TDW’s 2010 Season Post-Mortem - Printable Version
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TDW’s 2010 Season Post-Mortem - TheDirtyWord - 01-25-2011 04:37 PM
I found the feeling of being grossly disappointed in how the season turned out quite strange. I thought back on the previous 2 seasons under Smith/Dimitroff and how…
In 2008, even though we lost, we ha no right to expect to be playoff bound anyway that year, so the feeling of being eliminated was tempered by the knowledge that we had been treated unexpectedly to a franchise revival…especially after the Petrino/Vick year.
In 2009, even though we failed to make the playoffs, we had been gutted with injuries and the fight in the franchise to keep plugging along was admirable. While it won’t go down as one of the Falcons better seasons, it did seem to be a turning point getting the back-to-back monkey off our back.
But this year…this year was supposed to be our year. It felt like our year. To the last minute victories…to the ball bouncing our way seemingly on a weekly basis, to a 13-3 record, to the #1 seed in the play-offs. Everything seemed to be coming together just the way Dimitroff/Smith planned it.
And then 48-21 happened. And I feel more disappointed in the Falcons than I did in either of the previous two seasons even though they arguably had their best season yet. It’s more disappointment in the outcome than the team itself, but I can’t help but wonder now if the path we’re on is the right one. If I had to point to one reason why we lost to the Packers, it would be because they were simply the better team.
I refrained from writing about 2010 after the game because I wanted to be clear minded when I evaluated what we were able to accomplish and what still needs to be done to be in the position Green Bay & Pittsburgh are in today. Emotion can cloud judgment and can cause irrational thought processes when trying to be objective on where we stand today. The fact of the matter is that criticism at this level of play can seem unfair. However, the Falcons goal is to win the SuperBowl and as such, the microscope has to be that much more tuned into areas the team needs to address.
1. Matt Ryan – by all accounts, 2010 was his best season. A pristine 28-9 TD:INT ratio. A career high completion rate of 62.5%. A ProBowl Berth and a 13-3 record, running his record as an NFL starting QB to 33-13. But two statistical measures concern me and I still believe that 2008 remains his best season because I felt he was more capable of attacking ALL areas of the field:
a. YPA/YPC – of the 31 passers to qualify for the QB rating title, Ryan ranked 26th in YPA and 28th in YPC.
b. Long/46 – Tied for 48th in the NFL with Tarvaris Jackson, Joe Webb & Charlie Batch who combined for 375 fewer passing attempts than Ryan.
I don’t know if it is fair to pin this entirely on Ryan. It’s very clear that with the exception of Roddy, this offense lacks any type of explosion. Tony Gonzalez, while still very good at catching the ball in traffic no longer can get downfield. Michael Jenkins while having perhaps his best season showed exactly why he is a detriment to the passing game – he poses no threat to hurt defenses on a consistent basis for rolling their coverage over to Roddy. And Harry Douglas played with no confidence and even less impact. Weapons matter in the NFL, and Ryan really only has one at his disposal. With that said, Ryan almost eschews looking downfield now. For the year, Ryan completed 10 passes out of 41 attempts when he had to throw the ball more than 20 yards downfield.
Compare that to:
Drew Brees – 23/60 in 658 attempts
Aaron Rodgers – 24/65 in 475 attempts
Michael Vick – 22/56 in 372 attempts
Peyton Manning – 23/78 in 679 attempts
Philip Rivers – 22/57 in 541 attempts
Ben Roethlisberger – 16/46 in 389 attempts
Josh Freeman – 22/64 in 474 attempts
...and maybe most telling
Matt Ryan (in 2008) – 21/55 in 434 attempts
Now, one QB who doesn’t go downfield much either is Tom Brady. He was 14/36. However, his:
- Completion Rate was 65.9%; 3.4% points better than Ryan.
- YPA was 7.93; 1.44 YPA better than Ryan.
Another QB that posted the same 10/41 figure…? Matt Cassell…with 121 fewer passing attempts. This also helps to explain Michael Turner’s decline in per carry production. If teams know you can’t hurt them deep, it allows a step or two to be taken to be in position to stop the run.
A year ago to the day, I wrote the following post. I get some wrong for sure, but I nailed this and now, this appears to be the biggest drawback to this Falcon team. Very prophetic.
