Some people are fans of the Atlanta Falcons. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Atlanta Falcons. This 2014 Deadspin NFL team preview is for those in the latter group.
Your team: Atlanta Falcons
Your 2013 record: 4-12. Really dodged a bullet there. You and I were nearly saddled with the burden of having to watch Matt Ryan lose in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row! PHEW! Glad we didn't have to go though that exercise again. You know how analysts say a playoff game contains many "intriguing subplots"? This is not true when the Falcons play in a playoff game. There is no intrigue. There are no subplots. There is only one plot and that plot is, "How will they lose and how unwatchable can they make the process of losing?"
Your coach: Pinky-ring salesman Mike Smith. Hey, did you know that this team is on Hard Knocks this year, and that Hard Knocks is going on as we speak? You probably did not, because these are the Falcons and the Falcons are the C-SPAN of football. I was told the main highlight of the premiere was Mike Smith wearing amusing shower shoes. Jesus Christ. I've seen better-drawn characters on an episode of Dog with a Blog.
Whenever NFL Films shows up, there are usually a handful of players who talk extra loud because they know they're on film (Ray Lewis used to do this all the time). Watch that Hard Knocks premiere and you will see Roddy White and company straining to be telegenic, talking mild trash on the field and laughing WAY too loud, as if a director is standing behind the camera begging them for decent coverage. You people aren't CBS pregame show material yet.
Your quarterback: Matt Ryan. All this time we've been wondering if Joe Flacco is elite. Meanwhile, Matty Ice skates by, completely under-scrutinized when it comes to elite-itude. Here is Matt Ryan's game log from a season ago. Can you pinpoint where Julio Jones gets hurt? I'll give you a hint: It's somewhere before Ryan throws 15 picks in his last 10 games. OOPTY!
We need to spice up this Matt Ryan somehow. As of this moment, Ryan is made from pocket-passer boilerplate. If he's never gonna be quite as good as Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, he may as well compensate in some other way. I GOT IT! A bra …
We'll throw a bra on him. Now we're getting somewhere!
What's new that sucks: Oh hey, it's Devin Hester! Now you Atlanta folk will get to experience the joy of watching Devin Hester return two kicks for touchdowns and offer no other positive contribution. I wonder if, sabermetrically speaking, Devin Hester is really worth a roster spot if he brings only two or three good plays a season. Or are those IMPACT plays that coaches overvalue just because they look so awesome?
The Falcons were one of the worst defensive teams in football last season, so they attempted to fix that this offseason by getting rid of a bunch of random people (Asante Samuel, Thomas Decoud) and replacing them with a bunch of other random people (Tyson Jackson, Josh Wilson, Javier Arenas). But don't worry, Atlanta. The front seven still blows, so some things will feel familiar. Nose tackle Peria Jerry just retired at age 29 to help speed along the process of sucking.
Offensively, Ryan will be without Tony Gonzalez, who retired and immediately got a TV job because he is handsome and sounds good in that phony Tiki Barberish kind of way. Tony Gonzalez is the kind of former player whom TV producers salivate over without ever realizing that he has nothing interesting to say.
Draft-wise, the team added Jake Matthews at right tackle to help protect Ryan so that he can again achieve the towering adequacy that fans expect from Matt Ryan. I find the entire Matthews clan to be annoying: Bruce and Clay and the other Clay and still yet another Clay and now Jake. Football families are fucking irritating. The Falcons play the Packers on MNF this season and I promise you that the entire game will consist of Jon Gruden ejaculating into his hair and screaming THIS MATTHEWS FAMILY THEY JUST LOVE FOOTBALL. The pregame interviews will also be unbearable. "Jake, how hard will it be for you to play against your cousin, who will probably play on the opposite side of the field the whole game? Oh, it's just business to you? OK then."
What has always sucked: As always, I will start here by disclosing that I am a Vikings fan, so fuck Atlanta eternally for the 1998 NFC title game.
