Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian met with the local media in person for the first time since being hired in February on Wednesday.
Here’s the first part of what he had to say:
ON IF THE OFFENSE IS GOING TO CHANGE: “Dan and I really felt this was a great fit. Systematically, we fit really well. Anytime that you bring in a new coordinator there are going to be some nuances, some changes, some terminology and things that might get said differently, but at the end of the day, systematically and philosophically, we are really aligned. It’s been a great fit so far.”
ON THE ATMOSPHERE: “It’s been great. I will give the players a lot of credit. The moment that I stepped in here, the first day that I walked in the building, Matt Ryan was waiting for me. We had lunch together. That type of commitment to the success of the organization has been one that has been welcoming to me.
“It’s really been something to where I just want to uphold what’s been done before. I want to find little ways to make it better. How can we improve. That’s why I’m here.
“The competitiveness in all of us, in this organization for sure, I know that’s the first thing Dan is looking for in any player and in any coach. The competitor in me, is how far can we take it. That’s how I feel about it.”
ON WHAT WRINKLES HE’LL ADD TO THE OFFENSE. “I don’t know if its going to be glaring. I think it’s going to be subtleties that the players understand. Little things that maybe I emphasize that weren’t emphasized before. Things that I think are important. How we marry things together whether if it’s in the run game, the pass game or formationally with personnel groupings. Like I said, so much of what we did a year ago aligns philosophically with who I am and how we can continue to find ways to put our players in the best position to be successful.
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH MATT RYAN: “Matt is a very competitive human being at anything. It doesn’t matter if we are shooting hoops at the front of the room in the team meeting room. He’s a competitive guy. But I will say, for a guy who’s had so much success, his willingness and humbleness to want to be coached. He has, in his mind, he hasn’t made it. It’s, ‘How do I get better? What do I need to work on?’ Coming out that first meeting, he really wanted me to dig into his game overall from a year ago and see where he could improve. That just speaks volumes to what type of player he is, the type of teammate and the type of leader (that he is). Anybody that walks in the building and you see that guy working as hard as he works, that’s contagious. I think you see that amongst everybody in the organization.”
ON ALL THE WEAPONS: “It’s fantastic. This offseason, obviously, we haven’t had Julio (Jones). We haven’t had (Taylor) Gabriel yet. These guys have been terrific to work with. They really come in upbeat every day…. It’s a very live practice environment and one that really fits me very well. This environment is one that suits my personality. So, I’m having a lot of fun with. I really appreciated the players and their openness and willingness to anything that we bring that might be new and then also working on the things that were carried over and how we can get better.”
ON LEAVING ALABAMA: “I think it was a combination of things. I really felt like my connection with Dan was huge. I’ve really respected Dan for many years. I respected what he’d done here the first couple of years as a head coach. Philosophically, offensively what they had done, what he wanted to continue to do, fit what I believe in. A lot of things just aligned to where this felt like the right move. All of us, every coach in our profession, you have to make tough decisions whether to stay or take the job or the next job that’s in front of you. As many jobs as we take, there are probably five to 10 that we didn’t take. This wasn’t the only one that was proposed to me. This felt like the right one at the right time to join this organization.”
ON WHAT HE WAS DOING WHEN HE GOT THE CALL: “I was at home in California. We were recruiting and we had a little bit of dead time. I actually watched the Super Bowl at home. I was feeling for Dan and all of these guys. I’d come here last training camp and spent four or five days, to be that close, I know how that feels. I’d just dealt with that a week previously in the National Championship game. I was at home, got the call and then kind of really took a step back and tried to look at this thing with a full view and not just look at it ‘Oh, I get to be a coordinator in the National Football League.’ But a full view of the organization: the management, the head coach, the offensive coaches, the offensive personnel, the city of Atlanta, all of those things that could play a part in making this decision. I made the decision and haven’t looked back.”
ON THE TIMING OF THE CALL: “It might have been the night after (the Super Bowl). Or maybe that next morning. It all came pretty quickly. I don’t know if it all could have come together that quickly if it wasn’t for the connection that Dan and I have philosophically. Not only scheme-wise, but philosophically how he wants this team to play, how he likes the culture here. The Brotherhood mindset is something that he and I talked about previously before me ever joining here, even years ago. It was just a really good marriage to be a part of.”
ON IMPROVING THE OFFENSE: “I think first and foremost, we have two really electric tailbacks. The are bad matchups on defense. Just to make sure that we are putting those guys in the best position (to be) successful. Whether if it’s separately on the field or being on the field together. I think that was one key, whether if it’s in the run game or pass game, just to ensure those things. Really looking at the efficiency and the things they did well and trying to dig into can we even improve on that. Can we get better on third down? Can we get better in the red zone? Is there a way to get Julio more touches in the redzone and finding those matchups. There is a lot that goes into it. Then, there is personal player development. Dan really made a point of, I really want to find a way to get each individual player one percent better. How can we do that? Finding and digging into each player. Meeting with each offensive player individually and saying, ‘Hey, this is an area where I think you can improve. I appreciate everything that you’ve done and how you did it, but here’s one thing I think that you can improve upon.’ All of that, I think, set the stage for these guys to understand that I was coming in trying to improve and not just stay the same. It’s worked out really well.”
ON JULIO IN THE REDZONE: “Number one, they were really good in the red zone, but when you have player like Julio, (we want to) make sure that we are maximizing his opportunities because there is so much double coverage. There are so many unique coverages that roll his way that when we don’t get that, let’s make sure he’s one of the primary receivers on that play because (he’s) such a matchup for anybody one-on-one.”
ON HOW MUCH OF STAMP HE’LL PUT ON THE SYSTEM: “This is the Atlanta Falcons’ offense. I think Dan has really made that point. He had a vision whenever he became a head coach this is what he wanted his offense to look like. I don’t feel like I’m coming in and this is Steve Sarkisian’s offense. I’m coming into, this is the Falcons offense and how I can continue to make it want Dan wants and then some. Then to have him come in and say, ‘Man, that piece is really cool. I’m glad we added this. Or, I’m glad we added that. Or, I wasn’t really feeling that.’ That part for me, I don’t know if anybody with a naked eye is going to say, ‘boy, that’s Steve Sarkisian right there.’ I think it’s going to look like the Atlanta Falcons and that’s how it should look.”
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