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Tag:Rams
Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:59 pm
 

Giving McKay due credit

Our former assistant GM Billy Devaney is currently having yet another rough season as GM of the Rams.  

That crossed my mind when I recently heard Mr. Blank attribute the recent Falcons success to three key hirings, starting with Rich McKay and followed by Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith.  

Hearing that from Mr. Blank and hearing the beginnings of anti-Devaney rumblings in the St. Louis media reminded me of the way that the media here (especially the sports radio stations) widely blamed McKay for anything and everything that had gone wrong in Atlanta in 2005-2007.  If it rained, it was McKay's fault. 

Some of it was way off base.  For example, Jeff Schultz over at the AJC pinned the team's horrid 2003 offseason and draft on McKay.  And yes, it was a terrible offseason.  The team traded away its first round draft pick for wide receiver Peerless Price, who they signed to a long term deal.  The other key free agent of that offseason was defensive back Cory Hall, who signed a five year contract.  And the key player of that draft class was safety Bryan Scott in the second round, followed by fullback Justin Griffith in round four, and players named Jon Olinger, LaTarence Dunbar, Waine Bacon and Demetrin Veal in the late rounds.

(Side note:  that Falcons draft had a classic Mel Kiper moment.  The one pick of the bunch that Darth Helmet Hair blasted was Griffith in the fourth.  He said the pick didn't make any sense to him, because with Dunn and Duckett, the team certainly didn't need another running back.  Kiper missed that Griffith was a fullback, and Atlanta's long time starting fullback Bob Christian had just announced his retirement after suffering major concussions the prior season.  The irony is that the one pick that Kiper openly criticized turned out to be the only one of the bunch that panned out for Atlanta.)

So yes, the personnel moves in 2003 were rather dubious.  But blaming McKay is utter nonsense.  For the record, Rich McKay was the general manager of the Buccaneers at the time.  He didn't come to Atlanta until 2004.  The guys at the AJC might as well blame Sean Payton for last year's collapse of the Panthers.

Need proof that McKay wasn't so bad as GM?  Never mind that he built a Superbowl winning roster in Tampa.  Instead, just look at the current roster of the Falcons - four full offseasons since he handed over the GM duties to Dimitroff.  

John Abraham was a McKay acquisition, as were Roddy White, Jonathan Babineaux, Brent Grimes, Tyson Clabo, Justin Blalock, Ovie Mughelli, Stephen Nicholas and Eric Weems.   A big knock on McKay back in 2007 was that none of "his" players made the Pro Bowl.   That was rather obvious after 2007 - no Falcons players made the Pro Bowl at all in the wake of The Bobby Petrino Experience.  But six of the nine Falcons that appeared in the most recent Pro Bowl were brought into the organization by McKay.



Some (but certainly not all) of the general fan base now realizes that Arthur Blank isn't just being kind to his top executive when he includes McKay among the hirings that brought about the team's improvement.  McKay had outstanding drafts in 2004 and 2005, and even brought aboard a good supply of prospects in that dismal 2007 season.

And perhaps one day even Jeff Schultz will come around and recognize McKay's positive impact on building this franchise.


Posted on: April 14, 2010 4:50 am
 

Favre trade worst ever? Nope...

We're less than two weeks from the draft, and the annual Brett Favre watch is well underway.

So we're also seeing the usual stories this time of year calling the Falcons trade of Favre to the Packers for a draft pick after his rookie season the worst draft pick trade or overall trade in NFL history.

For the record, I disagree.

Never mind the stories about Favre's drinking, that he partied much harder than he practiced while with Atlanta, that coach Jerry Glanville didn't want him on the team, that he would have been in competition just to hang on to the #3 QB spot, or that when he got on the field his rookie year, two of his four pass attempts were incomplete - and the other two were intercepted.

Nope, forget all that stuff.  The bottom line is that Atlanta traded its second round pick one season for a first round pick the next season. That's hardly the worst trade in NFL history, regardless of what players are taken with those picks.

So let's cut then-VP of Player Personnel Ken Herock a little slack.  He didn't make the worst trade ever.

Click here for another side of the story you might not have known...





On second thought, go ahead and rip Herock to shreds.  He deserves it, because he DID make what is probably the all time worst trade. 

He just didn't do it in Atlanta.

It's actually a two-parter.  Either part alone would be a contender for the worst trade in NFL history.  Put them together, and the result is a masterpiece of horror.  It's the "Plan 9 From Outer Space" (or "Manos: The Hands Of Fate") of GM work.

I apologize for this turning into a long story, but believe me, it's worth it.  It's a gem.




Because of a 1980 trade, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't have a second round pick in 1982.

Read about it (and what a cheapskate Dolphins owner Joe Robbie was) here



When the 1982 draft came around, then-GM Ken Herock really liked a small school defensive end named Booker Reese, from Bethune-Cookman.  The Bucs planned on taking him in the first round.  What happened on draft day is a matter of who you believe. 

Offensive lineman Sean Farrell unexpectedly slid down the draft board and was still available when Tampa hit the clock at #17.  The Buffalo Bills called, wanting to move up five spots from their #22. They offered to swap their second rounder for one of Tampa's two third rounders as the trade price.

There was a lot of noise at the draft site in New York (mainly Giants fans already shouting for their preferred pick, as the G-Men were going to be on the clock right after Tampa).  And there apparently was a bad phone connection between Tampa and their man on-site, equipment manager Pat Marcuccillo.

With about five minutes clock time remaining, Marcuccillo handed in a card with Sean Farrell's name on it.  The folks in Tampa denied it, but the story in newspapers around the country (and fledgling cable network ESPN, which was right there covering it live) is that the Bucs made a mistake and either turned in the wrong card or turned in a card too soon.

After Farrell's name was announced, Marcuccillo went back and conferred with NFL officials - apparently saying it was a mistake and trying to "undo" the pick.  But the Giants turned in their card almost immediately after Tampa, so the commish said no dice.


Was it a mistake?  Here's one version of the story...


...and the denial by the Buccaneers.



Bottom line = the Bucs got Farrell, not Reese, and they had no second round pick to take Reese.  So they immediately started scrambling and tried to work a deal to move up.

They ended up giving the Bears their first round pick the following year (1983) for Chicago's second rounder, but in the end they got their man.

Herock proclaimed his draft an instant success, saying his first two picks were as good as anyone's.

Article with GREAT comments from Herock on Tampa's draft prowess...

(I really love this one, especially the stuff about how much better they were at drafting by taking more chances - as opposed to going for more of those lame, boring picks like Lee Roy Selmon, Doug Williams or Hugh Green.)



And they all lived happily ever after.



Well, not quite... 

Tampa quarterback Doug Williams was the lowest paid starting QB in the NFL (at a mere $120k - less than many backups and less than some punters and kickers) but chose to play out his initial contract rather than hold out for more money.  But when his contract expired after the 1982 season, he wanted to get paid.

Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse made an offer he called "generous".  Williams' agent called it "embarassing".  At that point it became pretty obvious that Williams would ended up bolting for the brand new USFL.

That wouldn't have been such a big problem, as the upcoming draft was even then regarded as the best in NFL history for quarterbacks.  There was just one catch... Herock had given up his first round pick the prior year.

