Some people are fans of the Atlanta Falcons. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Atlanta Falcons. This 2021 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: Atlanta Falcons.
Your 2020 record: 4-12, bookended by five-game losing streaks. I know the 2020 NFL season feels like it happened 87 years ago, but it’s my job now to remind you that this happened:
There is no lead the Falcons can possess which they cannot render infamous. Watch that video again. A professional football team, led by professional football coaches and stocked with actual professional football players, WAITED for an onside kick to go 10 yards before attempting to recover it. Would it shock you to learn that the Falcons didn’t recover this kick? Would it shock you to learn that they blew a 29-10 lead to Mike McCarthy? Would it shock you to learn that no team had ever lost a game after scoring 39 points without a turnover UNTIL the 2020 Falcons came along? Would it shock you if I told you that the highlight of this team’s season was when they introduced Purell drones to their home stadium? Of course not. The nicest thing I can say about the current Falcons is they’re no longer good enough to even remind you that they never win important shit. They have eased back into anonymity in an appropriate and chivalrous manner. They are a five-inch cock of a team.
Your coach: After years and years of aptly named owner Arthur Blank going, “Dan Quinn is OUR GUY and we stand by him,” the Falcons finally shitcanned Quinn after Week 5 and have since replaced him with history’s greatest underdog, Arthur Smith.
Don’t misunderstand: Smith isn’t estranged from his family or ungrateful for all the advantages that come with being the son of a billionaire. (Fred Smith is worth $5.8 billion, according to Forbes.) It just was important to him to put in the work and be judged on what he accomplished, and not have anyone influenced by anything else.
That’s absolutely how influence works in America. If you don’t want your billionaire dad’s help to get ahead, you just go down to the circuit breaker in your basement and flick off the INFLUENCE switch. And then no one is subconsciously influenced by who you are or where you came from. My sources in Atlanta and in Nashville tell me that you’d never know Arthur Smith was a shipping empire scion if you met him. You’d think he grew up dealing crack and then turned his life around by becoming a tenacious office rat.
Your new defensive coordinator is former Ravens DC Dean Pees, who’s clearly already retired in his mind.
Do they have a Guy on the coaching staff?
TWO! Dave Ragone AND TJ Yates are both here. So much Houston Texans royalty on just one staff!
Your quarterback: Julio Jones was too old and expensive for the Falcons, and yet they’re gonna start Matt Ryan until he fucking dies. This team was screaming for a rebuild. They had a new coach and GM. They had the fourth pick in the draft. They traded away their offensive centerpiece in Jones to Smith’s old club. They still have no defense. Even the BROWNS figured out when to cut bait. The Falcons could have had Justin Fields—could have traded DOWN to get Justin Fields—and instead they’re sticking with Slightly Better Kirk Cousins for the next decade. I respect that the Falcons are forever competing with UGA to be the team in this state that is most famous for perpetually breaking its neck crashing into the ceiling.
AJ McCarron is the new backup. Remember when AJ McCarron was behind Andy Dalton and people were like “WATCH OUT FOR THAT GUY!”? People aren’t saying that as much anymore.
What’s new that sucks: Former general manager and “guy who looks the computer hacking specialist in a National Treasure movie” Thomas Dimitroff is gone, replaced by former Saints executive Terry Fontenot. You guys totally have the inside edge on beating New Orleans now. Saints fans are shitting their whistles over it.
They signed Barkevious Mingo and he got charged with child molestation. Meanwhile, they refashioned their offense so that it’s just as useless as their defense now. Because you win with balance. That loaded backfield from 2017? It’s gone now, replaced with former Seahawk and eternal DFS emergency flex spot addition Mike Davis. His backup on the depth chart is a wide receiver.
Under a new Georgia law, Pro Bowl votes can only be made in person between 4:30 a.m.–5:00 a.m. on a preseason Tuesday.