State of the Falcons Passing Game
What I will say is that Jenkins could be our next Brian Finneran, but he can no longer be considered a starter. However, even with our weapons being subpar, Ryan’s YPA/YPC figures simply can’t continue. I recognize that the Falcons like long sustained drives. What team doesn’t? But you have to be able to have a quick strike arsenal at your disposal as well, particularly in an NFL which now slants itself towards this type of offense. The Green Bay Packers are in the position they’re in largely because their QB got white hot at the right time. Granted he’s one of the best in the business but weren’t we touting Ryan as that? Shouldn’t we be?
I think for the 3 years Ryan has been here, there’s been this notion that he needs the running game to compliment him in order to be successful. I think the Falcons perpetuate that notion and embrace the run first mentality behind Michael Turner. I’ll touch on this more in a bit, but if the Falcons want to win a SuperBowl, the Falcons need to squarely put this team on his shoulders. This has not happened yet. I have confidence in Ryan. He is a leader of men and is still evolving as a pro QB. I am firmly in his corner. But he needs to take the next step and contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think 2010 was it.
2. Ground & Pound for a Dome team…? – What struck me about the Conference Championship Games was how no teams passing attack really got on track. Even Rodgers began to look pedestrian. A lot of that had to do with the Bears defense, but I can’t help but think that playing in wicked conditions, with crappy and cut up sod didn’t have some effect on how these teams were able to move the ball through the air. When you think of the Steelers, you think of these sledgehammer type of running attacks, and even though their 21st century revolves around Roethlisberger, on this most important of days, their capable sledgehammer Rashard Mendenhall led the way.
But, for us…we’re a Dome team. Weather conditions are not in play. Field conditions are not in play. A big reason a team builds its offense around a ground attack is because of the assumption that come January, it may be the only form of offense they can count on. For the Falcons in 2010, the ideal scenario played out. We won homefield, yet I’ll give you 10:1 odds that if you asked Aaron Rodgers where he preferred playing his playoff game on the road between 3 locales (PHI, CHI, ATL)…he’d pick the Dome everytime. Come playoff time, all the venues are loud. And ours certainly was…outside of that though, I think it was quite comfy.
Truth be told though, in Atlanta, you have a decent chance at drawing a 50 degree day in January so even if we were outside, the elements aren’t going to run havoc like they would in the NE and/or MW. But simply put, our reliance on the ground game simply won’t give us a distinct playoff advantage. In our two playoff losses, our ground attack has been feeble while precision passing attacks cut us to shreds. Both losses occurred in a Dome where conditions were ideal. We’ve got a franchise QB in Ryan…and a Dome that can dictate ideal QB conditions. It’s an even bigger reason why Ryan needs to be the franchise centerpiece. It’s not that you don’t want a strong run game…it’s just that it may not be the differentiator for a Dome team in January like it is in October.
3. With the 27th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons select…? – So I’ve railed on the lack of explosiveness from the Falcons in 2010. That would seem to suggest a WR, right? Not quite. I think the Falcons will go WR at some point in the first 3 rounds. Even with Kerry Meier hopefully coming back, who probably would replace Finneran, I don’t think Harry Douglas can feel too comfortable this off-season, but I also think the Falcons want to give him one more off-season to see if he can reclaim the career arc he seemed to be establishing after his rookie year. A 1st rounder would eliminate such a possibility. Plus, I don’t think there is a talent available at #27 who would be worth the selection. I know some here are big Jonathan Baldwin fans…I haven’t seen what other people have seen and his behavior and demeanor his final season at Pitt seem to suggest he wouldn’t be a very good fit in the locker room that Dimitroff has carefully cultivated.
My pick as I see it now is Kyle Rudolph, TE – Notre Dame. While I don’t disagree that the Falcons are in dire need of playmakers, Rudolph is the best TE in this class and Dimitroff has shown an inclination to take talent that has been undervalued by injury plagued final college seasons (i.e; Sam Baker, Will Moore). The Falcons will welcome Gonzalez back because of his stature, ability to make tough catches and general locker room presence. But they’ll need to provide Ryan another pass catching weapon. At 6’6 265, he’s already and NFL sized TE and he possesses potentially the best hands of any TE coming into the draft in a long time. He’s not an athletic freak like Vernon Davis for sure. But he can be an immediate contributor to the Falcons that can help provide a sure handed target for Ryan.
4. Time to pay the piper – The Falcons have not had to spend much money on player personnel these past three years because they’ve been so young, that very few made big money. Past Ryan, Turner, White, Abraham…the roster has been put together with very good value players. If the Falcons hope to keep this team together, there is going to be some significant contracts handed out whenever the CBA gets done.
