The coach was Dan Reeves. The newcomer was Michael Vick. The equation was a phenomenal one that was suppose to equal new life for a football team that had seen very little to cheer about in previous years. Everyone was excited to see what would happen with a coach that is known for turning teams into major contenders and a superstar rookie that could throw 100yds with the flick of a wrist and was quick enough to avoid pocket attacks and be half way to the goal without the defense even knowing he was gone. The formula for success was a good one on paper, but never lived up to expectations foreseen by everyone involved in the association of the National Football League or its fans. Soon Reeves would no longer coach the Falcons and Vick would let stardom go to his head and begin a downhill fall. From obscene gestures made to Atlanta fans to dog fighting in Virginia, Michael Vick destroyed his credibility with fans and saw his career in the NFL leave him just as easily as it fell into his hands. Being a “Dirty Bird” now came with being ridiculed about Vick along with the added pressure of finding a true leader that would take the team to new heights.
Then came 2008 when Falcons owner Arthur Blank began to recreate his team along with his dream of owning a championship franchise. The new coach is Mike Smith, former defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars, was added to light a fire under the Falcons and lead them in a new direction. The new quarterback is Matt Ryan, a rookie quarterback first round draft choice fresh out of Boston College, was brought in to offer the passing game stability and accuracy. Newly acquired running back Michael Turner, who spent the last few years serving as a backup to the all mighty Ladainian Tomlinson, was expected to add the power and speed the running game had been lacking. Veteran kicker Jason Elam, formerly a member of the Denver Broncos, was added for kicking accuracy and distance, especially in clutch situations. On paper it looked like a decent turn around to a treacherous team that had only been to the NFL playoffs twice in the last ten years. The building process had begun and was satisfying to all involved and gave the vision of a contending team in the years to come. The future was looking good and fans along with Falcons personnel began to see the black cloud left over the city by Michael Vick drift out of town and see sunshine on the horizon.
Well, fans can stop looking to the future and concentrate on what is happening right now. The vision held by Blank and Smith did not want to wait for the next few years to decide its worth or accuracy, it decided to grace the NFL with its presence today! The Atlanta Falcons are currently holding a record of 8-4 with four games to play. They are one game behind the division leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in the wild card hunt for the playoffs. A division title is not out of reach as the remaining schedule puts the Falcons playing division rivals two out of the last four games, one of which being Tampa Bay.
One might ask how all this is possible. There are many key points to the success of the Falcons this year. Most include the players mentioned previously, some are just sweet elements that mixed well with the new editions. Matt Ryan doesn’t play like a rookie at all. When he takes the field he brings a leadership attitude of a man that is a ten year veteran. Michael Turner is doing what everyone thought and hoped that he would do given the opportunity to be a feature back. Jerious Norwood is a marvelous backup running back and a great kick returner. With Michael Jenkins’ steady hands and better than average speed and Roddy White’s ability to create yards after the catch, the Falcons have all the keys to their offence to unlock a very rewarding season. This along with the spectacular kicking done by Jason Elam and a defense that includes Keith Brooking and John Abraham, is all the Atlanta Falcons need to be successful.
Things are looking good in Atlanta for both the Falcons and the fans. So far everyone has remained healthy and the team’s confidence is sky rocketing. With confidence being the last obstacles in the road to success, the Falcons have reason to happy with their present situation and with the future of the team. Has anyone even heard Michael Vick mentioned that often this year? I can picture a new football fan now, “Who is Michael Vick?” His buddy would say, “Nobody. Just a bad memory.”
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