Story on the Williams contract and the 1983 QB class...

...continued.  (Wow - Ken O'Brien as a Buccaneer?)


So he worked a deal with Cincinnati, once again giving up Tampa's future first round pick (in 1984) for Bengals backup QB Jack Thompson. 

(Browse the whole page, not just this Mizell column)



The Throwin' Samoan was Cincinnati's third stringer (most teams kept only two QBs on the roster) behind Ken Anderson and Turk Schonert.  He had been a first round pick back in 1979 but was already regarded as a bust. 

He had never completed 50% of his passes for a season, had never averaged 100 passing yards per game for a season, had a career QB rating below 60, and had not even attempted a pass attempt in his one and only game appearance the previous year.  And for this, Herock was willing to part with a future first round pick.

The Bucs flopped, and the pick Tampa gave up became the # 1 overall selection of the 1984 draft.  

In other words, the Bucs missed out on their chance to draft Dan Marino or Ken O'Brien (their choice - both were still on the board when what would have been Tampa's pick came up) because Herock felt he just had to have Booker Reese.  For an encore, he gave away the first overall pick of the draft straight up for a third string bust who hadn't thrown a pass in nearly two years.  And the one first round pick he got right throughout the whole mess was quite literally by mistake.




And now the "Animal House"/"Stripes"-style montage of what happened to the key players...


"Accidental" draft pick Sean Farrell had a productive, 11 year NFL career, including five seasons with the Buccaneers.  When he became a free agent in 1987, Tampa re-signed him and then traded him to New England for three draft picks, including a second rounder. 



The man on-site at the 1982 draft, Pat Marcuccillo, resigned his position as equipment manager for "personal reasons" during the 1982 players strike.  Within a week, he was charged with grand larceny for stealing 1,520 Bucs jerseys and selling them to a Chicago sports memorabilia dealer for $21k. 

The Chicago dealer (who reportedly didn't know Marcuccillo was selling them illegally) sold many of them to another dealer in San Antonio for $20 apiece. 

The San Antonio dealer then brought his jerseys to Tampa, advertising "Genuine Buccaneers Game Jerseys" for sale in the local paper.  That caught the attention of the Buccaneers front office, who prompted police to begin their investigation that eventually led to Marcuccillo's arrest. 

And just like they had claimed that there was no error with the draft card, the Bucs claimed at the time that they had no idea why Marcuccillo was leaving and that his resignation was a surprise.   (Hmmm.... 1500 jerseys went missing and the equipment manager suddenly quits during the police investigation...  Nope, nothing unusual here.  No clue why he left.)

(Enter 23 for the page number; the article is on the lower right side of the page)




Booker Reese flopped in 1982 and 1983, developed drug and alcohol problems, and was dumped for a conditional 12th round pick after the first game of the 1984 season. 

He also had another off-field issue...

He appeared in 11 games for the Los Angeles Rams, who sent him to rehab after he failed a drug test and then released him the following year. 

But he did meet the condition for the Bucs to get their 12th rounder

He signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 1985 but again failed a drug test and was released, ending his NFL career. 

He was convicted of cocaine possession in 1999 and was sent back to prison for a parole violation in 2004.





The Chicago Bears used Tampa's first round 1983 pick to select Willie Gault, who lasted 11 seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver and return man. 

Before the NFL, he was a track star (110 meter hurdles, 4x100 relay) and a member of the U.S. Olympic team.  But he missed his chance to compete when the U.S. boycotted the 1980 games.  He was ruled ineligible for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles because he was a professional football player.

He did become an alternate in 1988, but in Calgary rather than Seoul.




Jack Thompson didn't even win the Bucs starting job coming out of camp, but became the starter after the other quarterback (Jerry Golsteyn, career QB rating of 36.2) put in horrid performances in the first two games.  Thompson then spent the 1984 season as the backup to Steve DeBerg, who was acquired in a trade for two draft picks.  It was Thompson's final year in the NFL.

Headline story on his release

And the beat writer's column on the side of the same page

(Interesting comparisons:  Culverhouse said no to paying Doug Williams $800k and then $600k in 1983, but note the contract the Bucs had given Thompson and also how much Steve Young made in the USFL.)




The Bengals traded Tampa's #1 overall pick of 1984 to the Patriots, who used it to select WR Irving Fryar.  Fryar racked up 12,785 receiving yards over his 17-year career, putting him 13th on the all-time receiving list.  He's also tied for 14th in receiving touchdowns with 84.




The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed a 5-4 record and made the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1982 season but utterly tanked in 1983, going 2-14 to start a remarkable string of 12 consecutive seasons with 10+ losses. 




Ken Herock left the Buccaneers in June of 1984, reportedly to take over the USFL's Washington Federals, who were planning to move to Florida. 

He ended up with the Raiders instead, helping them on their way from their 11-5 and 12-4 records in 1984/1985 to their 8-8 and 5-10 records in 1986 and the shortened 1987 season.

Right after the 1987 draft, the Smith family handed him the keys to the Falcons, where he remained for the next ten seasons.



His first draft choice as Falcons head of personnel... 

...Aundray Bruce.


Posted on: April 12, 2010 1:13 pm
 

This year's best mock draft

We're ten days and counting from showtime.  It's time for the mock drafts out there to start putting in their final entries -  the ones that really matter.

The best one I've seen yet this season was in the Chicago Tribune this weekend.  It's not a one-guy-picks-all deal like we'll get from the so-called gurus who don't spend more than ten minutes becoming familiar with any given team.  Instead, this one is a collective effort, with the beat writers from local papers around the country representing the teams they cover.

So D-Led made the Falcons pick, Rick Stroud of the St Petersburg Times picked for Tampa, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic made the Cardinals pick, etc, etc.   It was compiled by the Trib's Sam Farmer, who did NOT make a pick himself since Da Bears sent their first rounder to Denver last year.

It still has all the flaws of other mocks in that it leaves out trades, is based on voices/opinions from outside team compounds, etc.  But at least the people involved are intimately familiar with the teams they are representing.  That puts it a step ahead of anything we might hear from Todd McShay, Pete Prisco, Don Banks, Peter King, or Darth Helmet Hair this week.

Spoiler alert...   Lindsay Jones of the Denver-Post saved us by taking D-Led's man-crush away from him at #11...



Here are the picks:
1. Rams: QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma. (pick by Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch) "They're doing everything but stitching his name on his jersey."

2. Lions: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska. (Nick Cotsonika, Detroit Free Press) "Suh is the smart, multidimensional and productive player the Lions want."

3. Buccaneers: DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma. (Rick Stroud, St. Petersburg Times) "If McCoy or Suh is there, the Buccaneers will run to the commissioner with the card."

4. Redskins: OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State. (Rick Maese, Washington Post) " Donovan McNabb will have someone to protect his blind side, a luxury Jason Campbell didn't often have."

5. Chiefs: S Eric Berry, Tennessee. (Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star) "It's been close to 10 years since the Chiefs have had a playmaking safety in the secondary."

6. Seahawks: OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma. (Danny O'Neil, Seattle Times) "His athleticism makes him a better fit than Iowa's Brian Bulaga for Alex Gibbs' zone-blocking scheme."