No, really. FUCK YOU. With a nail gun. God, we'll never be that good again. It still hurts. It hurts my essence. The Falcons ruin everything for everyone. They are the neighbor you feel obligated to invite to the party and you hope they don't show up to the party but then they DO show up to the party and you're like why the fuck did you come to my party? That's the Falcons every year.
I actually saw the city for the first time this year. Normal Americans like me usually only go to Atlanta for no other purpose than to endure a layover, but this time I actually left the airport and went into town! And in downtown Atlanta there was … nothing. Nothing at all. Apparently all the good parts of Atlanta aren't in, like, Atlanta Atlanta. They are in other Atlantas and thus are a two-mile, 158-minute drive away. Downtown Atlanta has an aquarium, a hotel, a McCormick & Schmick's, and 70,000 TGI Friday's. I don't even know if the buildings are real. The whole downtown may just be a set. I couldn't even find a donut joint. It was like Ebola had swept through the town years ago, instead of just this week. No wonder they did the Walking Dead premiere in that city. You don't have to change anything.
Greater Atlanta is a train wreck. Every street is named Peachtree. Traffic is asphyxiating. Half an inch of snow causes the sort of panicky gridlock you'd find after a nuclear attack. (Memo to every city from D.C. south: Don't try to excuse being snow wimps by saying, "You guys up North get snow and we get ICE!" Go to Buffalo in January sometime, redneck. You'll see PLENTY of ice, along with people who know how to properly drive a fucking motor vehicle.)
And even worse than the gridlock is when friends of mine like Spencer Hall use the city's endless dysfunction as a way of making Atlanta sound unique and awesome. You people living in cities that work are so beat. Here in Atlanta we have babies stuck on roadways and that is CULTURE. Stop pretending your dying infrastructure and civil corruption are endearing.
One more thing about the ATL (and calling it "The ATL" will never not be annoying): People there are slow as balls. I was standing in line for a coffee there (call me Petey King Jr.) and the machine broke and when the machine broke, the people behind the counter did nothing. They just stood there and fucking stared off into space. And if you get pissy with Atlanta people about how slow they are, they just accuse YOU of being the asshole. Why are you so uptight about standing there and having all your time wasted, mannnnnnnn? All Southerners believe that they somehow savor life more than their Yankee brethren because they are so painfully slow, but this is a lie. You people need to get your fucking shit together. You aren't seizing the day because it took you three hours to make a sandwich. The rest of us have lives to lead. No wonder your town has only one good plow.
What might not suck: Common sense dictates that when a competently run team like Atlanta has a down year filled with injuries and outright bad luck, it should rebound the following season. Jones is healthy again. The line is better. There are, like, safeties around. They seem better! Oh God, don't let them be better. Let an awesome team like the Saints run them the fuck over. 1998 WAS SUPPOSED TO BE OUR YEAR, JERKHEADS.
Hear it from Falcons fans!
They are bad at being good.
1) We're getting a fancy new (publicly financed) stadium because we started getting into the playoffs when Matt Ryan got drafted, and then proceeded to lose to the Cards, put up 2 points against the Giants, get a new one ripped for us by the Packers, and blow a 17 point lead in the NFC title game against the Niners. Best stretch in franchise history!
2) Our fans show up at halftime and leave halfway through the 4th quarter.
3) We have to get Samuel L. Jackson to scream RISE UP ATLANTA before kickoff and on 3rd downs or else we won't know when to cheer.
4) Our owner looks like an actual falcon.
The Georgia Dome's official release for fans traveling to the game Friday contains the following headline. Even they don't give a shit about this team.
Recommendations for Fans to get to the Dome in the quickest and easiest manor:
Good advice if you're traveling to a Falcons game in an old Victorian mansion, I guess.
(note: link to release is here: http://gadome.com/about/news/Def...)
I remarked to a group of people from Georgia (I'm from there too) that I couldn't wait until football season. It didn't even occur to them that I might have been talking about the NFL.
