The Atlanta Falcons finished the season with a whimper in Philadelphia. In the post-season autopsy/press conference, Coach Dan Quinn announced the return of OC Steve Sarkisian.
My colleague, Kit Anderson, was very adamant here that the Atlanta Falcons should fire Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian after only one year. Many fans agree with that sentiment. Today, however, Head Coach Dan Quinn announced that Sarkisian will, in fact, return next year.
You know that old axiom, “numbers don’t lie”? Well, the numbers are brutal. The Falcons scored a total of 540 points in 2016. That placed them as the highest scoring Offense in the NFL. That placed them in the Super Bowl.
Now, there is always attrition and disruption when there is a coaching change. Especially, at the Coordinator position. But in 2017, ATL scored a flaccid 353 points. That isn’t regression. That is stagnation. it is a halting stagnation that seems impossible with the roster talent on that side of the ball.
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That, though, isn’t the number that should freak Falcons fans out. In 2016, Atlanta was plus 11 in Turnover ratio. That is a very healthy statistic. In year one of Sarkisian, they were minus 2. I don’t care who you are, if that doesn’t give you major pause, then I’d suggest you don’t understand football.
But like that old axiom says, while numbers don’t lie, necessarily, they also don’t tell the whole story. The full story is that not only was the Offense stuck and stalling, at times, it was the “why” that is so alarming. Weeks would go by and Julio Jones, arguably the best player on the field at any given time, would only get 4 or 5 targets in a game. The inability, or unwillingness, to run the ball, especially when that part was working, was maddeningly laughable.
Quinn, when “explaining” that grumbles about Sarkisian were akin to those of previous OC Shanahan after his first year, dismissed those complaints out of hand. He basically inferred 1st year transition as the culprit.
Ok. Fine. But what was the excuse after having played 17 games? What was the excuse of that last drive in Philly? How is it that Atlanta, after having blown the Super Bowl by not running the ball the year before, decided to throw the ball 4 straight times in the red zone again? They also lost again.
That doesn’t have anything to do with playbook and personnel acclimation. It’s just bad play calling.
Ask Alabama fans about the 2017 National Championship.
If Dan Quinn is right, and next year Atlanta’s Offense returns to prolific form, then folks will learn a lesson. A lesson of patience. Including this folk. It simply is a function of first year transition.
But if they struggle again next year, it will go down as a tremendous and terrible miscalculation. Wasting Julio Jones in his prime certainly qualifies.