Cover 9@9: Falcons may have their talent overrated

Falcons players run onto the field before their game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. This was the Falcons' first home game of the season with fans in the stands. (Jason Getz/For the AJC)
Falcons players run onto the field before their game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. This was the Falcons' first home game of the season with fans in the stands. (Jason Getz/For the AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

1. The no-spin zone. Owner Arthur Blank and president Rich McKay may have overrated the Falcons’ talent.

“We just haven’t performed to the level we’re capable of,” Blank said. “We think our talent is better than the record we have at this point. For a variety of reasons, we weren’t getting the results we needed to get.”

The Falcons don’t think the players and the coaches, who probably have to start lining up jobs for the 2021 season and getting ready to move, will mail-in the rest of the season.

“First of all, these are professionals, both the players and the coaches,” McKay said. "They understand how important every game, every moment, every practice is. I don’t try to minimize how difficult it is to be in an interim situation.

“But by the same token, I know the effort you will see. We have 11 games to go. That’s a lot of games.”

The last interim situation occurred in 2007 when Bobby Petrino bolted for Arkansas. The players were so happy. It was media-fest during open locker with the players sharing stories about how obnoxious Petrino and his wife were.

There were good times in the open locker room for those last three weeks of that season.

Even McKay got in a dig at Petrino on Monday.

“We were not too sorry to see him leave, but he left,” McKay said. “We had to play the last three games, and I was proud the way the team – we didn’t play well the first week, but played pretty well the next two weeks.”

The Falcons believe the remainder of Quinn’s “Brotherhood” program will fight onward and maybe even a little harder.

“They’re professionals,” McKay said. “They’re on it now, working on it now. They had a team meeting via Zoom (Monday) morning. They’re under way. I have every confidence they will do what’s necessary to give it their best effort to win football games.”

The Falcons clearly believe that the roster is talented. But the new coach and general manager may think otherwise.

“We have a lot of talented players on our roster that have been paid substantial salaries, but competitive salaries for what their performance has been,” Blank said. "On the other hand bringing in new talent, looking at a different way of looking at it, different kinds of schemes, they may have a little different approach. ... When you hire people like that, the last thing you want to tell them is this is the way you need to do your job.

“You want their thinking unencumbered by anything. That’s the way it should be. I think both Rich and I will become very good listeners and understand where people are coming from. We’ll figure out the very best formula going forward that will produce the kind of wins for us that are important for the franchise.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons owner Arthur Blank and president Rich McKay discussing new direction of franchise after firings of coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

2. No player dumping. McKay said he doesn’t have any plans to start dumping veterans for draft picks, which would actually make some sense if the team is heading for a rebuilding period. “No,” McKay said when my question was asked.

The Falcons made an in-season trade in 2019, sending linebacker Duke Riley to the Eagles for safety Johnathan Cyprien.

“It was a trade we thought was in the best interest of the player,” McKay said. “It was definitely in our best interest, we thought, and we executed that trade. If somebody came to us with a trade for a player, it made sense to us, it was in that player’s interest, our best interest, we could do it, would we consider it? Maybe.”

They don’t want to roster-dump and hurt the new coach’s roster.

“This will not be a situation where we’re going to predetermine the roster for the next head coach and general manager,” McKay said. “We’re going to let them come in, let them evaluate this roster, let them see the moves they want to make.”

3. Mora’s trips to outer space. Another light moment during the call Monday came when Blank was discussing what he’s learned since he hired his first coach, Jim Mora in 2004.

“Jim is a very talented coach,” Blank said. "I would say this very respectfully because I was very fond of Jim and his family, but Jim from time to time, he would spin off and go into outer space.

“I mean, that’s fine. I have a temper, we all have tempers. We can lose them from time to time. I think that his judgment as it relates to what actually created the environment for us to make a change with him was not good.”

4. Hummer says it’s time to rebuild. Blank and McKay would not admit that the team is about to enter a rebuilding stage. However, columnist Steve Hummer shared his thoughts on the rebuild.

5. Explosive-plays chart. Heading into Sunday’s 1 p.m. game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Falcons have given up 29 plays of 20 yards or more. The allowed four against Carolina and Seattle and seven against Green Bay, Chicago and Dallas.

Click here for the game-by-game breakdown of the big-plays plays allowed.

6. Series history. This will be the 30th meeting. The Vikings lead the series 19-10. The Vikings have won the last four meetings, including the 28-12 win on Sept. 18, 2019.

7. Falcons' in-season firings: Thanks to the AJC’s David Wellham for putting these two charts together. This was the sixth time that the Falcons fired a coach during a season, and it’s tied for the second fewest games into a season for a Falcons coaching change.

ExploreAtlanta Falcons head coaches

Here’s the list:

Norb Hecker, three games (0-3), 1968

Marion Campbell, five games (1-4), 1976

Dan Quinn, five games (0-5), 2020

Norm Van Brocklin, eight games (2-6), 1974

Marion Campbell, 12 games (3-9), 1989

Dan Reeves, 13 games (3-10), 2003

8. Records for Falcons interim coaches

Wade Phillips, 2-1 (.667), 2003

Pat Peppler, 3-6 (.333), 1976

Emmitt Thomas, 1-2 (.333), 2007

Norm Van Brocklin, 2-9 (.222), 1968

Marion Campbell, 1-5 (.167), 1974

Jim Hanifan, 0-4 (.000), 1989

Raheem Morris, TBD, 2020

Note: Thomas replaced Bobby Petrino in 2007 when Petrino resigned after 13 games. Also, Campbell and Van Brocklin each had the interim label taken off their titles after their interim seasons.

9. Depth chart: The Falcons (0-5) released their official depth chart for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game against the Minnesota Vikings (1-4) on Tuesday.

The Falcons are set to play their first game under Morris at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Here’s a look at the official depth chart for the Minnesota game:

OFFENSE

QB -- Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub

WR -- Julio Jones, Christian Blake

WR -- Calvin Ridley, Olamide Zaccheaus

WR -- Russell Gage, Brandon Powell

TE -- Hayden Hurst, Luke Stocker, Jaeden Graham (Team actually list Graham ahead of Stocker. Stocker has played 142 snaps. Graham just 25)

RB -- Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison

FB -- Keith Smith

LT -- Jake Matthews, Matt Gono

LG -- James Carpenter, Matt Hennessy

C -- Alex Mack, Justin McCray

RG -- Chris Lindstrom

RT --Kaleb McGary, Matt Gono, John Wetzel

DEFENSE

DE -- Takk McKinley, Allen Bailey, Charles Harris

DT -- Grady Jarrett, Deadrin Senat

DT -- Tyeler Davison, John Cominsky

DE -- Dante Fowler, Steven Means, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner

LB -- Deion Jones, LaRoy Reynolds

LB -- Foye Oluokun, Mykal Walker

CB – A.J. Terrell, Jordan Miller

CB -- Kendall Sheffield, Blidi Wreh-Wilson

CB -- Isaiah Oliver, Tyler Hall

FS --- Ricardo Allen, Sharrod Neasman

SS – Keanu Neal, Jaylinn Hawkins

SPECIAL TEAMS

K -- Younghoe Koo

P -- Sterling Hofrichter

LS -- Josh Harris

KR/PR – Brandon Powell

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