Arthur Blank is not a hands-off owner. So when he says his team won’t be a one-year wonder, it’s probably best to believe him.
If you don’t, however, here’s some proof that he’s not being over confident in his club.
Having a proven franchise quarterback on your roster goes a long way. The defending NFL MVP may have a hard time repeating his career year without his offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, but the 32-year-old is the trusted leader of the team. Not many teams in the league can honestly say they are as confident in their current quarterback situation as Atlanta.
Ryan has made the Pro Bowl every second season since 2010, hasn’t missed a game since 2009, and has led the team to just two losing seasons in his nine-year career. He may not be the most exciting personality the league has to offer, but his consistency and experience should put Falcons fans nerves at ease.
Aside from retiree Chris Chester, veteran D-linemen Jonathan Babineaux and Tyson Jackson, and pass-rusher Dwight Freeney (who might still re-sign), all of the Falcons’ key players from the 2016 roster are returning. The veterans that were lost will be replaced by free agents, draft picks, and players already on the roster.
As they look to build on last season and strengthen team chemistry, the Falcons won’t need much time to catch each other up on the culture and identity of their club.
Young, developing roster
Head coach Dan Quinn came to Atlanta with plans to use his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, as a blueprint for success. Like Pete Carroll’s first trip to the Super Bowl, Quinn made it a long way with a young, talented group. Eleven players who started or made key contributions to the Falcons’ 2016 campaign enter this season 25 years old or younger.
Recent draft picks Takkarist McKinley and Duke Riley, are also expected to play key roles in 2017, and with the emergence of Taylor Gabriel, return of Desmond Trufant, and signing of Dontari Poe – all age 26 – the Falcons are poised to be a force for years to come.
That youth should also do wonders to create motivation instead of bitterness and frustration from the Falcons’ devastating Super Bowl loss.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what will drive the Falcons in 2017, and likely beyond.
It’s been virtually impossible to miss all the “28-3” and “Falcons blew a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl” jokes, especially for some Falcons players.
While it was just one game, that one game buried the story of the Falcons’ 2016 success and made them the butt-end of endless jokes. Falcons players have spent much of the offseason answering questions about how that will affect them going forward. Once they hit the field again in September, they will be hungry to end those questions and find reasons to keep moving forward – though that loss is unforgettable.
The 2016 Falcons are not the finished product Quinn set out to build when he accepted the head coaching job two seasons ago – he’s still setting the foundation, and not just with his players.
Quinn shook up his coaching staff, replacing Shanahan with Alabama coordinator Steve Sarkisian and promoting former NFL head coach Raheem Morris to passing game coordinator/assistant head coach.
Defensively, he dismissed defensive coordinator Richard Smith and D-line coach Bryan Cox. He promoted several younger, developing coaches to vacated positions and added former All-Pro defensive tackle Bryant Young to replace Cox.
The moves weren’t done in frustration over the Super Bowl loss, but rather as part of Quinn’s effort to fill his coaching staff with his own guys so he can achieve his vision for success.
The Falcons are not the type of team to work for years, make one Super Bowl, and fade into obscurity. In fact, they’re Super Bowl LI appearance was a tad ahead of schedule, according to their projected development. Don’t expect the jokes to end any time soon, but if you think they’re going to derail the Falcons’ season, think again.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)
Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.