We've all heard the great argument in the NFL, and other sports..."It's all about winning." Balderdash! Colin Cowherd of ESPN argued that it's nowhere near all about winning when it comes to your players, and who is on your team. His contention is that "it's all about discernment and patience when it comes to talent." I would agree with that statement, but beyond being able to evaluate talent, and knowing how to handle it, I'd say it's even more about timing.
Timing, to me, is the most underestimated factor in all of sports, particularly in a sport like football where it's more of a team sport than any other. Chemistry in a football locker room can make or break a season more than individual achievements and records can. And, great players who are not "team players" rarely make a true impact on a team enough to carry them to a championship.
The timing of when a player is drafted or traded for, of when they are placed into a starting role, and especially in the case of a quarterback...when they take over as the leader of a team, should never be overlooked.
Timing can make or break a player or group of players. I mean, who's to say that Ryan Leaf couldn't have been one of the best quarterbacks ever had he been drafted a few years before - or after - he was taken by the Chargers? Sometimes you get the right guy, but at the wrong time. A player could be surrounded by the wrong supporting cast, or have the wrong coach or coaches.
I've looked at several NFL teams that have come very close to being champions, and sometimes they were just one small puzzle piece away from having the right formula. The Broncos may have solved that puzzle this year with the addition of Peyton Manning.
So where does that leave the Falcons? When Matt Ryan and Mike Smith began their careers in Atlanta, the timing couldn't have been better. The franchise was in a shambles from the likes of Bobby Petrino, Michael Vick, and Deangelo Hall. The Falcons needed stability and direction. Smith and Ryan gave us both. But as these Falcons have grown, it seems as though the chain has begun to slip from the sprocket.
The timing of moves like the Julio Jones deal, and overvaluing some of this year's free-agents seem to have stalled the Falcons to a degree. The organizations apparent plan is to go with consistency and familiarity. Some of this plan is by choice, and some of it was forced by financial issues. The gamble by GM Thomas Dimitroff seems to be that we have had the right pieces in place, but the wrong people coaching some of them.
Now two new coordinators - Dirk Koetter on offense, and Mike Nolan on defense - are going to try to push this team over the hump without making any real changes to the personnel. It's a risky move, and it will either pay huge dividends, or crush this team's hopes of getting to the next level.
For now, I'm going to buy into the timing of this move. The Falcons, particularly on defense, have a lot of young players. Mike Nolan still has a good chance of developing some of them to live up to the expectations that were placed on them when they were drafted. If guys like Dominique Franks, William Moore, and Christopher Owens can be coached up and really become impact players, then Dimitroff will look like a genius. Dirk Koetter has the task of taking a lot of talented and exciting pieces on offense, and molding them into a unit that functions like clockwork.
The question is, was the timing of this move too late? What if these guys had been in place during 2010 or 2011? Would the Falcons be getting ready to have a ring ceremony in a few months? Did we miss our window of opportunity? That's the thing about timing, you don't usually know that you got it wrong until you've looked back and said, "Darn...I missed it"
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