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Archive for January, 2012

Free Agent Focus: Quarterback

January 23rd, 2012 Comments off
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Chris Redman

The Falcons have to make a decision with their backup quarterback this off-season. Chris Redman is a prospective free agent, and they will have to determine whether he’s worth bringing back. Redman has been solid reserve for the Falcons, but with a new offensive coordinator coming into the fold and him on the verge of turning 35, it may be the right time to move in a new direction.

It seemed like the Falcons were hopeful that John Parker Wilson would develop into the clear-cut choice for the No. 2 position by now, but Wilson showed minimal progress this past summer. So little that he was cut by the team and kept on the practice squad for most of the season. If the Falcons saw Wilson as the eventual backup to Ryan, it’s very unlikely they would have risked losing him to waivers last summer.

So that means that if the Falcons want to address their backup quarterback situation, they are likely to look elsewhere. Two options that immediately jump to mind are Luke McCown and Trent Edwards. What both players have in common is experience in Dirk Koetter’s offense. McCown had a disappointingly short stint as the Jaguars starter this year before being benched by Week 3 in favor of rookie Blaine Gabbert. But he has been a Jaguar since 2009 after getting traded there by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Edwards was picked by the Jaguars in 2010 after the Buffalo Bills cut him, and spent this past summer with the Oakland Raiders before being cut loose.

Neither player has really shown that they are better than Redman in recent years, but a good strategy for the Falcons would be to sign both players and have them compete directly for the No. 2 job. Unlike Redman, they won’t need to be taught a new system and their experience can help facilitate Ryan’s knowledge of the system as well. And one imagines that via the competition, the better of the two would emerge and in theory should be as competent as Redman would be.

One of the issues I have with Redman is that I think he is perfectly content to being the backup here in Atlanta, and collecting his $3 million or so paycheck. While people think that he could and should get looks by other teams, I don’t think there are any teams that are viewing him as a potential starter, just a backup with the same role/function he had here in Atlanta. And personally, I don’t think a team’s backup should be content. I’d much rather have someone that has some desire to be the starter and therefore will do everything in his power to try and push the starter, even when he has no realistic chance of landing said gig (like here in Atlanta).

Redman is going to be 35, and the end of his career is right around the corner. He should be chomping at the bit to try and get one more chance to be a starter elsewhere. If Redman had the previously mentioned mentality, the Falcons would have virtually no chance of re-signing him. But I don’t get that vibe from him. It’s somewhat a Catch-22, if the Falcons can re-sign Redman then they should not want to, and if they cannot, then they should want to.

I don’t know whether or not Edwards or McCown have such a mentality, but given their relative youth (29 and 30, respectively), I assume they are probably a bit hungrier.

What the Falcons do with the fourth arm in camp is up to them. They could give Wilson another shot, or they could look at other options in the draft. But they certainly should be looking into developing somewhat long-term that can be a backup to Ryan.

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The Future of Matt Ryan

January 23rd, 2012 Comments off

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Matt Ryan

2011 was an interesting year for Matt Ryan. While he had a solid, productive season, he faced more scrutiny than probably any other year besides his rookie season. Ryan’s less than stellar performances in some of the team’s bigger games this year has caused much concern among the fan base on whether Ryan is truly this team’s franchise quarterback going forward.

Personally I think Ryan is that player, but I do think there is a lot of room for improvement from him as well as this coaching staff. Asking him to simply be a game manager is not going to cut it, especially if they cannot invigorate him with the confidence to be able to make the big plays in the big games when this team needs him to. Against the New York Giants, Ryan played poorly. Frankly, he played with the confidence of a guy that had just been handed the starting job a few weeks before. And while Ryan deserves ample blame for his impotent performance, I can’t help but point a few fingers at the coaching staff as well. Especially when I’m watching Alex Smith and the 49ers do exactly what should have happened with Ryan and the Falcons, which is basically playing like they have a pair.

One of the weaknesses of Ryan this past year was his ability to throw the deep ball. It’s never really been the strength of his game dating all the way back to his days at Boston College, but he’s been effective from time to time during his short NFL career (particularly as a rookie). New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is expected to install an offense that emphasizes the vertical pass, and so it will be critical for the Falcons to get Ryan to improve significantly there.