1) Since the (admittedly fantastic) pickup of Gonzalez, our idea of doing something exciting in free agency is buying decrepit old men, like Osi Umenyiora and Steven Jackson (whose hamstrings are apparently made of damp recycled-paper towels).
2) But wait, we picked up Devin Hester this year! So now our opponents will just punt out of bounds, and we get to waste a couple days of practice drawing up gag plays to get Hester the ball, so that he can get tackled by a safety in the backfield. Maybe we'll even devote a whole offensive package to it, like the Wildcat. We'll call it the "DIRTY BIRD."
3) Arthur Blank is easily the most villainous-looking owner in the NFL. He looks like a cross a mob boss and a used-car salesman.
4) But the worst thing about being a Falcons fan: we are always "just one year away from being SERIOUS contenders." Next year has never come.
The only indicator you need about how bad Falcons fans are, there are STILL more Vick jerseys in the stands than any other player, and for some reason, a LOT of fans HATE Matt Ryan, with the best QB record by far of any ATL QB.
We had absolutely no pass rush last year, so this year we fixed that by... getting rid of every corner with more than one year of professional service and not signing a pass rusher.
The Georgia Dome is likely the newest stadium to ever be replaced, yet the worst thing about the stadium (its location) isn't being remedied at all, it's still in the second worst section of Atlanta (after Turner Field) where you can't get a drink or bite to eat anywhere but a tailgate before the game. The tailgating area is affectionately called "The Gulch" and the area is even uglier than the word for it. It's all broken concrete, falling bridges, out of service rail lines, the underside of decaying plaster buildings. But at least it is a 30-minute walk from the stadium itself.
The only reason anyone (even Atlantans) knows a third WR on our team is because he dropped a sure touchdown that would have sent us to the Super Bowl. Every other city thinks that the player we have as starting RB retired 3 years ago. Likely because he should have. Our O-line is one guy we drafted and the cast of Cats from the Fox Theater production. Our defense is so bad, we actually let the worst QB in the league, Cam Newton, complete passes against us.
The Falcons are so disappointing and frustrating, the biggest buzz in Atlanta right now is the MLS team coming THREE YEARS FROM NOW.
Atlanta has more people with Ebola than Super Bowl rings.
There are more people in Atlanta with ebola than there are Matt Ryan playoff wins.
BANG BANG DOUBLE EBOLA JOKES FTW!
The Falcons are the reason for Thursday Night Football.
The Falcons play pretty much all their home games in the 1:00 time slot. This means that if you want to go and tailgate a game, you have to wake up at like 5AM to get your shit together in order to fight your way through Atlanta traffic and make it to the Georgia Dome with 45 minutes to spare before you have to go into the stadium. You can't even buy beer on your way in because Georgia has this archaic blue law where you can't purchase alcohol before 12:30 on Sundays.
It's not that big of a deal though because nobody at or watching a Falcons game really wants to be at or watching a Falcons game. They are all just pissed that Sunday is the farthest point of the week away from College Football. The curse of the Falcons is that they will always be filler in SEC Country and nobody really cares about them. And why should they? Why would anyone want to watch the Falcons shit the bed on Sunday a mere 18 hours after they just watched Georgia shit the bed on Saturday? Nobody wants to admit it but at this point these 2 teams have basically the same odds of bringing home a Championship as the Atlanta Thrashers do. The Falcons couldn't even pay Peria Jerry $900,000 to watch them play from the sidelines and occasionally run on the field. He'd rather just chill at home and watch some other team on TV.
But hey, at least we're getting a new stadium in a couple years so we can be the city that got 2nd place in the bid for the Super Bowl.
We possess quite possibly the two least impressive 13-3 seasons ever.