Of this group, I’d be most inclined to prioritize Grimes, Clabo & Nicholas…fairly standard in terms of the ranking priority of these guys with the masses. While the Falcons would probably like to keep Dahl, with the Falcons drafting of Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson last year, it seems that they have been preparing themselves to lose Dahl. In addition, it may not be a bad idea to consider a Sam Baker move inside as well.
5. Free Agency (if we have it) – I don’t know if there is anything you HAVE to go get. When I look at the return we got on Dunta Robinson this past year, I’m inclined to bypass free agency altogether. One thing to consider is that the salary cap which prior to being abolished stood at the $128-$130M range, will probably come back at a figure perhaps 7-10% less than that. Depending on what the owners are expected to negotiate, the salary cap could actually come down. Now, at $130M, barely any teams were pushing up against it, but teams can’t afford too many $58M contracts to players who can only pick off passes from the arm of Jimmy Clausen. And quite honestly, I don’t remember many, if any, times when Robinson was in a position to pick off a pass. I know the Falcons were short-handed at the CB spot and were perhaps forced to overpay for the only legitimate FA CB on the market, but when I see the steal Jabari Greer has been for the Saints, at the moment, I have to consider Robinson Dimitroff’s worst move. I’ll have to take a closer look but right now, I see a lay low policy in FA out of Flowery Branch.
6. In closing – I by no means want to crap on a 13-3 season. Perhaps the stench of not being in the SuperBowl is still eating away at me. I really thought this was turning into our year. And I think it’s great that we can seriously consider winning SuperBowl’s as a worthy and realistic goal and feel disappointed when it doesn't happen In 2008, I was just happy to have a good team.
At the end of the day, we ran into the Aaron Rodgers buzzsaw. We simply were not able to keep up that night. But I want the Falcons to be the buzzsaw. As fantastic as 13-3 was, I can’t help but feel that we accumulated wins to put us in a position that we failed to seize. I don’t like to listen to the pundits, but it was interesting that we didn’t ascend up the rankings to perhaps where we thought the Falcons should have been ranked until our win total simply dictated it. But no one was ever sold on the Falcons as the dominant team in the NFC, or even the team to beat. And that aura around a franchise means something. Winning builds that aura but so does your ability to destroy your opponent. We had some game where we systematically put games out of reach…but even as a die-hard fan, I never felt that swagger that doesn’t need to be defined or explained that you see from other elite teams.
I don’t think we need to add much personnel. Surely, we still need to draft well, but in sending 9 ProBowlers to Hawaii, I think it’s clear that this is a talented group. Sustained continuity and growth on the defensive side of the ball I think will improve their performance. But weapons for Ryan are a must.
RE: TDW’s 2010 Season Post-Mortem - takeitdown - 01-25-2011 05:21 PM
YPA adjusted for INTs is one of the closest predictors of success in the NFL (has the highest correlation to winning.)
So, it's pretty important, as you say, to get that YPA back up to near 8 instead of near 6.
RE: TDW’s 2010 Season Post-Mortem - papachaz - 01-25-2011 06:09 PM
discussing your salary cap prediction. IF the 18 game season the owners so desperately want comes to be, it will have some counter negotiations from the players union. part of what i'm reading/hearing is an increase in the rosters. from 53 now to somewhere in the 58-61 player range, with 53 active for each game.
that being said, why would the salary cap be lower? i also realize the talk about setting a rookie cap, and i realize that the rookie salaries the last several years have escalated ridiculously. take those out, pass some of that money around to the vets, i'm all for it. but if you increase the number of employees, you have to increase the amount you can pay each, or you have to have players who are able to work for less in order to allow more players. which do you think they're going to want to do?? anybody anywhere volunteering to take a pay cut??
the most expensive part of running any business is the employees. i don't see how the salary cap can be lowered if they're increasing the the rosters...just my thoughts
RE: TDW’s 2010 Season Post-Mortem - nobkowski - 01-25-2011 07:11 PM
Really good post as usual. I also agree with just about all of it. However, I like J.J.
(Jerrell Jernigan) as the receiver draftee, plus some top notch help in the draft for the defense with some f.a. pick ups as well.
