The Report, yet another reason to hate the Falcons edition

Claude Coupee
Lead Correspondent

As if you needed another one.

I am not the first to assert that the Falcons 13-3 regular season in 2010 was a statistical outlier (so few injuries, for one), for instance, you can take a look here

Their entire team of starters only missed seven games last year?  First guy to hit the IR was some backup in week 16?  Donnez-moi une break, s’il vout plait.

Now, probably very few people (other than me) have noticed that one of the odd categories for which you’d think these lucky bastards would have to revert to the mean eventually would be “number of penalties called against the Falcons in a given season,” especially after their first three years under head coach Mike Smith, where the Falcons ranked as follows in the league in fewest penalties committed (or at least that were called and accepted) for the season:

2010 — 1st
2009 — 4th
2008 — 2nd

Pretty clean ballclub, I mean, that Mike Smith must be one hell of a coach who preaches avoiding penalties and makes it stick!   If you want to believe that sort of thing, since clearly slackers like the Giants’ Tom Coughlin (16th, 16th and 25th over the last three years) and the Pats’ Bill Belichick (25th, 7th and 1st) can’t get that kind of high-level consistency of penalty-free performance from their players.   For grins, I also checked out the Colts (28th, 2nd, 14th) and Saints (18th, 13th and 14th) over the past three years:  as you can see, there is no apparent pattern over these four reasonably consistent, reasonably well-coached teams.  Not like the Falcons, anyway.

Now, a cynic might say that this apparently unsustainable streak probably has a different cause, like….can you say Atlanta President and CEO Rick McKay has been the co-chair of the NFL Competition Committee since 1994 (when he was with the Bucs), and in March became the sole chair?  The same Competition Committee that has direct oversight and supervision over the league’s referees?

So call Claude Coupee a cynic if you want.  (While you’re at it, just go all-in and accuse me of Gallic indifference and expect me to light up an unfiltered cigarette and go out on strike.)  Can a true hater like me ever give the Falcons credit for anything?  Just to be sure, I looked into my soul (needed one of those really, really strong flashlights, obviously, like that 20 million-lumen, 12-battery backpack unit my friend Anthony has)…..and I also looked at the league rankings for “number of penalties called on your team’s opponents when they play you” over the last three years.   Again, for the Falcons:

2010 — 4th
2009 — 4th
2008 — 4th

Wow.  That Mike Smith must be one terrific coach.  Not only do his players not commit penalties, they even summon undisiciplined behavior from their opponents at amazingly consistent rates!  I tell you, what a teacher!  The man is a regular Svengali, Henry Higgins and Mr. Chips all rolled into one!

Wait, maybe we better check those other teams for the same stat over the last three years:

Patriots — 29th, 20th, 22nd
Colts – 17th, 18th, 32nd
Giants — 8th, 21st, 2nd
Saints — 22nd, 25th, 20th

Looks reasonably random to me.

At this point, it’s very, very tough for me to avoid the inescapable conclusion that McKay’s status on the Competition Committee is a huge competitive advantage for his team.  Look, there’s no active conspiracy afoot, but this is like anything else in corporate America:  nobody, I mean NOBODY, goes to work every day without keeping an eye, at least subconsciously, on making sure the boss is happy. 

These referees are all good men with steady jobs in organizations, and in some cases perhaps own their own businessses…but they know how a hierarchy works, they like being referees, and they want to keep being referees, and, being human, it is absolutely impossible for even a meaningful minority of them to prevent creeping subconscious biases from affecting their job performance.  The numbers, they don’t lie.

To quote Ashleigh Brilliant, I either want an end to corruption or more opportunity to participate in it.  In my mind, the only fair thing to do is to have the Competition Committee comprise seven people serving seven-year terms, with every year one new person cycling on and the most senior person cycling off, with the most senior person having just spent one year as committee chair.  That way, you get plenty of continuity, while allowing for fresh blood and for no one or two people to hold too much sway, either in reality or in the minds of their direct reports.

Either that, or make Rita LeBlanc the committee chair with a 10-year term immediately.


A few thoughts before we kick off tonight:

– Payton’s recent contract extension is nothing more than a means of maintaining current organizational stability, and avoiding questions about his status in the near term.  Otherwise, nothing has changed — if he decides in February to take a year off and then see what’s up, this contract extension isn’t going to stop him, and whatever new job he ends up with later will pay him more anyway.  But for right now, the natives and the local media are appeased, and if things head really south, he’s a lot more expensive to fire.

– We just don’t have any edge rushers, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have a pass rush.  It’s just going to be a little unorthodox, trying to get pressure up the middle with DTs (paging Dr. Rogers, Dr. Shaun Rogers) and blitzes and using the DEs to contain.  If you think back to 2009, we didn’t have huge sack totals, but we got a ton of picks and were third in opponents’ passer rating.  Besides, we looked last year and didn’t see any huge correlation between sacks and OPR numbers.  And sacked quarterbacks can’t throw picks.   We won’t be the 1985 Bears, but I think we’ll get a little better pressure on opposing QBs this year, and will reap the benefits therefrom.

– As I don’t follow much college football, I am relying strictly on my LSU buddies who follow the SEC on this Mark Ingram thing.  From what little I’ve seen in pre-season, nice back, but I’m sniffing very goodness more than smelling greatness.  He’s clearly better than Joique Bell, but before you trot out the Emmitt Smith, or even Deuce McAllister comparisons, I gotta see it.  I mean, here’s hoping, if he’s a top five back (which is what they said they believed when they gave up a second and next year’s first to get him), it’s a huge difference maker for this team.  If not, we gave up a lot, still with big needs at LB and OT/OL depth, to expand our backs-by-committee.

– Teams moving up in 2011:  Texans (I expect a 1999 Rams-like breakout), Cowboys, Lions, Rams.  Teams moving down:  Chiefs, Colts, Falcons, Seahawks, Patriots.  We shall see.  Llike The Goat, I expect this Saints team to be playing in the NFCCG this year as well, and, while the Packers are a formidable opponent, a deserving Super Bowl champion and a better, more dominant team than their 10-6 regular season record last year might indicate, I have no disagreement with his pick for tonight.



One Response to “The Report, yet another reason to hate the Falcons edition”

  1. Neil Says:

    In 2010, the Falcons were last in the league in offensive plays over 30 yards.

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