Our team is going nowhere. We haven't had a legit pass rush since the late 90s, so who does our front office go out and sign? Tyson Jackson, one of the worst 3-4 Defensive Ends in the league at rushing the passer. Fan-Tas-Tic. Expect Drew Brees to go 14-16 for 187 yards and 2 TDs in week 1 vs. the Facons - in the 1st half. Dimitroff's ability to miss on defensive talent up front (Peria Jerry, Jamaal Anderson, Ray Edwards) is nothing short of astonishing. Two 1st-rounders in consecutive drafts on D-line - one isn't in the league anymore and one is still sucking while taking up a roster spot.
Our GM constructed our roster oblivious to the fact that football is a sport where 300 pound men crash into each other at high speeds, so we have 20-25 players who are worth a shit and the rest of our team is guys who had to take a pay cut from the Arena League team they used to play for. The worst part about Atlanta area taxpayers having to pay $200M to build this team a new stadium is that some of that money will go towards a physical bench that is totally wasted on whatever the Falcons deign to put on it.
All that might be fine, too, if our top flight players were actually good. Instead our quarterback's nickname is derived from the shittiest beer in existence, our running back hasn't been described as quick since the first Bush administration, even just putting on cleats apparently breaks our best receiver's foot, the only thing our left tackle is capable of blocking is the buffet line at Golden Corral, our top linebacker's ligaments are more worn out than a porn star's anus after shooting a prolapse video, and I have as much of a chance at recording a sack in the NFL this year as anyone currently on the roster.
The most exciting thing about our secondary is that William Moore literally powerbombed a guy last year... in a game where Sam fucking Bradford threw for 352 yards and 3 TDs. Add all that to the fact that we're replacing a Hall of Fame tight end with a guy who couldn't catch herpes at a Thai brothel and that Mike Smith has become so risk averse that he's considering punting on 3rd and long from now, and we're surely headed towards another season closer to last year than 2012.
Wait, who am I kidding? This is Atlanta sports, the team will play well enough just to give us all hope and then get slaughtered by 40 points in the first round of the playoffs.
Allow me to sum up the last decade or so of Falcons football/Atlanta professional sports in general: let's say you meet a really cute girl. You start to hit it off with her and eventually you work up the nerve to ask her out. First date comes and you have a FANTASTIC time together. You get back to your place and things start heating up but just before you can seal the deal, she gives you a handjob and goes home. After that first date you're thinking "ALL RIGHT! Things are moving along pretty nicely!" You call her for a second date, things go just as well, get back to your place, aaaaaand handjob. Now you're still optimistic at this point "Hey, this girl just wants to go slow! We'll get to the good stuff soon enough!" Third, fourth, fifth date, handjob, handjob, handjob. By the sixth date you don't even want to waste your evening anymore. You know you're just gonna have another great date, let your hopes get nice and lofty again, only for them to be dashed by an uncomfortable handie. But you go anyway. You do against all of your better senses because you're hoping against all hope that for no particular reason, all of this progress you've made is going to eventually lead to something greater. But it won't. It never does. It never will.
That is what being an Atlanta Falcons fan is like: a sad, half-assed handjob.
This is a franchise that took until 2009 to achieve back-to-back winning seasons.
My brother and I (longtime Atlanta sports fans) have drafted the top ten worst Atlanta defeats. This is a running list that we update annually.
