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.
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.