There has been a lot of blame thrown around since the Atlanta Falcons started falling apart and losing six of their last seven games. Matt Ryan is making a lot of mistakes and shoulders a lot of the blame, but what is Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator, doing in order to make things better for a team that right now, isn’t making the playoffs?
An interesting post by reddit user CunniMingus basically says that Shanahan keeps getting jobs as an OC despite doing poorly time after time at the position, and that the signs were on the wall if you just look hard enough at the quarterbacks that have worked under him: From Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and Robert Griffin III in Washington, Brian Hoyer in Cleveland and now Ryan for the Falcons. It always starts out very well, but ends with the team’s offense being in the bottom third of the league.
The 16 turnovers over the last seven games for the Falcons aren’t just bad play calling. Ryan is making mistakes, with the post suggesting nine of them have been Ryan’s fault, including fumbles at the snap and lack of focus. But Ryan hasn’t been this bad, especially in the red zone, until Shanahan arrived, and it has less to do with Julio Jones and more to do with Shanahan simply being someone who can’t adapt to changes or tweak his offensive schemes.
There’s been much talk of Jones in all of this. Is he used enough? Too much? Not often enough? Jones has been targeted 159 times this season, but over the last seven weeks, he has been targeted just 8 times in the red zone. So what happens? According to the post, it’s Shanahan not having a plan B for Jones. The entire offense is built on getting the ball to Julio: 4 WR/3WR1TE sets, but only using 1 WR. Jones has 101 more targets this season than the #2 receiver.
With Jones covered by two players most of the time and especially near the end zone, Ryan simply has no one open to throw to. Not because he can’t find it on his own, but because the routes designed make it very easy for defenses to put Jones under double coverage, and keep everyone else in check as well. The Falcons offense has been exposed after half a season, but they don’t have the offensive coordinator to fix it, which bodes badly for the team’s prospects of getting out of the slump.