RE: TDW’s 2010 Season Post-Mortem - falconsfan84 - 01-25-2011 08:09 PM
RE: TDW’s 2010 Season Post-Mortem - JOEinPHX - 01-25-2011 08:54 PM
I enjoyed reading this post a great deal, but I just can't get on board with the idea of taking a TE in the first. This is partly because there are already three guys at the spot, and even if TG wasn't returning next year, I'd point to serviceable talent in Peelle and some significant upside in Palmer. I just couldn't spend the #27 pick on a roster spot that doesn't show significant need.
I could spend it, though, on a top-tier O-lineman, RB, DE or CB.
I don't expect Harvey Dahl to return, but I think his replacement is already under contract in the person of Garrett Reynolds, who, if anything, is a bigger, nastier and somewhat more athletic version of Dahl. He's the #1 reason why Dahl won't get an offer he'll be happy with or likely to take if he receives any FA interest. And while Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson are both on the roster for the foreseeable future, I can tell you that regardless of whatever happy-talk about them has come out of the Branch, they have not impressed. When I add to this the oft-questioned fit of Sam Baker as a starting LT, I think an O-lineman is a distinct possibility at #27, especially if a high-potential LT lasts that long.
We also may not see much more of Jason Snelling, because he's not likely to get an RFA offer that will impress him. This is one more reason to look at a complement/eventual replacement for Michael Turner. This would be the 'playmaker-gamebreaker' the team needs (not a change-of-pace back), and I think we're more likely to see it happen at the RB spot than receiver.
DE may not be an immediate need, and it may be tough to justify another roster spot at that position. But Abraham is definitely nearing his end no matter his success this season. His eventual replacement has to be picked up, and a near term improvement on the opposite end wouldn't be bad either.
I could even consider a top-tier CB because the nickel situation is pretty grim right now.
Finally, regarding free agency, I do think the front office will be active. The four needs listed above can't all reasonably be expected to be met in the draft. Because of this, I'd look for at least one starter-quality signing, probably at the nickel CB or DE spot, and quite possibly both. If this comes to pass, look for a need/BPA compromise at #27, picking up the O-lineman or RB that best fills the bill - and I'm feeling a strong lean toward RB here.
RE: TDW’s 2010 Season Post-Mortem - TheDirtyWord - 01-26-2011 11:38 AM
(01-25-2011 08:54 PM)JOEinPHX Wrote: I enjoyed reading this post a great deal, but I just can't get on board with the idea of taking a TE in the first. This is partly because there are already three guys at the spot, and even if TG wasn't returning next year, I'd point to serviceable talent in Peelle and some significant upside in Palmer. I just couldn't spend the #27 pick on a roster spot that doesn't show significant need.
Peelle I believe is due $1.6M next year and then he is a FA. He is also simply a journeyman type talent and despite the fact that Palmer was a nice surprise in just making the roster as a UDFA, I'm not sold on him as a long term solution as even a #2 TE yet. When you consider that Gonzo is year-to-year and next year is the last season on his contract, past 2011, the Falcons have close to zippo at the TE position...a position Ryan has grown quite comfortable throwing to these last two seasons.
OL or CB are acceptable options as well, but RB & DE...I don't think a first round choice would wise in these positions.
Quote:I don't expect Harvey Dahl to return, but I think his replacement is already under contract in the person of Garrett Reynolds, who, if anything, is a bigger, nastier and somewhat more athletic version of Dahl. He's the #1 reason why Dahl won't get an offer he'll be happy with or likely to take if he receives any FA interest. And while Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson are both on the roster for the foreseeable future, I can tell you that regardless of whatever happy-talk about them has come out of the Branch, they have not impressed. When I add to this the oft-questioned fit of Sam Baker as a starting LT, I think an O-lineman is a distinct possibility at #27, especially if a high-potential LT lasts that long.
Why the faith in Garrett Reynolds when in two seasons he has yet to really breakthrough as even a reserve lineman. but the lack of faith in Johnson & Hawley? I think C or OT could potentially be options. I agree that Sam Baker has seemingly regressed since an impressive rookie year.
Quote:We also may not see much more of Jason Snelling, because he's not likely to get an RFA offer that will impress him. This is one more reason to look at a complement/eventual replacement for Michael Turner. This would be the 'playmaker-gamebreaker' the team needs (not a change-of-pace back), and I think we're more likely to see it happen at the RB spot than receiver.
I like Snelling...I think he's a versatile big back which is not that plentiful a commodity in the NFL. However, I like him as Turner insurance, not a #2 change of pace back because aside from a better ability to catch the football, he's not that much of a difference from Turner in terms of the type of personnel a defense has to employ when he's on the field. While I know Norwood is history, his ability/speed could dictate different looks the Falcons got from the defense and his speed could produce big plays. The Falcons need to find Norwood 2.0, but not in Round 1.