7. Browns: QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame. (Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland Plain Dealer) "The Browns could try to trade the pick, draft Clausen and trade him or draft him and keep him. They also like Colt McCoy."

8. Raiders: OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland. (Jerry McDonald, Oakland Tribune) "There's a 50-50 shot they take Campbell, but they'd probably take Trent Williams over him."

9. Bills: OT Brian Bulaga, Iowa. (Mark Gaughan, Buffalo News) "The left tackle position torpedoed the entire team last year. The Bills would be happy to get any of the top guys."

10. Jaguars: ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama. (Vito Stellino, Florida Times-Union) "The Jaguars are short on linebackers. Question is, is McClain better than the best defensive end on the board?"

11. Broncos: C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida. (Lindsay Jones, Denver Post) "This is a bit high for a center, but the Broncos don't have one. If they were to line up today, they'd have nobody to snap the ball."

12. Dolphins: WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State. (Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun Sentinel) "Dez Bryant is looking for a father figure, and Bill Parcells wouldn't mind being one. The Dolphins need a difference maker at receiver."

13. 49ers: CB Joe Haden, Florida. (Matt Maiocco, Santa Rosa Press Democrat) "The 49ers need help in the secondary, and their corners aren't great. Haden would be a good pick at a high-profile position of need."

14. Seahawks: RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson. (O'Neil) "Seattle is one of four teams not to have a 1,000-yard rusher in any of the past four seasons. Spiller would be an instant upgrade at the position."

15. Giants: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida. (Ralph Vacchiano, New York Daily News) "He's a freakish athlete, and the Giants have some uncertainty at the position, especially with Osi Umenyiora unhappy."

16. Titans: DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech. (Jim Wyatt, The Tennessean) "The Titans are in desperate need of an impact player at the position after losing Kyle Vanden Bosch in free agency."

17. 49ers: OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers. ( Dan Brown, San Jose Mercury News) "The 49ers sorely need offensive line help, and Mike Singletary's presence will help allay concerns about Davis' character."

18. Steelers: G Mike Iupati, Idaho. (Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) "The Steelers need to start getting some studs on their offensive line, and Iupati certainly is that. He's a safe pick for them."

19. Falcons: OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri. (D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution) "With Mike Peterson turning 34, the Falcons need a run-and-hit linebacker who's adept in coverage."

20. Texans: S Earl Thomas, Texas. (Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle) "The Texans really need some help in the secondary, and Thomas has the type of ballhawking skills they could use."

21. Bengals: TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma. (Joe Reedy, Cincinnati Enquirer) "Tight end is a real weakness for the Bengals. They need a guy who can both block and stretch the field."

22. Patriots: OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas. (Karen Guregian, Boston Herald) "Kindle fits the physical prototype the Patriots like for an OLB/DE. They also like Michigan's Brandon Graham."

23. Packers: CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State. (Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) " Al Harris is 35 and coming off reconstructive knee surgery; Charles Woodson is 33. Robinson fills a real need."

24. Eagles: CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State. (Jeff McLane, Philadelphia Inquirer) "With Sheldon Brown gone to Cleveland, the Eagles need a cornerback who can step right into the starting lineup."

25. Ravens: DT Jared Odrick, Penn State. (Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Sun) "The Ravens need youth on the defensive line, and Odrick would fit right into their 3-4 scheme."

26. Cardinals: DT Dan Williams, Tennessee. (Kent Somers, Arizona Republic) "The Cardinals have been searching for a 3-4 nose tackle ever since Ken Whisenhunt arrived. They need somebody who can hold the middle."

27. Cowboys: OT Charles Brown, USC. (Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram) "With Flozell Adams gone, the Cowboys have a hole at the position. Brown not only fills an area of need, but he fits in that draft slot."

28. Chargers: RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State. (Jay Paris, North County Times) "LaDainian Tomlinson is gone, and the Chargers have a void at running back. They'll hope to get Alabama DT Terrence Cody in the second."

29. Jets: DE Brandon Graham, Michigan. (Rich Cimini, New York Daily News) "One of the problems the Jets had on defense was they had to blitz a lot of guys to get pressure. They need a pass rusher."

30. Vikings: CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers. (Judd Zulgad, Minneapolis Star Tribune) "Depth at corner is a problem for the Vikings, who have had health problems at the position. They really like McCourty."

31. Colts: DT Brian Price, UCLA. (Mike Chappell, Indianapolis Star) "The Colts failed in their attempt to get better on the defensive line last offseason. The bid continues this year."

32. Saints: OLB Jerry Hughes, TCU. (Mike Triplett, New Orleans Times-Picayune) "Hughes might be a 'tweener for a 4-3 defense, but defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will find a way to fit him in."


Posted on: January 2, 2010 10:38 am
 

The list of affected free agents

The NFLPA has always voiced strong opposition to the salary cap system, and has always insisted that the final year under each CBA be uncapped.  The purpose of this is that if no new agreement is reached and a stoppage occurs, the status quo will be without a cap.

The wisdom or absurdity of the union's position is fodder for another time.  For now, the key point is that when the owners brought in the cap system, the concession they offered as a trade-off was early free agency.  Before the cap system, players had to have six years of service to become true (unrestricted) free agents.  Until they reached six years of tenure, they could only be restricted free agents.  But with the salary cap in place, unrestricted free agency began after four years of service.

The catch is that since we don't have a new CBA in place for 2011, 2010 stands to be an uncapped year.  And when the cap goes, so does the early free agency.  So all over the league, guys with four or five years in the league who would become free agents will find themselves RFAs (restricted free agents) rather than UFAs.

Their current teams will be able to tender (offer) them standard one year contracts.  There are several levels of tenders.  If the tender offer is a higher level, the team will get draft picks as compensation if another team signs that player away.  At the highest tender level, the price tag is a first round AND a third round pick.

Also, the current team has the right to match any offer made to a tendered RFA to keep the player.  It becomes that team's choice - match the offer and keep the player, or let the other team sign the player away and take the draft picks.

According to several reports, there are currently a total of 212 potential free agents that will be affected.  These are players who would become true (unrestricted) free agents if we get a new CBA to restore the cap before March but will drop back to RFAs without a new deal. 

Here's the list:



Atlanta Falcons - T/G Tyson Clabo, G/T Harvey Dahl, T/G Quinn Ojinnaka, RB Jerious Norwood, P Michael Koenen, S Charlie Peprah, S Jamaal Fudge.

Arizona Cardinals – SS Hamza Abdullah, FB Justin Green, G Duece Lutui, K Mike Nugent, WR Jerheme Urban and NT Gabe Watson.

Baltimore Ravens – G Chris Chester, WR Mark Clayton, K Billy Cundiff, P Sam Koch, SS Dawan Landry, T Tony Moll, TE Quinn Sypnieski, T Terry Adam, CB Favian Washington and WR Demetrius Williams.

Buffalo Bills – OLB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, SS George Wilson and CB Ashton Youboty.

Carolina Panthers – OLB James Anderson, OLB Thomas Davis, TE Jeff King, CB Richard Marshall and T Rob Petitti.

Chicago Bears – DE Mark Anderson, FS Josh Bullocks, NT Dusty Dvoracek, FS Danieal Manning and OLB Jamar Williams.

