat to throw more than 10 yards puts tremendous pressure on your OL, because the defense can sell out without fear... But this year, even without that, they showed they could catch fire, and that nearly carried them into the SuperBowl. The Mularkey version could not catch fire...

My judgement isn't based on the latest game. I didn't like Mularkey when we were winning because I believe his philosophy isn't sustainable. And maybe our reading of the tea leaves is incorrect, but it certainly seemed like he preached the "long can't be wrong" philosophy, refused to do screens, and had very unsophisticated routes, and those are definitely enough to stunt a QB.

Again, think of a Payton or Belichick or even McCarthy or Reid offense. Those make the job much easier on a QB and let them grow as much as possible. They're very different from a Mularkey offense.

Fine. But I think it's very different to say that Mularkey's offense wasn't good enough to get us to the Super Bowl, and saying that he was an incompetent offensive coordinator. I also don't think saying he was holding back the Falcons as early as 2009 is true either. Becuase I don't think Matt Ryan was ready to be more than that. My recollection of the 2009 season was that during that 6 game stretch between Oct. & Nov. where Ryan threw a pick in every game for a total of 11 was NOT the fault of Mularkey. I recall Ryan making a number of poor decisions during that time. And I think they as a team, Mike Smith, Mularkey, and Ryan himself made the decision to try and dial things back. I don't think the Falcons were in a postion where they could be a pass-first attack similar to what we were in 2012 until 2011 at the earliest. Because Ryan didn't show that level of consistency until 2010, but in that year, the 3 best players on the offense were still Turner, Gonzo, and Roddy, and thus it didn't make any sense to try and start to marginalize Turner at that point in his career, because he was still a very good volume lead back. And given the Falcons obvious issues on defense (that came to a head vs. Green Bay), the ball-control offense was necessary to win games. Now in 2011, with the acquisition of Julio and it became very clear to me early in that year that Turner had taken a significant step back, that's when you needed to make that switch over. And that's when Mularkey became a problem. Because the identity of a good Mularkey offense is one that is a physical, "balanced" ground and pound where the run begets the pass. When he has that, things are OK. When not, things are mediocre at best.

Takeitdown wrote:
I still maintain Ryan would be much better with a legit 3rd WR and 2nd TE, and I can't figure out if that's a coaching issue or FO issue, because I don't know if the coaches are minimizing the importance, or the FO.

It's hard to tell if you're looking for someone to blame, but I think at the end of the day it has to become a front office issue. Similar to the Jones trade, I think the front office has to take the initiative in terms of acquiring the personnel (with consultation of the coaching staff of course) that is the right personnel.

I think ultimately the right personnel around Matt Ryan is a little comparable to the Ravens offense.

I think Tololo can be part of a pair of solid TEs, although he's more of the Ed Dickson type than the Dennis Pitta. That player is not on the roster currently (no I don't think it's Chase Coffman). A player like Eifert would be ideal, someone that has enough ability to make plays downfield, but can be a solid security blanket for Ryan and also be a movable chess piece comparable to Gonzo/Hernandez. The Falcons need to find a replacement for Roddy White, getting someone that is at least a comparable possession WR that has some vertical ability. A Torrey Smith type would be ideal. They also need to get a 3rd WR that can stretch the field, a player like a Brian Hartline that you can put on the outside and allow the Roddy replacement to move into the slot, or move Julio into the slot, either way to try and create mismatches there. That Hartline type of player can also be a capable vertical threat in the event of more Julio injuries, and thus the Falcons don't revert to being the ball-control offense they were from 2008-11 under Mularkey.

They also need to beef up the ground attack by getting better up front. Baker & Blalock at this juncture may each only play 2 more years as Falcons before they have to get replaced. Hopefully they can be replaced with players that can be more powerful run blockers. Hopefully, Konz, Johnson, and Holmes can solidify the other side of the group with a trio of solid run blockers and pass protectors.

And the Falcons need to refocus on the ground attack. This is my biggest takeaway from the 2012 season. I think the Falcons need a Ray Rice/Frank Gore-type of running back that can be an everydown threat, can run between the tackles and also be an explosive guy that can generate big plays on the ground, someone that can run the ball 16-20 times a game without wearing down.