1. Jan. 20, 2013: NFC Championship Game San Francisco 28, Atlanta 24
2. Oct. 10, 2010: NLDS Game Four San Francisco 3, Atlanta 2
3. Jan. 31, 1999: Super Bowl XXXIII Denver 34, Atlanta 19
4. Oct. 5, 2012: NL Wild Card Game St. Louis 6, Atlanta 3
5. 2007: Entire Falcons season
6. May 31, 2011: Atlanta Thrashers leave for Winnipeg much to the apathy of Gary Bettman
7. Jan. 4, 1999: Monday Night Nitro Hulk Hogan def. Kevin Nash (AKA "The Fingerpoke of Doom")
8. Aug. 16, 2003: Vick breaks leg in preseason vs. Baltimore
9. Sept. 29, 2003: Dany Heatley becomes vehicular man-slaughterer and subsequently requests trade following season.
10. Oct. 9, 2005: NLDS Game Four Houston 7, Atlanta 6 (18 inn.)
This team's currently employing Devin Hester, Harry Douglas and Drew Davis as its 3rd, 4th and 5th wide receivers. The same Harry Douglas that hasn't amounted to anything even though he had Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez, the greatest tight end of all time, taking attention away from him. The same Harry Douglas that tripped and fell on a would-be go-ahead touchdown in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. A game the Falcons would lose. The same Devin Hester who was a failure year after year as a wide receiver in Chicago. And when a coach that wasn't offensively inept finally got there, it's not a coincidence that he was kicked to the curb to go back to kick and punt returning duties. But don't tell that to some Falcons fans, who view him as "AN EXPLOSIVE THREAT!" Yeah, he's gonna be real explosive when he runs in a straight line as a decoy and then drops deep balls. Drew Davis has been a backup his entire career. If Roddy and Julio go down again (which they will, for a minimum of three games each. They can't stay healthy) we're totally screwed.
We brought in Tony Gonzalez to help him finally win a playoff game or two. Instead, we won only one, and then he quit on the team. I don't even blame him.
And the team can't muster up anything on defense, either. We have a very good corner, Desmond Trufant, a pretty good safety, William Moore, and a good but injury prone linebacker in Sean Weatherspoon. That's it. We let go of John Abraham and signed Osi Umenyiora last year. Boy, that was a great decision. Now Osi can't even be a starter on this lowly defense and is getting beat out by great defensive ends John Massaquoi and Stansly Maponga. And instead of trying to address this issue, and instead of going after a nice defensive end like, say, Lamarr Houston or Michael Johnson, instead we decide to sign Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai. Because "the Falcons need to be tougher up front." Fuck that. Neither of those guys are gonna improve on the 3rd down defense, which is probably one of the worst in the league. It takes an inept hierarchy to completely ignore the edge rusher position in a league that's DOMINATED by them in a passing league, and implement a 1960s way of thinking when it comes to defense. Oh yeah, this team has Scott Pioli as an advisor. FITS THE BILL!
Atlanta is the worst sports town. Falcons, Braves, Hawks, 2 NHL franchises (RIP), Arena, AAA baseball, MLS team (Coming Soon), are all passed over for UGA and whenever the Saints or Cowboys are in town. Our current soccer team is named after a beloved gorilla that's been dead for almost 20 years and is a borderline racial slur. Our new stadium (AKA The Cyber Anus) looks like a Fleshlight designed for Cleatus the Fox robot. Our owner looks like Snidely Whiplash. Our GM looks like a retired Backstreet Boy. Stephen Jackson injured himself before the opening credits of Hard Knocks.
Fuck Bobby Petrino wherever he may lay.
My then-current girlfriend and I went to Athens (UGA campus) with a friend of mine from Philly to visit her friends. We're bar hopping and end up seeing Jamal Anderson (the RB, not the DE, and I understand if you need to redact) at one place. He has a huge group trying to talk to him, so we figure our chances of interacting with him are nil. When we leave, though, he's outside with a few of his friends. We approach him and ask him to do the "Dirty Bird" dance that he created, and he says he will if, "your girl shows me them tits". She declines, he rebuffs, and so we walk away doing the "E-A-G-L-E-S" chant because that's what you do when you're drunk and in the company of a Philly fan. So there you have it: One of our best RBs of all time and a huge reason we made the Super Bowl in 98 (Sorry, Drew) was trolling college bars at the age of 33 for some barely legal titties.
Wanna be part of the Deadspin NFL previews? It's simple. Just email me and give me ample evidence of why your team sucks: personal anecdotes, encounters with fans, etc. I'll throw any good material into the post and give you proper credit. Next team up: THE BUCS.