Cincinnati Bengals – MLB Abdul Hodge, OLB Rashad Jeanty, LB Brandon Johnson, G Evan Mathis, and DE Frostee Rucker.

Cleveland Browns – SS Abram Elam, LB Arnold Harrison, RB James Harrison, LB D’Qwell Jackson, FS Brodney Pool, LB Matt Roth and FB Lawrence Vickers.

Dallas Cowboys – WR Miles Austin, DE Stephen Bowen, CB Cletis Gordon, DE Jason Hatcher, WR Sam Hurd, T Pat McQuistan, C Duke Preston, G Cory Procter, SS Gerald Sensabaugh, DE Marcus Spears, SS Pat Watkins and K Shaun Suisham.

Denver Broncos – LB Elvis Dumervil, G Chris Kuper, WR Brandon Marshall, QB Kyle Orton, TE Tony Scheffler and DE Le Kevin Smith.

Detroit Lions – SS Daniel Bullocks, C Dylan Gandy, DE Jason Hunter, WR Adam Jennings, G Daniel Loper, FS Ko Simpson and LB Cody Spencer.

Green Bay Packers – SS Atari Bigby, CB Will Blackmon, G Daryn Colledge, FS Nick Collins, DE Johnny Jolly, FB John Kuhn, FS Derrick Martin and C Jason Spitz.

Houston Texans – FS John Busing, T Rashad Butler, TE Owen Daniels, RB Ryan Moats, SS Bernard Pollard, LB DeMeco Ryans and C Chris White.

Indianapolis Colts – WR Hank Baskett, FS Antoine Bethea, FS Aaron Francisco, LB Tyjuan Hagler, CB Marlin Jackson, CB Tim Jennings, T Charlie Johnson, LB Freddy Keiaho and CB T.J. Rushing.

Jacksonville Jaguars – LB Clint Ingram, DT Montavious Stanley and WR Troy Williamson.

Kansas City Chiefs – OB Brodie Croyle, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Corey Mays, C Rudy Niswanger, T Ryan O’Callaghan and FS Jarrad Page.

Miami Dolphins – RB Ronnie Brown and TE Anthony Fasano.

Minnesota Vikings – T Ryan Cooke, DE Ray Edwards, NG Red Evans, QB Tarvaris Jackson, CB Karl Paymah and FB Naufahu Tahi.

New England Patriots – K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins and LB Pierre Woods.

New Orleans Saints – RB Mike Bell, T Jammal Brown, G Jahri Evans, DT Tony Hargrove, SS Roman Harper, FS, Hernandez Jones, WR Lance Moore, WR Courtney Roby, T Zach Strief, TE David Thomas and CB Leigh Torrence.

New York Giants – LB Chase Blackburn, G Kevin Boothe, FS C.C. Brown, NT Barry Cofield, CB Kevin Dockery, WR Derek Hagan, WR Sinorice Moss, T Guy Whimper and LB Gerris Wilkinson.

New York Jets – QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, NT Howard Green, G Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, SS Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.

Oakland Raiders – LB Jon Alston, T Khalif Barnes, LB Ricky Brown, QB Charlie Frye, LB Thomas Howard, LB Kirk Morrison and CB Stanford Routt.

Philadelphia Eagles – WR Jason Avant, C Nick Cole, LB Omar Gaither, LB Chris Gocong, CB Ellis Hobbs, G Max Jean-Gilles, TE Alex Smith and RB Leonard Weaver.

Pittsburgh Steelers – T Willie Colon.

San Diego Chargers – LB Tim Dobbins, WR Malcom Floyd, DT Antonio Garay, C Eric Ghiaciuc, LB Marques Harris, WR Vincent Jackson, DE Travis Johnson, T Marcus McNeill, LB Shawne Merriman, RB Darren Sproles and QB Charlie Whitehurst.

Seattle Seahawks – LB Lance Laury, P Jon Ryan, G Rob Sims, C Chris Spencer and DE Darryl Tapp.

San Francisco 49ers – G David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks and CB Marcus Hudson.

St. Louis Rams – DE Victor Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin and G Mark Setterstrom.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Mark Bradley, WR Brian Clark, LB Matt McCoy, T Donald Penn, LB Barrett Ruud, WR Maurice Stovall, T Jeremy Trueblood, RB Carnell Williams and LB Rod Wilson.

Tennessee Titans -  DE Dave Ball, DT Tony Brown, TE Bo Scaife, LB Stephen Tulloch, DT Kevin Vickerson and RB LenDale White.

Washington Redskins – QB Jason Campbell, SS Reed Doughty, DT Kedric Golston, LB Rocky McIntosh, DT Anthony Montgomery, C Will Montgomery and CB Carlos Rogers.
Posted on: September 2, 2009 2:31 am
 

Tye Hill's plays from the Falcons-Rams game

Since we just acquired a CB from the team we played the week before, it seemed pretty obvious to double check and see how well the guy did against us.

Tye Hill started at RCB for the Rams in the preseason week 2 matchup against the Falcons and played the entire first half.

Executive summary: he did well in pass coverage, but he couldn't tackle a running back to save his life.

If by chance you still have a copy of the video (you DO record and save every single Falcons game, right?) here are the plays to review:

13:00 remaining Q1, 2nd and 3 at Rams 27 - Michael Turner runs around the right side for a 9 yard gain and a first down. Hill lined up on the defensive left/offensive right side, covering Roddy White. He attempted to tackle Turner but missed. (A CB attempting to bring down MT seems almost unfair, so it's hard to blame him too much for that one.)

7:20 Q1, 1st and 10 at ATL 30 - Hill has coverage on Roddy. The ball was thrown past them out of bounds. It's possible that Matt Ryan saw the coverage and threw it over their heads intentionally. Regardless, Hill was on Roddy like a suit. That one had almost zero chance of being caught.

4:14 Q1, 2nd and 10 at Rams 25 - Hill lines up on Michael Jenkins. The Rams did a lot of zone coverage, and it appears that Hill was on the outside zone on this play. When Jenkins broke to the middle, Hill let him go. Chris Long was the defender in coverage on him when Jenkins caught the short pass. (Or at least it appeared that way - if that play was supposed to be man coverage, Hill should have stayed with him. But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. It wasn't his play.)

3:33 Q1, 1st and 10 at Rams 14 - Hill was the DB with the one-on-one coverage on Tony Gonzalez. TG gets the touchdown. Big surprise, huh? Hill was right there with Gonzalez, but the throw was positioned so that TG could fend him off. He did just that. Six points for Atlanta.

Trent Green said he loved to throw to TG in those situations, because NOBODY could beat Tony in single man coverage. The linebackers weren't quick/agile enough to keep up with him, and the DBs weren't big enough to avoid being screened out by him as Hill was on this play.

That was the ONLY pass that Atlanta completed against Hill. Ryan and Shockley only threw it his way twice, choosing to take on Bartell or Wade (the nickel corner) instead.

14:42 Q2 - 1st and 10 at ATL 9 - Hill misses a tackle on Norwood. I can understand bouncing off of Michael Turner. But if you get your hands on Norwood, you ought to be able to get him down. Or at least hang on until help arrives.