As I stated a year ago, I think Matt Ryan is a naturally conservative passer. If he tried to be a gunslinger then he'd just wind up like Carson Palmer the past few years or Philip Rivers the past 1.5 years, which would lead to a bunch of turnovers and too much inconsistency. So while I blamed the coaches for not doing a better job of getting more of an aggressive streak out of him, I realize now that I can't put too much blame on him. Matt Ryan is cognizant of his limited arm and it's reflected in his play. There are throws downfield that he's unwilling to make. Watching things on the All-22 opened my eyes to this much more. This is an issue that I think will prevent him from ever being a truly elite QB on par with guys like Brees and Brady, who aren't hesistant to pull the trigger on many similar throws.

I don't think this is an insurmountable obstacle for the Falcons. I think being able to sustain an offense with a healthy ground attack won't make this as big an issue. And certainly getting the right type of receivers at WR and TE can also make this less of an issue, thus why you need bigger weapons that are willing to go and get the ball. This is why a player like Douglas won't work, and it's probably why a player like Toilolo won't blossom in this offense (more likely to be an Anthony Fasano type of player at best).

But the talent of the offense IMO won't be sufficient to truly carry the Falcons to the Super Bowl, at least to try and get past defenses like the 49ers until they start to develop these things: 1) a more balanced attack on the ground that is also capable of generating explosive plays on its own and 2) getting better weapons that should better able to open up the passing attack to being more reliably explosive.

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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 1:47 pm 
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Here's the article I began to write at the beginning of January, but never posted about variance on offense.

Koetter helps Falcons become ‘Hot Hand’
Aaron Freeman

One of the complaints I had following the disappoint end to the Atlanta Falcons 2011 season was that this team was too consistent. No, that’s not a typo. I do indeed mean this team could be described as “achieving a level of performance that does not vary greatly over time.” Too consistent.

I came to this conclusion after some research. I wanted to figure out how the Falcons could be a Super Bowl team, so I looked at recent NFC Champions to see how they figured it out.

At that point, three of the past four Super Bowl representatives were teams that had made unsuspecting runs at the Super Bowl as lower seeds: Arizona in 2008, Green Bay in 2010, and the New York Giants last year. But even the 2009 Saints had something in common with them. They all were productive passing offenses that got hot at the right time. Three of them were very explosive throughout the regular season, and the fourth (Arizona) increased their explosiveness during playoff time.

It seemed clear that if the Falcons were to mimic their success, they would need to become a more pass-oriented attack. The hiring of Dirk Koetter seemed to work well. Koetter a former quarterback would be better able to engineer this than a former blocking tight end like Mike Mularkey, who at his core desired to run the ball.

Koetter accomplished this goal this season with Matt Ryan putting up career numbers and for much of the season being neck and neck among the leaders for MVP honors.

But you’re wondering why I began this saying the Falcons were too consistent. What I also discovered those NFC Champions had in common was that they were fairly inconsistent. I was looking at Football Outsiders’ offensive efficiency rankings. They use their metric DVOA to grade every play and game of a season, and chart the variance it has over the course of the year. Basically it’s an indicator of how consistently a team plays at their measured level. Under Mike Mularkey, the Falcons were routinely one of the least variant teams (i.e. most consistent) in the league. In 2010, they ranked 10th. In 2009, it was 2nd, 3rd in 2010, and atop the league in 2011. It meant that the Falcons offensive performance was fairly consistent week-to-week. And considering they were ranked in the Top 10 two of those years and Top 15 the other two, it means they were consistently pretty good.

But I also noticed that the teams that ultimately won the Super Bowl were less consistent. While their overall DVOA usually coincided with the Falcons, their variance was greater. Arizona was the 21st most variant offense in 2008 with 15th place in the overall DVOA rankings. In 2009, the Saints were the 2nd overall ranking in DVOA, but were 14th least variant. In 2010, the Packers were 7th ranked, but also 14th least variant. And last year, the Giants ranked 7th overall, but was 11th least variant.

It meant that while they averaged a certain over the course of the season, they had wild swings up and down from where they wound up. So if in a given week, the offense of Team A is seen as 25% better than the average NFL offense. Then another week, it’s 5% worst. If you average that out over an entire season, that offense was 10% better than the average offense. If they played Team B that was consistently 10% better each week, one would think it would be a fairly even matchup if you look at their year-end numbers. But if Team A has one of their 25% weeks, they will be better than Team B, who can’t rise above 10%.