Personally, I think one of the reasons why Ryan struggled with his vertical passing this year is because of how much this coaching staff stresses not to make mistakes and turn the ball over. It’s why Ryan is consistently overthrowing his streaking receivers because “if you’re long, you’re never wrong,” a statement I’ve heard Ryan say more than once. Throwing the ball shorter, which will allow his playmakers like Julio Jones and Roddy White to go and get the ball should make him more effective. But at the same time it will allow defensive players more opportunities to make a play on the ball. But if Ryan is going to work in this new offense, then this coaching staff is going to have to be much more tolerant of turnovers and interceptions. It simply comes with the territory.

You hate to put it in a sort of ultimatum, but if this coaching staff cannot trust Ryan enough to coach him that way, or are unable or unwilling to coach him that way, then something has got to give and someone is going to have to go. Being too conservative and “playing scared” which in my eyes summarizes the disappointment of the 2011 season is simply not going to cut it anymore. Championships are not going to come to you, you have to be willing to go out and take them.

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Why the Falcons Should Let Turner Go

January 22nd, 2012 2 comments
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Michael Turner

The measure of any good talent evaluator is not only to be able to determine where a player is currently, but also to project where a player will be in the future. In Tom Callahan’s book, The GM, which detailed the life and career former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, one of the few things that stuck with me was when Accorsi stated he’d rather be accused of getting rid of a player a year too early, rather than a year too late.

And it’s that statement that leads me to believe that the Falcons should part ways with Michael Turner this off-season.

Read more…

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Falcons pick Nolan as new defensive coordinator

January 17th, 2012 Comments off

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Mike Nolan

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports that Falcons have hired Mike Nolan as their new defensive coordinator, replacing Brian VanGorder who departed for Auburn earlier this month. Nolan is an experienced defensive coordinator, serving in that role for 14 seasons. The Falcons will become the seventh different team that he has held the position with.

Nolan served as defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins the past two seasons. This past year, the Dolphins were the 6th ranked scoring defense and 15th ranked total defense. Prior to joining the Dolphins, Nolan spent a year as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, where they ranked 7th in total defense and 12th in scoring defense. Prior to that, he was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers for four seasons, compiling an 18-37 record. Before taking the 49ers job, he was the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator for three seasons. The Ravens were a Top 10 scoring defense for the latter two years he was. He joined the Ravens coaching staff in 2001 as their wide receivers coach. For 2001 and 2002, he coached alongside current Falcons head coach Mike Smith. Prior to joining the Ravens, he was the defensive coordinator of three different teams: New York Giants (1993-96) under former Falcons head coach Dan Reeves, Washington (1997-99), and New York Jets (2000). Prior to joining the Jets, he coordinated 4-3 defenses, and since then he has worked primarily with 3-4 defenses.

It is not known if the Falcons will continue with their 4-3 defense, or try and transition to a 3-4 scheme. The last time the Falcons were a 3-4 defense, it was in 2002-03 under coordinator Wade Phillips. For much of the 1980s and early 1990s, the Falcons were a 3-4 defense.

Nolan is the son of former San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints head coach Dick Nolan.

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Boudreau won’t be back

January 17th, 2012 Comments off

The team announced that offensive line coach Paul Boudreau will not be returning to the Falcons this year due to his contract expiring. Boudreau joined the team’s coaching staff in 2008.

Boudreau has served as an assistant coach in the NFL for 25 years, having previous stints with St. Louis (2006-07), Jacksonville (2003-05), Carolina (2001-02), Miami (1999-00), New England (1997-98), Detroit (1994-96), and New Orleans (1987-93). In 2010, Tyson Clabo was the tenth different blocker to make the Pro Bowl under Boudreau’s tutelage.

It is not known if the Falcons will hire a new offensive line coach, or potentially elevate assistant OL coach Paul Dunn to the lead position.

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Falcons to hire Koetter

January 15th, 2012 Comments off

Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that league sources have indicated the Falcons have hired former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter as their new offensive coordinator, replacing Mike Mularkey who took over the Jacksonville head coaching position this past week.

Koetter first joined the Jaguars in 2007, the last season where current Falcons head coach Mike Smith served as that team’s defensive coordinator. That season also marked the only time the Jaguars offense was highly ranked under Koetter, finishing 7th in total offense and 6th in scoring offense largely built off the league’s 2nd ranked rushing offense. Since then, the Jaguars offense has struggled at various times, averaging a rank of 17th in total offense and 22nd in scoring over the ensuing three seasons. This past year the Jaguars fell all the way to 32nd in total offense and 28th in scoring, largely due to their poor performing rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert who finished the year with a 65.4 passer rating, lowest in the league.