Quote:DE may not be an immediate need, and it may be tough to justify another roster spot at that position. But Abraham is definitely nearing his end no matter his success this season. His eventual replacement has to be picked up, and a near term improvement on the opposite end wouldn't be bad either.
The problem we have at DE is aside from Abraham, we're extremely deep but have yet to produce an impact counterpart. What I would ask you though with this justification is this. We are plenty deeper at DE versus TE and our star DE (Abraham) is coming off a first team All-Pro selection. Plus, he is two years younger than Gonzo. Why do you feel set at TE but not at DE?
Quote:I could even consider a top-tier CB because the nickel situation is pretty grim right now.
You can never have enough good corners. I'd like to see Dominique Franks after another off-season. Franks had second round talent and did come out early, so the Falcons could have been red-shirting him and given him instructions that the 2011 nickelback spot was his for the taking. But CB is an OK selection here...
Quote:Finally, regarding free agency, I do think the front office will be active. The four needs listed above can't all reasonably be expected to be met in the draft. Because of this, I'd look for at least one starter-quality signing, probably at the nickel CB or DE spot, and quite possibly both. If this comes to pass, look for a need/BPA compromise at #27, picking up the O-lineman or RB that best fills the bill - and I'm feeling a strong lean toward RB here.
I'd be surprised is we signed a veteran CB on the FA market given how overpriced acquiring one is via that channel and especially after overpaying for Dunta. I know alot of folks like Ray Edwards, Charles Johnson and Mathias Kiwunuka...but I still feel like we haven't seen the best of Biermann. I think he's close to putting up 8 sacks per year...it's kind of what we expected this year from him after a very promising 2009. Edwards didn't start putting up 8 sacks until his 4th year. Kiwunuka is coming off a neck injury that IMO makes it extraordinarily difficult to justify a long term commitment. If the Panthers don't resign Charles Johnson, we're also talking about a guy who finally clicked in Year 4 but had been average up until that point. Why is Johnson a better long term investment than Biermann? I just don't see there being alot of 4-3 options on the open market that are more desirable than what we have.
RE: TDW’s 2010 Season Post-Mortem - Beef - 01-26-2011 01:28 PM
Abe specifically said he thought Kroy was a beast & a future double-digit sack guy. I've kept that in the back of my mind this year & that's why i'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that it will happen. He's going into his 2nd year as a starter & 4th year in the league, which historically speaking for DE, is the average time when DE's break out & become what the rest of their career is about.
That doesn't change the fact that Kroy breaking out is not a certainty, Abe has a max of 2 more years, & we have a very intense DL rotation & past Abe, the other 3 or 4 DE's are purely average at this point.
It would be such a huge deal if we had two 10+ sack guys on both sides with Kroy, Davis, & JA98 rotating in & Kroy also gets upwards of 8 as well. Then we add a pass rushing OLB to the mix opposite Spoon, along with upgrading our outside corner play somehow & moving somebody much better/faster than B. Williams to nickel who can also help with pass rush, & our problems are solved.
So sign a FA DE & CB, then draft an OLB known for his pass rushing (like Beal) in the 3rd or 4th rnd, then move either Grimes or Dunta to nickel. Defense complete.
RE: TDW’s 2010 Season Post-Mortem - illmusic - 01-26-2011 01:54 PM
I'm not a draft guru because I've never gotten into the habit of watching football games on Saturday but...I wouldn't mind a TE in the mold of Witten or Heath Miller...not an athletic freak or anything, but is sure handed. with that said, I'm not sure if the position is dry this year, but I'm hoping we can go a little lower and pick up a TE like that, assuming TG comes back next year, so he can learn some from TG and be swappable the year after. what I really want, is a more complete RB...it's something that probably won't happen, but I'd like a pretty high profile trade of Turner for a 3rd rounder, or maybe some receiver help from someone who has a number 3 who could be a number 2. I love Turner's style, but I hate the fact that he can't catch a cold out there. hurts the offense imo...but I don't know, around this time I just like hearing everybody talking about the prospects we might get...great post btw.
RE: TDW’s 2010 Season Post-Mortem - phocis850 - 01-26-2011 02:37 PM
I didn't see anything regarding coaching. What is your take on that TDW?