Falcons can quickly win back their fans

Lots of fans are angry at the Falcons for releasing Roddy White. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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Lots of fans are angry at the Falcons for releasing Roddy White. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Falcons fans are (rightly) angry at the team. They also are bluffing.

Every person mad at the Falcons for cutting Roddy White will be happy if and when the team acquires (or develops) a receiver who is better. That actually shouldn’t be difficult.

Those people furious at Kyle Shanahan for the offensive collapse in the second half of last season will praise him (again) if the unit hums like it did for the first half of last season. I still think it can.

Those Falcons supporters pining for the team to let go of Matt Ryan, as if franchise quarterbacks grow on trees, will get back in his corner if he shows last season was an aberration. I still think it was.

All of the current ticket holders vowing they will never buy a PSL in the new Fulton Taxpayer Dome will pony up if they believe there will be a team worth watching there in 2017. I don’t know that there will be; I just know the stands will be full if it is.

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If I've learned anything in nearly 20 years of covering sports, it's that fans are fickle. Even in the era of fragmented entertainment options and decreasing disposal income, demand for live sports has remained relatively strong. The NFL especially is king: people love pro football even when, deep down inside, they know they shouldn't .

To wipe away the egg that has accumulated on their collective faces, the Falcons will need to give the public things to talk about other than the amateur hour antics of their front office and staffers. They need to add better players this spring and summer, and then they need to win more games.

The Falcons’ first task for quelling their customers' anger is to field a wide receiver better than White. No disrespect to the all-time Falcons great, but that should be relatively easy.

I understand the emotional attachment Falcons fans have to White but why do some of them act as if he’s still a baller? He hasn’t been the same since Mike Smith kept sending him out on a bad ankle. White dropped a lot of passes in 2015. When he caught passes, he rarely did much after the catch. How would throwing White the ball more solve any of those problems, or make the Falcons any better?

No doubt the anger about the release of White is an indirect way of raging against Shanahan, with fuel added to that fire when White blamed Shanahan for his release . Even if that's true, only the aforementioned emotional response could lead anyone to blame Shanahan for phasing out White. The mistake Dan Quinn made, which I saw coming, was keeping White if he wasn't going to be a main cog.

(The other mistake the Falcons made was to depend on Leonard Hankerson, though in fairness they had to go cheap somewhere because of past personnel blunders. The Falcons took a chance on Hankerson, Shanahan’s guy, and he was the same: dropping a lot of passes and spending a lot of time on the injury report.)

As for Shanahan, I think there were too many factors contributing to the offensive problems to pin it solely or even mostly on him. That’s not to say he got nothing wrong—for one example, he took too long to adjust after the All Julio Offense got diminishing returns. But when Shanahan got it right, too many other things went wrong: poor pass protection, dropped passes, inaccurate passes, interceptions, fumbles, etc.

The defense showed promise in Year 1 under Quinn. The offense has a chance to bounce back in Year 2. Fans are mad, and I don't blame them. But the Falcons quickly can start turning that anger into optimism, starting with some smart free agent signings this week.

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