For those that have visited the forums, you may be aware that there are some Falcon fans that are skeptical of the so-called genius behind the decision to acquire Tony Gonzalez this off-season.
Gonzalez had a brilliant start to the season, but has come back down to earth a bit over the past month or so. And now there are opinions where Matt Ryan may be pressured to focus on Gonzalez a bit too much, which may be actually hurting the team more than helping. And despite the Ryan-Gonzalez connection essentially leading us on a comeback this past Sunday vs. the Giants, in general I would say that I agree with those opinions.
Another reason why some may cite why the Gonzalez move was a bad move is because it cost the Falcons a second round pick this year. Second round picks because of the relative cheapness yet the relative high quality of the players picked is really the most valuable pick in the draft. The New England people (Belichick, Pioli, and Dimitroff) understand this better than anyone in the league, and thus do their best to hoard these picks. Dimitroff however is much more willing than his former mentors to part with these picks because he’s a bit more aggressive than either.
A third reason why the Gonzalez trade may be a bad one is the belief that Gonzalez’s presence on the roster has forced Mike Mularkey to shrink the playbook, which has hurt Ryan’s development, and is one of the primary culprits why Ryan has been slumping as of late.
And all of the reasons are not wrong. The problem is that these reasons are based purely off the notion of seeing the Gonzalez trade as a one-year move. It’s only a small part of the big picture.
If one is only to look at this move from a first year perspective, you need to change your viewpoint.
At the website Pro-Football-Reference, they have a stat called expected wins and losses. You can read about it here, but briefly it’s a stat that indicates that points scored and allowed is much more accurate way than strictly wins and losses to examine how good a team will be in the following year. Last season the Falcons won 11 games, but based on PFR’s stat, their expected wins was 9.7 wins and 6.3 losses. Which means the Falcons were closer to a 9-win team than an 11-win team as far as expectations entering this season.
Dimitroff understood this, and knew that with a tougher schedule, and the youth movement on defense, that the Falcons would likely take a step back this year. Probably to the point that had they stood pat, they may have only been a 6 or 7-win team this year. And one could certainly say that more often than not this year, we have appeared to be of that caliber.
So what acquiring Gonzalez did was not supposed to take an 11-win team to a whole new plateau. Essentially, it was taking a 7-win to another plateau. What Gonzalez has done is maintained the status quo. Gonzalez is the difference on what may be a 7-9 team that keeps them at 9-7. Dimitroff, like all members of the Falcons organization desperately wants to break the curse of non-consecutive winning seasons. The Falcons needed to make a significant move this off-season to break the curse.
Gonzalez’s addition to the offense was exactly that. Now, it’s up to the individual to decide whether breaking that 43-year streak merits giving up that valuable second round pick. Personally, I think it is. And I think when all is said and done this year, the Falcons will achieve at least 9 wins.
Now looking ahead, Gonzalez has two more years after this one on his contract. And as Ryan continues to develop, Gonzalez can help take a 9-7 team to another plateau. And if/when this team makes a deep playoff run between now and 2011 with Gonzalez helping all the way, those people that spoke ill of this trade will look fairly silly.