13:57 Q2 - 2nd and 15 at ATL 19 - D.J. Shockley throws a pass to Marty Booker. Booker botches the catch, tipping the ball into the air. The refs say that James Laurinaitis made the interception. (Note - he didn't. The ball hit the ground, and Road Warrior Junior secured it on the short hop. I have no idea why Smitty didn't throw the red flag.)

Hill was NOT the one in coverage on Booker. He had the outside zone. But he was running in towards the ball and had as good a shot at it as Laurinaitis, who collided with him while making the "catch".

8:19 Q2 - 1st and 10 at ATL 16 - Hill AGAIN misses a tackle on Norwood. This time Jerious put a pretty lame move on Hill and ran right past him. Hill didn't even attempt to make the hit.

And that was the last play where Hill had any significant involvement. Quick take: he was considered good enough by the Rams to start. He was good enough that the Falcons QBs went elsewhere on all but two throws, and he didn't allow separation on either of those.

So he had a nice game in coverage. Or at least he was better against us than our CBs were against the Rams, and far better than our guys were against the Chargers. Perhaps he really is an upgrade - as long as we're not counting on him to play run defense. That part of his game was ugly with a capital Ugh.

Posted on: August 26, 2009 12:04 am
 

Noteworthy plays from the Rams game

Smitty referred to the Lions game as "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly".  The second preseason game had more of the same. 

Here are details for some of the significant plays.  If you still have the video recorded (from either the Falcons feed live or the Rams feed via the NFL Network replay), please check them out...

 

The TV graphics and announcers all said that Todd McClure started but noted later that Brett Romberg had come in at center.  Actually, Romberg was there from the beginning.  The rest of the starting offensive lineup was the regular cast - Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo on the front line.

The Falcons completely owned the Rams for the first two offensive series.  The first drive had a heavy dose of Michael Turner, who then took the rest of the game off.  The second was heavy on passes and used a lot of no-huddle offense.

The starting defensive line featured Chauncey Davis and John Abraham at DE with Babineaux and Trey Lewis at DT.  Lewis did a fine job of drawing double teams. 

The second defensive series had Peria Jerry come in to replace Lewis.

3:22 remaining Q1, Rams ball, 1st and 10 at STL 17 (first play of the drive) - this one got attention because Brent Grimes dropped an interception.  He jumped too soon when he should have backpedaled a little more (he didn't recognize the pass was a total duck) and couldn't hold on to it in the air.  Other details of the play:  the Falcons only rushed the front four.  Both DEs were collapsing the pocket, but Babs and Jerry were both beaten by single blockers.  Side note - the intended receiver was a former prospect of ours, TE Daniel Fells.

2:44 Q1, Rams ball, 3rd and 10 at STL 17 - Atlanta blitzes, but it isn't effective. The mechanics of the failed pass rush:  Abraham drops back into coverage.  Coy Wire and Chevis Jackson both rush the passer.  The other linemen do a twist, with each moving to their right while Jackson and Wire rush on the left side.  All three defensive linemen are beaten easily by single blockers.  The twist leaves the RT free to block Wire, and the running back picks up Jackson. 

Meanwhile, Laurent Robinson (remember him?) beats Chris Owens for a 19 yard gain.

1:25 Q1, Rams ball, 2nd and 10 at STL 36 - John Abraham does a stunt, faking outside but then swings to his left to rush from the inside of the line.  Babineaux breaks off into short coverage.  HE HAS CONTAIN RESPONSIBILITY.  Grimes is in zone coverage, shadowing Laurent Robinson.

Kyle Boller has no one open, sees space to his left (since Abe was coming in the middle) and breaks from the pocket.  Laurent Robinson sees him take off and runs to the middle to block Babineaux.

Let that sink in for a moment... the WR who didn't fit into Atlanta's plans because he wasn't physical enough and couldn't block took on the starting DT and took him completely out of the play.

Grimes initially continued shadowing Robinson (that was his responsibility - Boller could still pull up and throw the ball) but then ran after the QB.  He couldn't prevent him from turning the corner, and Boller picked up the first down.

The announcers made Grimes look bad, saying he was the one who lost contain.  Cut the kid some slack - it wasn't his responsibility.

14:56 Q2, Rams ball, 3rd and 10 at ATL 40.  The Falcons got really lucky on this play, which SHOULD have gone for a Rams touchdown. It was a play designed to attack the cover two, and the Falcons had a mishap at the start.

The Rams were in a 3 WR set.  The Falcons were in their cover two nickel package with Chevis Jackson on the slot receiver on the same side (defensive right side, offensive left side) as Grimes, who was lined up on (him again) Laurent Robinson.  Chris Owens (starting in place of Chris Houston) was on the receiver on the opposite side.

I have no idea what Jackson was trying to do, but he initially broke inside as if trying to jump a slant route.  His receiver ran right past him, and Jackson chased after him all the way down the middle of the field - from five yards behind him. 

On the other side, Owens released his man (also running deep) to the safety in the deep zone (Thomas DeCoud).  When Robinson entered the deep zone, Grimes started to release him as well.  But the safety on his side (Erik Coleman) wasn't there.  Instead, he had run to the middle of the field to pick up Jackson's man. 

Both safeties ended up on the defensive left side of the left hash mark, with no safety at all on the right half of the field.  That's not supposed to happen.

Grimes chased after Robinson, but there's no way he was going to catch up.  Fortunately the ball was badly overthrown.  At the end of the play, Grimes looked back at his teammates as if asking what the heck happened.

The end result was good, but file that one under "The Ugly".


13:57 Q2, Falcons ball, 2nd and 15 at ATL 19.  Everyone saw the first interception on the highlights.  After a false start by Tyson Clabo, Shockley throws a pass to Marty Booker.  Booker can't make the catch, and James Laurinaitis makes the interception off of the tip.

Baldinger pointed out the obvious fact that Booker should have caught the ball, but what we didn't see on the Atlanta broadcast was that Laurinaitis might not have made the pick cleanly. The ball definitely touched the ground as he came down with it, and it's questionable whether he had full control until after it touched. One shot looked like he momentarily didn't have it.

The guys in the St. Louis production truck showed it repeatedly on their broadcast, but Trent Green was busy rambling on about what a ball hawk Laurinaitis is and didn't get the hint that the play might be challenged.  The Atlanta broadcast only showed the replay from the overhead camera, so Falcons fans had no idea the play was so close.
 
Smitty didn't challenge.  I don't know if the call would have been reversed, but he certainly had grounds to throw the red flag.


12:10 Q2, Falcons ball, 3rd and 8 at ATL 21.  Shockley throws a perfect strike to Justin Peelle for a 23 yard completion on the right side.  But both offensive tackles were lined up too far off the ball, so the play got erased by the penalty for illegal formation.

I mention it for two reasons.  First, this was the longest completion for any Falcons QB so far this preseason - and it was wiped out by a silly penalty.  Second, the coaching staff evaluates the film, not the box score.  Shockley has had a bunch of passes that haven't counted as completions.  The stats look horrible, but the film is much better.


9:00 Q2, Rams ball, 3rd and 16 at 50 yard line. (Lawrence Sidbury gets his first sack as a Falcon.) 

