Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus...

The Falcons are in the playoffs.


Nope...seeing those words in print don't make them any more believable to me.

Think about where this team was this time last year: No coach (after Petrino did what Petrino does...selfishly bail on his team). No GM. No quarterback. The only defensive playmaker was a locker room cancer. The only offensive playmaker...well, outside of occasional bursts from Jerious Norwood, there WAS no offensive playmaker.

And now THAT team is in the playoffs.

First kudos go to Arthur Blank and Rich McKay for hiring Thomas Dimitroff. EVERY move Dimitroff has made has worked. How's this for a perfect offseason?
  • Hire Mike Smith - He's been perfect for this team. Just focused on the job, none of the surrounding crap.
  • Put together a fantastic coaching staff - Mike Mularkey on offense. Brian Van Gorder on defense (man, do we miss him in Athens). An unsung hero named Paul Boudreau to coach O-line (2nd in the NFC in fewest sacks allowed, 1st in the NFC and 2nd in the NFL in rushing yardage). Just a great staff who has done a remarkable job working with this young team.
  • Get rid of ME-angelo Hall. This guy was the cancer I was referring to earlier. I have NEVER seen a more selfish football player in my 25+ years of watching football. Add that to the fact that his skills appear to be diminishing for some reason (as evidenced by the fact that he's already on his second team after being traded), and it was an obvious move to trade him. But here's the cherry on top...we packaged the pick we got for him to move up into the first round and draft Sam Baker, who will be our o-line anchor for many years to come. Which leads me to...
  • Have a perfect draft. 1st round - Matt Ryan (Rookie of the Year - more on him in a second), Sam Baker (your left tackle for the next 5-7 years at least). 2nd round - Curtis Lofton (sometime starter, big contributor this year, and MLB of the future). 3rd round - Chevis Jackson (saw a lot of time this year at nickel back), Harry Douglas (big time contributor both on offense and special teams). So...out of your top 5 picks, you got 1 franchise player, 3 starters, and 5 impact players. THAT is a perfect draft.
  • Sign Michael Turner. The perfect free agent for what this team was doing. Takes pressure off your rookie quarterback, grinds out clock and keeps your questionable defense off the field for long stretches of time. The Falcons identified him as the guy they wanted, and called him at 12:01 AM the day free agency started. All he's done is be near the top of the league in rushing yards all year and set a new franchise record for rushing TDs in a season.
Wow. Any chance Dimitroff sold his soul or something, and this is all going to come crashing down next year?

And I think I've said it here before, but I was wrong, wrong, WRONG about Matt Ryan. Remember that perfect draft I described a minute ago? I missed the whole thing, because I turned the TV off and whipped the remote across the room in disgust when the Falcons drafted Ryan. I wanted Glenn Dorsey. Anybody heard from him lately? Guess that's why I'm a financial analyst and not an NFL GM.

Ryan has been EVERYTHING the Falcons told us he would be and more. He makes EVERY throw, he's tough, he's smart, and (perhaps most importantly) he's a LEADER. He understands what it means to be QB1, that you can't be the last guy at practice and the first one to leave (which is what #7 used to do, reportedly).

One of the most impressive things about him is how the coaching staff trusts him enough to run the no-huddle as often as they do, even on the road. That's an unbelievable level of trust, especially for a rookie. That shows that he is putting in the time in the film room and completely understands both the offense and what the opposing defense is doing. Did I mention he's a ROOKIE?

Two more sentences I never thought I would write:
  • Roddy White is a Pro Bowler. I don't remember seeing a player make "The Leap" as quickly and completely as White has. Two years ago, he couldn't catch a cold and had ZERO confidence and a bad attitude. Now he's a legitimate playmaker and frontline receiver. In my opinion, this transformation was at least in part to the Falcons getting rid of MeAngelo and Vick and replaced them with real leaders. Roddy is simply following the new leaders.
  • The Falcons are tied in the NFL for the fewest dropped passes. Used to be, you could count on White, Jenkins, and Finneran to rack up at least 4-5 drops a game. This year they're catching EVERYTHING. So what changed? The quarterback. Makes a huge difference when the ball is delivered accurately and on time.
Also...nice to see what John Abraham can do if he stays healthy all year. Completely unblockable, and the fact that he was left out of the Pro Bowl is a joke. Why do teams continually try to block him one-on-one?

So, thank you to the Falcons for helping dull the sting of the Dawgs disappointments this year. Looking forward to MEANINGFUL football in January.

Let me try it again...the Falcons are in the playoffs.

Nope, still can't believe it.

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