What has always sucked: When you’re my age and you think Atlanta Falcons, you still think “Jerry Glanville.” This is a franchise whose high-water mark was MC Hammer’s “2 Legit 2 Quit” video. Since then? All downhill. And you know what? This is EXACTLY what Atlanta deserves. This is a city home to the absolute slowest motherfuckers to roam the Earth. It takes the average Atlanta resident 58 minutes to do ANYTHING. And it’s not the even the slowness that’s annoying. It’s the condescension that comes with it. Like YOU’RE the asshole for having your shit together while these idiots idle their way to the fucking grave. This strain of Professional Southernerism is easily the worst side effect in the evolution of hipsterdom. “Oh, y’all look at CLOCKS to figure out what time it is? Oh bless your heart.” “Hoo boy, this Yankee thought this city would have clean drinking water! Ain’t he in for a surprise lol!” Every white person from Atlanta thinks liking Waffle House means they don’t count as white people anymore.
So you guys absolutely deserve to have the least cool football team in existence representing you. The Falcons get you excited, and then they dither, and then they let it all slip away. They’re the NFL equivalent of trying to get a cup of coffee at Hartsfield Airport.
Also, the Saints own your shit.
Spencer Hall says: The Falcons hired a new coach, a guy who does not use tight ends in the passing game. They then drafted the greatest offensive player in the history of Florida football, Kyle Pitts, who in college played … tight end. They also cut Julio Jones, the most popular Falcon ever, which probably made sense. Fuck sense. Julio should be allowed to live in your house and eat your food if you live in Atlanta. That’s his right. You should be forced to quarter and feed him, because he gave up the best years of his career for this damned franchise.
I hope Kyle Pitts catches 500 balls for 10,000 yards for the Falcons. All of his teams will somehow still be 7-9 every year. After four years, on the day his contract expires, I hope he’s airlifted to the Chiefs at 12:01 a.m. the next day and throws his phone out of the open door of the chopper.
Ratto says: Arthur Smith is not his real name, and he cannot convince us otherwise. He is on the lam from the Feds, probably doing work for his old man. He is supposed to be an offensive genius, but you know who else was an offensive genius? Adam Gase. Offensive geniuses always drop from the sky and land with a thud. BEST NAME TO HEAR ON TV: Qadree Ollison in an offensive set with Olamide Zaccheaus.
What might not suck: Well look, they exercised Calvin Ridley’s contract option. So you got two more years of him before he bolts for Tampa.
HEAR IT FROM FALCONS FANS!
Following the Super Bowl LI, I very drunkenly texted an acquaintance who’s a Pats fan and said I hoped he got gonorrhea. In a bizarre twist of fate, he did in fact get the clap… and as a Falcons fan I’m still the loser here.
We traded Julio Jones and now a not insignificant portion of our fan base is convinced that we’ll be just fine without him.
My buddy and I replaced the stupid “Falcons Rise Up” jingle with the more appropriate “Falcons Take a Dump.” At this point I enjoy them blowing a lead in the final minutes of the game so I can happily hum, “Falcons Take a Dump.”
A piece of me died that Super Bowl, and it’s never coming back. I attribute all my life failures since that night to that game.
Robert Alford’s pick-six of Brady in the Super Bowl was the second-happiest moment of my life as a Falcons fan. The happiest moment was a day or so later, when I realized I would never care about that team again. I don’t really follow them anymore but I saw a photo of their new coach and he looks like an adult baby, which would be the most interesting thing about the Falcons in years.
Went to Georgia Tech for grad school, decided the local guys with their good/great quarterback and world-destroying WR could be our team (my wife and I already liked the Atlanta Baseball Team; seemed like picking up the Falcons, Hawks, and Thrashers could be fun). Upon graduation, we moved to Vermont for work. We resisted the urge to hop on the local team’s bandwagon (yeah…..). During 2017’s traditional sports-themed Super-Bowl-themed church service, we even pointed out to the pastor that not *everyone* in the crowd was a Pats fan. You know the rest. The next Sunday, I could only watch silent rage as a choir member wrapped my eight-month-old son in a Pats scarf.