The defensive line for the series had Sid and Jamaal Anderson at DE with Peria Jerry and Trey Lewis in the middle.  Jamaal drops into coverage while Curtis Lofton rushes.  (It's not a blitz since there were still only four pass rushers.  Atlanta is mixing things up a bit so that the offense won't know who's coming and who's in coverage.)

Trey Lewis draws a double team.  (He did that for most of the night.)  Sidbury stunts, coming inside of Lewis while Lofton rushes around the end.  Lofton gets there first but misses the sack.  The QB steps up into the pocket and right into Sid Vicious, who beat his inside blocker with that spin move of his.  (If you're not familiar with it, look up Sidbury on YouTube.)


5:00 Q2, Rams ball, 3rd and 10 at STL 34.  This one's a play Chevis Jackson would rather forget.  Ronald Curry beats him on a short pass.  No big deal, but Jackson then misses the tackle - allowing Curry to get the first down and keep the drive alive.

2:12 Q2, Rams ball, 2nd and 9 at ATL 28.  Follow that one up with one Grimes would rather forget.  He didn't have his assignment and was out of position, leaving Burton wide open for a short catch.  And then he too failed to make the tackle, allowing Burton to run for the first down.

Hey, at least our DBs were being consistent...

14:20 Q3, Rams ball, 2nd and 11 at STL 15.  There had to be a mixup on the coverage assignments on this one.  TE Daniel Fells was absurdly wide open.  (None of the regulars were on the field for this entire series - Wire, Gilbert and James were the LBs with Owens and Middleton at corner and Harris and Brock at safety.)

10:13 Q3, Falcons ball, 2nd and 8 at ATL 29.  This was the sack/fumble. 
The play was ugly from the outset.  Atlanta was in a 2 TE, single back set, but Jason Snelling shifted to a slot receiver position, leaving no one in the backfield for protection.  The Rams blitzed.  Can you see the train wreck in this picture?

Ben Hartsock was the TE on the right side.  He went out for a short curl route.  The Rams overloaded that side of the line, with two rushers coming free.

Shockley had to know he had to throw it to the hot receiver.  The big question is WHO was supposed to be the hot read?  If you check the replay, Shockley looked immediately to Jason Rader (TE on the left side) and started a throwing motion.  But Rader didn't turn around in time.  Shockley tucked it and instantly got hit and stripped.

(Hmmm.... could the "Tuck Rule" have applied here?)

 

9:30 Q3, Rams ball, 2nd and 8 at ATL 20.  Brock Berlin hits the 20 yard TD pass.  chris Owens actually had decent coverage, but he had no safety help.  Eric Brock was up short (probably by design, playing run support) and not in position to help on the play.


4:55 Q3, Falcons ball, 3rd and 8 at STL 15.  The Falcons get into the red zone and promptly try two straight runs up the middle.  Now it's 3rd and 8.

Shockley drops back to pass and no one is open.  He sees daylight in the middle - and for the first time this preseason, he decides to run for it. 

Unfortunately, he's playing behind the backup offensive line.  The DT (Scott) sheds his block and tackles Shockley just as he hits the hole.

It didn't work out, but it was a pretty good decision.  The opportunity was there, and it was safer than risking an interception.


3:16 Q3, Rams ball, 3rd and 15 at STL 35.  I'm really only including this play to mention the defensive personnel.  Safety Jamaal Fudge played the nickel cornerback role for the remainder of the game, while Von Hutchins played safety.

This one is Fudge's play he'd like to forget.  He's beaten by Bajema for a short completion and then can't make the tackle, allowing Bajema to run for the first down and keep the drive alive.  (Hmmm... sound familiar?  Same play, different corner, cheap movie...)  William Middleton comes over to make the tackle, but only after a 16 yard gain on 3rd and 15.

14:55 Q4, Falcons ball, 3rd and 8 at ATL 25.  John Parker Wilson is now in at QB.  His first pass was off target, overthrowing Chandler Williams.  This one was slightly behind Eric Weems, but close enough for Weems to make the play. Weems got his hands on it but couldn't catch it, instead tipping it up for it to become an interception.  Maybe these things don't ONLY happen to D.J. Shockley...

Well, apparently they really do only happen to Shockley, even when they happen to someone else.  Check out the box score of the game on NFL.com, and also find the start of the fourth quarter on the play-by-play listing.  You won't believe it.  

The play by play shows that Wilson came in at QB and that Wilson threw the incompletion to Williams.  But then it lists Shockley as the QB that threw the INT on the pass intended for Weems.  And the box score lists the INT under Shockley, plus there's an extra pass attempt and INT included in Shockley's preseason stats.

Jeff Van Note said at halftime that Shockley is having "buzzard's luck" this preseason.  That wasan interesting and polite way of saying he isn't getting much help from his teammates, who have dropped over 15% of his throws so far.  But when the league starts putting someone else's interceptions in your stats, that's just silly.  How snakebit can you get???



8:33 Q4, Falcons ball, 2nd and 9 at ATL 38.  With his best pass of the preseason, John Parker Wilson hits a leaping Keith Zinger over the middle for 15 yards.

Zinger has only played TE with the mop-up unit, but keep him in mind as a contender for the #3 TE spot.  He has done well with what little opportunity he's had on offense, and more importantly he plays on every single special teams unit (including forming the wedge with Brett Romberg on kickoff returns). 

 

5:34 Q4, Falcons ball, 1st and 10 at STL 32.  Jason Snelling breaks off a 23 yard run to take it inside the 10.

The four Rams RBs had a grand total of 60 yards rushing for the whole game.  Snelling had 61 all by himself.

Give due credit all around - Atlanta's defensive line and linebackers got it done on run defense.  Oh, and we have some pretty darn good running backs of our own.  Snelling's a beast, and he's competing to be the freaking THIRD STRING running back.

For those of us old enough to remember the days of Haskel Stanback and Bubba Bean, that's enough to give us goosebumps.

 

1:54 Q4, Rams ball, 1st and 10 at ATL 38.  This is the one exception to the excellent run defense.  4th string RB Kenneth Darby (a fine prospect who was plucked off of Atlanta's practice squad last season) charged straight up the middle for 21 yards.

The Rams were in a 3-WR formation, with the Falcons playing their nickel package.  It was EXACTLY the same situation as last year, when Grady Jackson would leave the field on nickel situations and teams could plow right through the middle.

Here's the breakdown of the play:

DT Tywain Myles (who wasn't expected to play in this game) lined up on the left guard.  Vance Walker lined up just outside the right guard.  The defensive ends (Sidbury and Willie Evans) lined up on the TE and outside the left tackle. 

At the snap, the right guard let Walker get penetration on the OUTSIDE (away from the play) and moved downfield to block one linebacker (Tony Gilbert).  The left tackle and tight end blocked the defensive ends, with the idea of allowing them around the outsides (again, away from the play) but protecting the inside. The right tackle was free to move downfield and block the other linebacker (Robert James).

The center blocked to his left, completely bulldozing Tywain Myles. The left guard pulled and sealed off the right side, preventing Walker from getting back into the play before the runner got through the line.

