This morning I heard an interesting quote, “A coach is interested in the hallway, while the general manager is looking around the corner.” What a profound way of describing the roles of the head coach and the general manager. The coach is interested in what he can see i.e., his players, the coaching staff, schemes and schedules, while the general manager is looking toward the future of the franchise and how to keep the momentum going. While thinking about the quote I began to wonder about the Atlanta Falcons franchise and if general manager Thomas Dimitroff has been keeping his line of sight in the hallway with coach Smith and has been neglecting what lies around the corner toward the future of the franchise.
Under the leadership of Arthur Blank the Atlanta Falcons have gone from an irrelevant NFL franchise to a perennial playoff team and all the success has come from the moves Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith have made since joining the Falcons in 2008. Since then the Falcons have had multiple winning seasons grouped together, which is historic in and of itself, but when looking at the team as it is currently constructed are the Falcons built more for winning now or are they built to be consistently on top of the NFC south? From what I see the Falcons are built as a win now at all costs organization and they have lost sight of the future of the franchise.
No one was more surprised than I when they jumped up to grab Julio Jones in the 2011 draft. While there is no denying that Jones has talent and will become a star in the NFL, the Falcons mortgaged their future. In the NFL teams do not become bad over night, neither do teams become main stays at the top of their divisions over night, it’s all a process. The process begins and ends with the decisions made by the general manager. Yes, there are hit and miss players, but the key is to hit more then you miss. I know it sounds way too simple but it isn’t. I believe the key is make sure you hit on the key positions on the field which are left tackle, quarterback, center, defensive end, middle linebacker, corner and safety. Out of these positions the Falcons have truly only hit 2 home runs since 2008 in the first round of the draft. Of course these home runs were Matt Ryan and Sean Weatherspoon. I am not discounting many of the other valuable starters such as Corey Peters, William Moore and Joe Hawley the Falcons were able to grab in later rounds, but the fact remains they have missed more than they have hit in the first round and this is a cause for concern for the franchise going forward.
Today’s Falcon team is constructed as follows: they have a first ballot tight end in Tony Gonzalez who is retiring at the end of the season and there is no one to take his place once he is gone. John Abraham (defensive end) is 34 years old and still possibly the team’s best player on the defensive line. Michael Turner (running back) who has had over 1,000 carries since arriving at the Falcons in 2008. Todd McClure (center) is possibly retiring at the end of the season and questionable backups behind him. They don’t have anyone to protect Matt Ryan’s blind side at left tackle and they have no quality depth at the corner back or safety positions. I know, I know Falcon fans, it sounds like gloom and doom right? Well, from my vantage point the future doesn’t look exactly so bright that I have to wear shades. These are areas for concern and to me there are a few too many grey clouds in the future for this lifelong Falcon fan. So, what about the future of the Falcons? How should the Falcons begin to build a dominant team for the future?
First of all Thomas Dimitroff is going to need more home runs in the first round of the draft in the very near future, starting in 2013 when we finally have a first round pick. Stop playing the high stakes game of free agency and do a better job scouting and build through the draft. Along with home runs in the first round, continue to find those diamonds in the rough like Jason Snelling and Corey Peters. As a lifelong Falcon fan I cheer hard for my team, but I refuse to look at things through rose colored glasses, I am more of a realist. I see some lean year’s a head Falcon fans and I want you to know I will be right there with you suffering through them. However, right now in 2012, I see a team with so much potential. New coaches with new schemes and an exciting rookie draft class that will hopefully bring a campaign of shock and awe to all our opponents in 2012. Hopefully we can finally get that ever illusive first playoff win and who knows maybe even a Super Bowl championship. So while the future of our beloved Dirty Birds may have shades of gray, the present has plenty of sun shine and for me it is so bright that I have to wear shades.