I nearly had to fight back tears from laughing so hard recently when a Falcons fan told me that his team still led the overall series between his team and the Saints by a count of 47 -43. REALLY???, I thought to myself. Surely he couldn’t be serious, could he? After all, recent history suggests that the Falcons have done rather poorly in this rivalry; so much so that despite trailing in the series overall, the Saints have pretty much owned it it for the last decade now. The Falcons and their fans were up in arms just a few days ago, when Saints strong safety Rafael Bush made this statement (jokingly, of course) about the Falcons:
“You play against these guys so much it’s like playing against your little brother or your big brother because you know each other so well.We’re definitely the big brother. We beat them twice last year, and if you go against the overall record I think the Saints are pretty much winning that matchup. So they’re the little brothers, and we’re going to go in their house and spank them like they’re the little brother.” – Saints safety Rafael Bush, smiling while jokingly talking about the Saints’ recent dominance in the rivalry
— Saints Memes (@SaintsMemes) September 4, 2014
As my boss and Editor here at Who Dat Dish, Mr. John J. Hendrix; correctly pointed out the other day : the Saints are 13-of-16 against the Falcons in the Sean Payton era, including beating them twice more last season. Perhap’s Rafael Bush’s analogy about the big and the little brother was indeed off the mark. That’s because it would actually be more appropriate to say that the Saints’ actions have been more akin to that of a school yard bully —- causing Falcons fans everywhere not only to cry, but also to have a really bad case of selective memory. Last season after the Falcons’ disastrous 4-12 season came to a merciful end, Falcons and Home Depot owner Arthur Blank even was left questioning his team’s toughness, after a hit by Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro on Falcons QB Matt Ryan (that Falcons fans are STILL CRYING about) that left Blank wondering why none of Ryan’s teammates even bothered coming to aid in his defense.
“I want to be transparent with my answer. . . .I’m going to give you a little different answer than what Smitty gave you last week. He was asked a question about how tough our team was. I read his answer. In many ways I would agree with him and in some ways I would not agree with it. I think the nature of the game is that it is a physically violent game. It is a tough game. To play football at the professional level, the college level and even the high school level, you’re got to be a tough kid. A tough person.
I think a lot of our players are certainly that. I think, at the end of the day, if I asked you as a player, to give me brief definition of what toughness is, I think you might say something to me (like), ‘It’s how you control the line of scrimmage. Can you run the ball? Can you stop the run? Can you run the ball? Can you stop the run? You’ve got pass to put up points in the NFL, we understand that. I don’t think we did either one of those things very well this year. I would say if you look at toughness from that perspective, I don’t think we were as tough as we needed to be. – Falcons Owner Arthur Blank, after last season’s final game questioning his team’s “toughness”
Let my guys and I coach the Falcons for a month bet money them boys be tough, disciplined and play with heart it’s embarrassing to watch
— Insta-Grahams (@Grahams662) September 5, 2014
Now to be brutally (no pun intended) honest about it, I don’t believe it’s the Falcons’ toughness or lack thereof that’s the cause of the Falcons’ problems. Consider this: since Mike Smith took over as head coach from Jim L. Mora, the Falcons are a dismal 3-9 versus the Saints. THREE AND NINE. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Falcons are 1-4 in the Playoffs under Smith, with their lone win coming in the 2012 post-season when they barely squeaked by then-rookie Russell Wilson and the Seahawks by a score of 30-28 — a week before finishing 10 yards away from a Super Bowl berth (insert your “no rings” jokes HERE Saints fans) in a 28-24 NFC Championship Game loss to the 49’ers.
So am I suggesting that the Falcons’ recent woes against the Saints stems from Blank’s refusal to acknowledge that Smith wasn’t a good hire? Ya think??? The Falcons have gone out and added some “tougher” players during free agency with the signing of nose tackle Paul Soliai, defensive end Tyson Jackson (formerly of LSU), and offensive guard Jon Asamoah. Assistant coaches Mike Tice (offensive line) and Bryan Cox (defensive line) certainly were brought in to give the Falcons’ image a Hollywood “make-over” (in time for their featured summer-long appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks, no less).
— Saints Memes (@SaintsMemes) September 2, 2014
However from my perspective, it’s the head coach that sets the tone of his team. Falcons fans reading this right now have to ask themselves: Who would I rather have right now as our head coach? Mike Smith or Sean Payton? I believe that we all know the obvious answer to that one. I want the coach that just last year filmed a commercial where he orders dinner in a fancy restaurant and tells the waiter: “I’ll have the bruschetta, the classic Caesar … and the roasted falcon.” Yep — THAT’S the guy I’d want coaching my team.
matt & mike … you’re BOTH correct … pic.twitter.com/VQbkHMzPki
— Saints Memes (@SaintsMemes) September 3, 2014
It’s impossible to correct a mindset or a “team culture” in one offseason for any team, let alone one that finished 4-12. The Falcons certainly made a commitment to change that; as the signings of Jackson and Solai and the additions of coaches Tice and Cox certainly would lend credence to that theory. However, the season ending losses of offensive tackles Mike Johnson and Sam Baker, and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon will hurt their theam, no matter how much they refuse to admit it. So if the Falcons expect to change their fortunes in this series/ rivalry, they need to follow their owner’s advice and start fighting back. Otherwise, that school yard bully’s gonna make them CRY AGAIN…………………….
good call mike smith, good call … pic.twitter.com/qf6BjjddvR
— Saints Memes (@SaintsMemes) September 3, 2014