They were three running plays and a field goal away from bringing home the city’s first Lombardi, and in the five years since have fallen from the top of the Atlanta professional sports hierarchy to fourth, behind a young and fun baseball team that blew its own postseason lead, a terminally underachieving basketball team that is mayyyybe ready to start quasi-achieving, and a soccer team that had yet to play its first game during that Super Bowl. Fuck this stupid team and their new, jawless head coach failson. 28-3 forever.
When the Baby Hawks upset the Sixers in Game 7 I was in a bar (vaxed and waxed, thank you Big Pharma), and when the buzzer sounded I screamed loud enough to terrify the 20 other people in there. It was cathartic, touched by the Hand of God. Dared to dream. Maybe being locked up Bo Burnham-style for 18 months had something to do with it, but it was raw, palpable joy that was completely unexpected. I will treasure the memory forever.
I look back knowing now that the Falcons will never provide that same joy as making a damn NBA Conference Finals did.
The year is 2016. My partner dresses our baby daughter up in Hillary gear and we tell her all the great stories about how she’ll never know a world where a woman can’t be president; that the patriarchy is dead. Trump happens and everything goes to shit.
Fast-forward a few months… I hold this same daughter in my arms during the Super Bowl. It is halftime and I am both slightly drunk and ecstatic with how the game is going. I tell her that she’ll never know a world of Atlanta-sports futility; that the Patriots are dead. You know what happens; everything goes to shit. In my drunken state, my brain could only play Trump’s victory over and over.
Several years pass; it’s 2020. My state goes for Biden, sending Trump into conniptions that cause him to Burfict up the Georgia senate run-offs for the Rs, sending an African-American man and a Jewish teenager to the Senate. The Falcons are still butt, but again, I don’t care. That’s how depressing it is to be a Falcons fan, when you decide it’s less depressing to care about local politics.
As long as the Kelly Loefflers of my state keep eating shit, I don’t care if Jameis throws 400 touchdowns or Brady is dominant until he’s 62.
Blew a 29-10 halftime lead to the Dallas Cowboys. Blew a 26-10 third-quarter lead to the Chicago Bears. Had a game-LOSING touchdown to the Detroit Lions. Blew a 17-10 halftime lead to the Los Angeles Chargers. Blew a 17-0 lead to the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It got to the point where I would just turn off the game at halftime, fully knowing what would happen (and usually, it did). It’s almost like we built our new stadium on top of two historic, sacred African-American churches founded by former slaves, and as a result, we’re cursed… Except that’s exactly what happened.
Our kicker’s Jeep got stolen, and he has pleaded just to get his cleats back. Even Atlanta United sucks now. Fuck the Falcons, fuck Atlanta, fuck my ex for cheating on me and leaving me for new boyfriend (and an obnoxious New Englander at that), and more than anything else: Fuck me for liking this loser of a city and its loser sports.
Fuck Jim Leyritz. Fuck the infield fly rule. And triple fuck Tom Brady with a fist full of 283 diamond super bowl rings. I hope he plants wrong in his first game at the Butthole and is left with less cartilage than Keanu Neal has in his knees. That way his dreams will have come to an end there just like the rest of us.
Matt Ryan is my favorite player of all time, and even I was mad we passed on Justin Fields. Ryan is an emissary from the tapioca dimension. He’s got the charisma of a houseplant on Vyvanse and the sex appeal of a carpet soaked in borscht. His favorite hot wing flavor is creamy peanut butter. His favorite streaming service is CSPAN+. If he were a drag queen, his drag name would be Matt Ryan.
Anyway, someone sent me a Loki meme about 28-3 the other day, so there’s your annual “that’s how that’s going” status check. Unrelated, but related: Fuck Drew Brees.
Submissions for the NFL previews are already closed, alas. Next up: Cincinnati Bengals.