Prior to joining the Jaguars, Koetter spent six seasons as the head coach of Arizona State, leading them to a 40-34 record, including a 2-2 bowl record. Prior to Arizona State, he was Boise State’s head coach for three seasons compiling a 26-10 overall record and 2-0 bowl record. Koetter led Boise State to their first bowl win 1999 after the team made the jump to Division I (now FBS) in 1996. Before taking over the head job at Boise State, he was the offensive coordinator at several schools for the previous 14 years, starting at San Francisco State (1985), UTEP (1986-88), Missouri (1989-93),  Boston College (1994-95), and Oregon (1996-98).

After his collegiate career as a quarterback at Idaho State ended in 1980, he spent two years as the head coach of his alma mater, Highland High before moving onto San Francisco State in 1985.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 13 “Hue Jackson Salad”

January 15th, 2012 Comments off

Ryan and I are back to recap the big coaching changes that have already occurred in this early 2012 off-season, and discuss our thoughts on Mike Mularkey, Brian VanGorder, and the many candidates that could potentially replace them. We also discuss whether or not the Falcons disappointing finish in 2011 rests on the shoulders of the coordinators, or more on those of the head coach. We argue whether or not these changes on the coaching staff can lead to dramatic upswing in the team’s fortunes in 2012. We also break down which Falcons free agents we believe will stay or go, and I go on a heated rant about the rumors surrounding Brent Grimes future in Atlanta. We both talk about potential trades and whether Roddy White and Michael Turner have played their last games in Falcon uniforms. Ryan runs down his free agency and draft day wishlists, and to finish we each share what teams if any we are rooting for in the rest of playoffs.

Ep. 13: Hue Jackson Salad [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 32 minutes

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop Ryan an e-mail at: ryan-valdez@live.com. Don’t forget to drop by on gamedays to hear our live broadcast at: justin.tv/didziojo

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Bratkowski to join Mularkey in Jacksonville

January 12th, 2012 Comments off

Adam Schefter of ESPN tweets that Falcons quarterback coach Bob Bratkowski is expected to join former Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey on his new coaching staff in Jacksonville. Bratkowski will take over the play-calling duties as their offensive coordinator.

Bratkowski finished his first and last season with the Falcons as quarterbacks coach after ten seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. Both Bratkowski and Mularkey were assistants with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1999-00).

Bratkowski was considered a dark horse candidate for the vacated offensive coordinator position as a replacement for Mularkey. Schefter also reports that interim Jaguars head coach Mel Tucker will be retained as the team’s defensive coordinator. Tucker was reportedly under consideration to take the same role with the Falcons, as a replacement for Brian VanGorder.

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White added to Pro Bowl roster

January 11th, 2012 Comments off

The team announced that wide receiver Roddy White will be added to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster as an injury replacement for Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Tight end Tony Gonzalez was the lone Falcon to actually be voted to the team. White ranked first among NFC receivers with 100 catches, fifth in yards (1,296), and tied for six with touchdowns (8). It marks White’s fourth consecutive Pro Bowl.

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Mularkey to be next Jaguars head coach

January 11th, 2012 Comments off

Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union reports that the Jacksonville Jaguars have hired Falcons offensive coordinator MIke Mularkey as their next head coach, taking over for Jack Del Rio. Mularkey becomes the third head coach for the Jaguars since the expansion franchise began in 1995. It marks Mularkey’s second stint as a head coach, having spent two years heading the Buffalo Bills (2004-05). Mularkey joined the Falcons in 2008, helming their offense in four years. Every year under Mularkey, the Falcons posted a Top 16 total offense and Top 13 scoring offense. The past two years, the Falcons have finished in the Top 7 in scoring offense. But despite the team’s overall success, Mularkey often came under fire due to the team’s struggles to score points against good teams this year. In 6 of their 7 losses, the team failed to score more than 16 points this year. That all culminated with a 2-point effort against the New York Giants in this past weekend’s playoff loss, where the offense was shut out.

Mularkey’s departure now leaves the Falcons without both of their offensive coordinators, after defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder departing to take the same job with Auburn University.

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