The Flight of the Falcons

The Falcons are back.

No, I’m not saying they’re going to the Super Bowl.  I’m not even saying they’re going to go to the playoffs, though they certainly haven’t hurt their chances by going 4-2 in their first 6 games.

What I am saying, is that we’re looking at a real football team again.  They may not have a team of superstars, but they’ve got talent and just as importantly, they’ve got confidence.

Last year was bad.  Awful, actually.  But to say they’ve overcome that year is selling them short, because they’ve actually had to overcome several years of frustration.  In 2004, they made it to the NFC Championship, but after that they had two years of mediocrity, followed by a year of atrocity.  They may only be 4 years removed from that playoff appearance, but it’s felt a heck of a lot longer.

The last few years with a lot of mediocre play from some of the players that were supposed to be the stars, clubhouse controversy, off-field distractions, and poor coaching.  All that would make it difficult for any team to be successful, and it took it’s toll on the franchise. 

But then Arthur Blank made some changes.  He gave Thomas Dimitroff his first shot at being an NFL GM, and then they gave Mike Smith his first shot at being an NFL head coach.  While many people questioned if the Falcons would be able to compete this year, Dimitroff and Smith instantly brought a sense of stability and direction.  They knew the team had a long way to go, but they brought confidence and chemistry to a team that had been lacking both.  Anything they did after that would seem like icing on the cake this year.

Well, so far the cake is tasting pretty good. 

They raised a few eyebrows when they took Matt Ryan, but very few are questioning the move now.  He’s only 6 games into his career but he’s already one of the leaders on the field, he’s got the respect and confidence of his teammates, and the new face of the franchise is the ultimate professional.  He’s still a rookie and there will still be some bumps in the road, but I don’t hear much talk about Dorsey in Atlanta anymore. 

The doubters got even more vocal when the team picked Sam Baker in the first round.  Scouts said he had short arms, much to his surprise.  Well he and his arms have done very well, as has the rest of the offensive line.

In fact, most of the Falcons draft picks have done well.  Dimitroff came in with a reputation of being an expert on college talent, and he’s proven to be exactly that. But he didn’t rest on the draft alone.  Among others, he brought in Michael Turner and Jason Elam, both of whom have been crucial to this year’s success. 

So are the Falcons a surprise this year?  Yes, but not to themselves anymore.  They take the field with a belief that they’re going to have a chance to win the game.  And that’s why they’re back.

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