The Falcons represented Team B, and in each of the past three playoff exits, they ran up against a team that mimicked Team A.

So I concluded that a key to success for Dirk Koetter was to try and instill some variance in the offense. If that means that the Falcons offense struggles from time to time during the regular season, that was okay. Because that could mean that they could really have a positive benefits during the postseason if they found a way to peak at the right time. Those other teams basically used their regular season as an extended preseason in the sense that all of the trials and tribulations were all part of a process to get good at the right time. As you play each week, and have differing levels of success on offense, teams begin to learn more about themselves. They start to see what works and what doesn’t work. It’s trial and error, basically practice for when the games “really matter” in January. To use another sport as an analogy, it’s like a streaky three-point shooter. On the nights when his shot is off, he’s bad and can potentially cost you the game. If he’s on though, he’s practically unguardable and will make your team very tough to beat. Over the course of a season, if he’s more hot than cold, then you’re going to have enough success to make the playoffs. And if he’s hot then, you’re going to make a very deep run.

The Falcons could not do this in previous playoff years. They couldn’t elevate their game to a new level when the pressure mounted in January. They happened to be the unfortunate fellow that was asked to guard the three-point shooter on three of his hot nights. If the Falcons continued with the status quo, they would essentially be unable to control their destiny going forward. They would have to hope their opponent at that time would be cold that night. Instead, they needed to move in a direction that called upon them to become able to elevate their play, and becoming the hot shooter.

So what’s the verdict on Koetter’s offense accomplishing this?

Well this year, the Falcons offense continues to be very productive, rating 12th overall. They are the 13th least variant offense in the league. Does that mean that the Falcons will be in the Super Bowl like their predecessors? Perhaps, that has yet to be determined. But it definitely means that the Falcons have made bonafide strides to get there this year.

In the second round of the playoffs, the Falcons will be facing one of three teams: Minnesota, Washington, or Seattle. Minnesota’s offense ranks 15th in the league, but has taken over the Falcons as the least variant offense in terms of DVOA this year. If this year’s Vikings team is anything like past Falcon teams, that should be very promising for the Falcons should they meet next Sunday.

Washington and Seattle both have better offenses, with the Redskins ranking 6th and the Seahawks 4th in overall rankings. Washington’s offense is the 5th least variant offense, while Seattle’s is 16th. That means Washington is consistently good, but unlikely to get better. Seattle on the other hand is either very good or fairly bad. Those will be tougher matchups than the Falcons, with the Seahawks being the bigger challenge.

Regardless of how the Falcons season ends, whether several days or several weeks from now, there is definite room for optimism that the Falcons have started down a good path offensively. The fact that Koetter will be remaining with the Falcons for at least another year means they can take further steps down that path either as prospective Super Bowl contenders, or repeat Champions.

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


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 Post subject: Re: Superbowl or bust it is
PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2013 1:12 am 
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I like the article. I wrote a remarkably similar one a couple years ago, perhaps after we both discussed it on here. Funny.

I think it's even less about variance, and more about "ceiling." A team that is consistently 10% above average is just that. A team that is 10% below average some and 30% above some, can easily have a streak of 30% above average games. The variance, I think, is a way to get at ceiling (given similar overall stats, the one with variance has a higher ceiling.)


On Ryan, it seems we agree on most, I just think the transition should have begun in 2010, and you think 2011. I think with a cerebral QB, you have to know you have to put more weapons around him, so you have a lot of matchup beaters. That's how you gain advantage with cerebral when you don't have great athletic ability.

I guess, given this, it didn't make sense to rely on a back who isn't a threat in the passing game, and a slot WR who doesn't get open or catch in traffic. So, though I liked Turner, he didn't seem to mesh at all with the style of QB Ryan clearly was. I fully agree Ryan's not going to become a gunslinger, so they should focus heavily on "matchup beaters" on offense, as you stated. When you have a good guy on a LB or S, they can get open in the short field. If you have guys getting open within 20 yards, and guys getting open up the seam (shortest pass for yardage) it really helps a QB without the biggest arm.


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