With the WRs either blocking or running the CBs away from the play and both LBs blocked by offensive linemen, the first guys with a shot at Darby were the two safeties (Von Hutchins and Eric Brock) - who were both lined up in deep zones for pass protection against the 3-WR set. They both made the play at first contact, but that was 21 yards downfield.


0:50 Q4, Rams ball, 4th and 6 at ATL 13.  The highlight film shows the interception.  The announcers raved about how important it was for the Falcons to step up and make a play.

What they didn't mention was the call by Brian VanGorder.  He sent seven rushers after the QB. 

Yep... with the game on the line, the Rams in a spread formation (3 WRs plus TE split off on the right side) and his mop-up defense on the field, VanGorder dialed up the Gritz Blitz.  WOW...

It would otherwise seem insane to leave Jamaal Fudge, Glenn Sharpe, Tony Tiller and Eric Brock all in one-on-one matchups in the red zone.  Von Hutchins, the only experienced DB on the field, was one of the blitzers.  (I'm sure VanGorder did that on purpose, just to throw the kids into the deep end of the pool.)  But considering the opponent was a fourth string rookie QB, it wasn't a bad idea. 

The QB (Keith Null, from West Texas A&M) got spooked and threw a bad pass for the pick.  Two receivers had separation (Fudge was well behind his man on a short crossing route), but Null threw the ball straight to Eric Brock.  Game over.

 
 

Posted on: April 22, 2009 1:13 am
 

Ten things I would have done differently...

Obviously things didn't go well for the Falcons in 2007, and (even more obviously) 2008 was a much better year in Flowery Branch.

There are many things going back many, many years that the team has done that made me cringe, knowing deep inside that once again the Falcons had shot themselves in the foot.  (Hiring Marion Campbell a second time.  Drafting an unknown punter who wasn't even Div 1-A in the third round.  Drafting a small school WR who was awaiting sentencing on his manslaughter conviction, etc...)

The full list would be WAY too long to post.  And some of the things I would have done differently might not have turned out any better than the things the team actually did.  But I still wouldn't have made many of the same moves the team made even in the last couple of years. 

So here's another list of tens, this time covering some things that I would have done differently if I had been the one in charge of the team, from January 1, 2007 to right now. 

Some of them may be improvements, others not so great.  But these are the main things that jump to my mind over the last two years and four months where I heard the news and immediately thought "I wouldn't have done that".  In chronological order:

 

1)  I wouldn't have fired Jim Mora. 

Yes, the team had a second straight late season collapse, and he made a few mistakes.  But the decision to fire him on January 1, 2007 hit me as a bit rash.  In spite of a talent-thin lineup, he had the team in the postseason one year and in the wild card chase right through to the final week in his other two seasons. 

Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp had to go.  But for better or for worse I would have given Mora one more year. 

In hindsight, I find it absolutely hilarious that that the last straw was Mora joking that he'd leave the Falcons to take on the college job. 

 

 

2)  I would have named Chauncey Davis the starter at DE even before the 2007 draft.

Forget about how things have turned out so far with Jamaal Anderson.  I know everyone hates that draft pick and wants to run the kid out of town.  That's irrelevant since it all came later.  This has NOTHING to do with Jamaal, because he wasn't even on the team at the time.

Focus strictly on Chauncey Davis instead. 

He had put in fine efforts as a backup and truly had earned the right to step up as Patrick Kerney's replacement.  If Mora had been the coach, Davis would have been the starter.  We also had out-of-nowhere guys Paul Carrington and Josh Mallard as potential backups.  They may not be the world's greatest DE trio, but for the defensive schemes we had been running, they were capable of doing those jobs. 

By ignoring their contributions, the team gets the message right away that the new coach is a my-way-or-the-highway guy who intends to replace established players with HIS own guys.  If you're a proven winner as a head coach, that's acceptable.  If you're about to coach your very first game, it's a big red flag.  (Ground control to Major Booby:  work with what you have.  You can't replace a whole team in one offseason.)  
 
And second, it wasted an opportunity to go after another position with that first draft pick.  We lost Kerney, but we still had Abraham.  DE didn't have to be tops on the shopping list.  Petrino pushed for the Matt Schaub trade because he said he needed "players". But he had a bunch of them already here, and he ignored or released them instead of putting their talents to use.

 


3)  I would have kept both kickers, Billy Cundiff and Matt Prater, for the 2007 season. 

Cundiff had been out of the league while recovering from injury.  But he kicked well in camp and was reliable in preseason.  The downside was that he didn't have a great leg for kickoffs.  At the time, kickoff coverage was a glaring weakness for our Birds.  (And that continued throughout the season - we later allowed Tampa their first kick return touchdown in franchise history.)

When prospect Matt Prater became available only days before the final roster cuts, Bobby Petrino saw part of a workout and signed the kid immediately - having him kick the final preseason game and releasing Cundiff the next morning.  Prater was the obvious solution to the kickoff return problem.  He can put it in the end zone for a touchback every time.

The catch is that he was an unproven rookie who had just one workout before suiting up for one preseason game - and he shanked one of his three field goal attempts during the game.  Giving Cundiff the pink slip was, to say the least, a major risk.

I was in favor of keeping Prater, but I would NOT have released Cundiff.

 

4)  I would have kept Frank Omiyale as the backup left tackle for 2007. 

This one is probably a bit obscure for most fans, who might not even know who Frank Omiyale is or that he was orignally with the Falcons. 

Petrino shoved aside some of our backups to make room for "his" guys.  Allen Rossum was ditched to make room for Antoine Harris.  Tommy Jackson was let go in favor of Montavious Stanley. (To a lesser degree, our new coaching staff has done the same thing.  It's pretty common when you have a change at coach.)

But the one that bothered me most was the way Petrino handled Mora's two draft picks on the o-line, Quinn Ojinnaka and Frank Omiyale.  To make room for Renardo Foster, Petrino moved Omiyale over to the right side and put him in direct competition with Ojinnaka for one backup spot at RT.  Meanwhile, he had undrafted free agent Foster compete with journeyman Leander Jordan (who wasn't really even a tackle) for the backup job on the left side.  That guaranteed that one of our more experienced backup tackles would be shown the door in favor of keeping Petrino's undrafted kid from Louisville in a crucial role. 

Instead, I would have started Renardo Foster on the practice squad and kept Omiyale and Ojinnaka as the two backup tackles.  When Wayne Gandy struggled and then got hurt in week five, Omiyale would have been his replacement.

I don't know how well it would have worked out or if Omiyale would have been injured like Gandy, Foster, Todd Weiner and Terrance Pennington (yes, we put FOUR left tackles on IR in one season!).   But I certainly wouldn't have just thrown away a fine up and coming left tackle prospect like that.  (The Panthers scooped him up from waivers in a heartbeat.  He was their backup LT for the last two seasons, and this year he signed a free agent deal with the Bears, hoping to win a starting job.)

 


5)  There's no way on earth I would have cut Grady Jackson during the 2007 bye week.  Montavious Stanley should have been the one released instead.  (And as a follow-up, I would have tried to re-sign Grady as a backup this offseason rather than letting him slip away to the Lions.)

After the week five fiasco against the Titans (perhaps the worst coaching I have ever seen at the NFL level), I was silently hoping that Arthur Blank would come to his senses, realize he made a horrible mistake in hiring Petrino, and fire him right after the last game before the bye week.  That would allow a new coach to evaluate the players on hand over the rest of the season and get a great headstart for 2008.

