The Atlanta Falcons met the New Orleans Saints for another prime time match-up on Thursday Night Football Nov. 21, and by the end of it, left the Georgia Dome with another heartbreaking 17-13 loss. The Falcons are now 2-9, and for the remainder of the season, the fans have nothing left to do but to point fingers. While listening to Atlanta’s sports radio station 92.9 The Game on my drive home last night, it felt like 90 percent of those who called in were demanding for coach Mike Smith‘s head, after having his offense attempt a 54-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter instead of going for it on fourth down in Saints’ territory. At one point, some callers were even criticizing quarterback Matt Ryan of being too soft, sliding four yards short of the end zone late in the first half. But who really deserves the blame for this catastrophic season?
Even though coach Smith is on thin ice, the fault should not be entirely on him. Keep in mind this is the first losing season since 2008 for the Falcons, so Smith has earned a little room for error. As for Ryan, he should not be thrown under the bus either. Yes, he has been known to have a hiccup or two in the past, but Ryan actually played a clean game Thursday night. Despite being sacked five times, he was able to complete some difficult throws on the run after being flushed out of the pocket and did not throw any picks. Yes, statistically this is his worst season under-center for the Falcons, but Ryan still gives this offense the best chance to win.
So with owner Arthur Blank confirming the return of both coach Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff for 2014, the only logical choice for this organization to do is let go of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. This is only Koetter’s second season with the Falcons, but excluding the injuries, he has been unable to make the right adjustments as the season has progressed. As if only scoring one offensive touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals and getting blown out by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is embarrassing enough, the Falcons are 0-5 on the road and are 31st in rushing yards. For a team that was 13-3 and hosted the NFC Championship Game one year ago, that is unacceptable.
Of course, there is always a time for every NFL team to suffer, but when there are imperfections, you must address them. In the Falcons’ case, that imperfection is in the offensive play calling.