I also remember being glad it was the bye, thinking that at least Petrino couldn't screw up and cost the Falcons a win that week as he did in at least three of the team's losses to that point.

Wow, was I ever dead wrong about that one!

Petrino decided to name rookie Trey Lewis as the starting NT ahead of Grady Jackson.  No problem there.  But once again Petrino gave favoritism to one of his Louisville guys at the expense of the team as a whole.  Instead of releasing #5 DT Montavious Stanley, who really wasn't a good fit for the NT spot anyway, he cut Grady.

And neither Petrino nor defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer ever gave Grady any explanation as to why.  They didn't even give him the news in person, instead leaving it to an assistant in the personnel office to call in Jackson on one of those days off to clear out his locker.

That was what made it such a joy to see Grady return during training camp in 2008.  It was a great big one-finger salute to Coach Booby. The guy he cast aside like trash is still around, while Petrino is the laughing stock of the NFL.  Take THAT, you great big steaming pile of hog-sooey!

 

That's five from Petrino's reign of terror.  Now for five more from our new regime...


6)  I would not have released Alge Crumpler before camp in 2008.

Right before the late February roster cuts, the AJC ran an article listing 11 players that might be on the bubble.

I posted a piece on the team message board going through that article and making my own guesses on whether each of those players would stay or go.  I was right about 10 out of the 11.  The only one that surprised me was Crumpler.

His contract had a $4.9 million base salary for 2008, but he had a little over $4.8 million in bonus money that had yet to count against the salary cap.  The bottom line was that we got no benefit from casting aside the guy who might have been a young quarterback's best friend.

At the very least, we should have waited and let him work with Ryan in camp.

 


7)  I would have made the big trade with the Ravens in the 2008 draft.


I focus heavily on the salary cap, and the main thing I wanted to see from new GM Thomas Dimitroff was for Atlanta to get rid of the salary cap woes that had crippled the team for at least five years and get ahead of the cap curve once and for all.

I also wanted to see the team start stockpiling future draft picks to use as trade ammo.

This one is the ultimate alternate-universe scenario for the Falcons.  Instead of Matt Ryan, we would have ended up with Joe Flacco.  We might also have ended up with Jeff Otah instead of Sam Baker, and we probably would have had more picks in round two than just Curtis Lofton

The story is that the Ravens were interested in Matt Ryan. They tried to swing a last minute trade with the Rams (who had the #2 pick) to get ahead of Atlanta and draft him.  The offer was a sweet package of picks, but St. Louis asked for more.  And the Rams apparently also tried to squeeze Atlanta for an extra pick, wanting us to trade up from #3 to #2 in order to block the Baltimore trade.

The moment the story broke (or the moment St. Louis called wanting us to make the #3 for #2 trade) I would have asked the Ravens if they would offer the same package to us for the #3 pick instead of to the Rams for the #2.  And once I had moved to Baltimore's #7 spot, I would have traded down one more time (as did the Ravens) to land in the mid teens.

Obviously things have worked out quite well with Matt Ryan.  We might not even have to fear the salary cap consequences of his huge contract, as it now seems possible that the next CBA might ditch the salary cap system entirely.  My choice might not have gone so well for the 2008 season. 

But at the time, the team was in rebuilding mode and the main thing that had held us down for years was an ongoing problem with the cap.  I would have made the trades to get out of #3 and into cheaper territory in order to get us out of those cap woes once and for all.

As it stands, we might be right back in the soup by 2011 if the new CBA restores the cap.

 


8)  I would have drafted a nose tackle prospect (probably Frank Okam) and signed at least one more as a UFA.

On the Falcons team board, we were all quite pleased with the first day of the draft.  There was a moment of fear when the Sam Baker trade was first announced, as ESPN reported it as a three pick for one pick deal.  (They didn't go out of their way to make the correction known, as the other picks Atlanta received were not in the draft's first day.  Dimitroff made it quite clear that night, however, that the network was mistaken.  It was a three for three deal.  The Falcons moved down with two picks in order to move up with one and take Baker.) 

The elation of the first day disappeared throughout day two.  With the QB, LT, and LB addressed by the end of the second round, most of us KNEW that help at DT was on the way.

The Falcons didn't have Grady, had cut Rod Coleman, and had heard Trey Lewis would be out for at least the first month of the season after falling on the stairs. All we had on the roster were Petrino's man Montavious Stanley, Buffalo's castoff Tim Anderson, and some bargain rack free agents in Rashad Moore and Kindal Moorehead.  You didn't have to be psychic to know that one of the three third round picks would be a solid DT prospect.

They took a cornerback...  okay, no problem, we can use another one of those.  Wide receiver...  not sure why, but he's also a return man, so it could work.  Safety... ummm, didn't think that was an immediate need...

Ouch.  Well, maybe they're targeting someone like Frank Okam, who projects as a fifth rounder.  We have two picks in that round.  It's gotta happen then...

Linebacker...  he's a good prospect, but fear is starting to creep in.  Small school linebacker / defensive end... ouch.  This is getting serious.  We're into the late rounds now.  Well, Trey Lewis was a sixth rounder, so maybe we'll get a decent one.

Running back...  5'9" cornerback... tight end.  And no DTs among the announced UFAs the next day.

We knew even then that Dimitroff had let us down on the defensive line.  No DTs, and the only DE drafted was really a linebacker who didn't even play 1-A ball.

Even if it was just a guy who would otherwise be a practice squad prospect from another team, I would have had at least one more big man on the main roster at all times. 

 


9)  I would have waited at least a month before starting Matt Ryan.

It's not that Ryan wasn't ready or wasn't our best QB option.  He certainly was.  The problem was that our offensive line hadn't had much time working together as a unit. Many of the starting jobs had been up for grabs right until the end of preseason, and the communications and teamwork was a bit shaky.

The line gave up seven sacks in those first four games, compared to only 10 total sacks in the remaining twelve games.  The Falcons went 2-2 in that first month, with the two wins coming against hapless Detroit and Kansas City, who played Tyler Thigpen as their starting quarterback that week.

Even in retrospect, while it may have helped to get Ryan in there ASAP to shake off any rookie jitters, I still feel we would have been just as well off letting Redman take the snaps that month instead of risking our $70 million babyface against the likes of the Tampa and Carolina pass rushes.

 

 

10)  I would not have traded Laurent Robinson.

The only way this deal makes sense to me is if the coaches had already decided Robinson was going to be cut this summer.  Otherwise, the value they got in return for him is a joke.

The team moved up about 20 spots in rounds five and six.  If you look at the point chart (you DID read those blog entries, right?) you'll see that the combined value of moving up both picks is a mere 18 points.  That's the equivalent of the 183rd overall pick of the draft.

Robinson has health questions, but he has good hands and made quite a few impressive catches in clutch situations over the last two seasons.  We essentially traded our up and coming #4 WR for a sixth round draft pick.

We'll have to see what our coaching staff does with the upgraded draft picks this weekend, but I'll go ahead and say it:   No thanks.  I'd rather keep the wideout.
 

 
 
 
 
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