Stay the course.
Too often in the we-want-it-yesterday sports society we live in now, we forget a little bit of patience and continuity can be beneficial.
The Falcons are reaping the benefits of that right now because their management and head coach, Dan Quinn, didn’t cave in to the heavy public pressure to fire offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian 15 minutes after he took the job.
Sarkisian, for the uninitiated, was hired before the 2017 season to replace former offensive coordinator/whiz kid Kyle Shanahan, who had been hired as 49ers head coach following the Falcons’ trip to the Super Bowl in the 2016 season.
When the Falcons’ offense did not operate last season with the same efficiency and explosiveness it had under Shanahan, considered one of the brightest offensive minds in the game, the natives became restless. Sarkisian was so vilified in Atlanta last season it’s a wonder he ever left his house to go to dinner without a disguise.
Sarkisian, formerly a head coach at Washington and USC, and most recently Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator at Alabama, was viewed (and sometimes ridiculed) as merely a college coach who couldn’t crack it in the pros.
That perception had not changed much from last season to the early part of this season, when the Falcons started 1-4. Their offense looked remedial in an 18-12 season-opening loss to the Eagles.
That has changed significantly in the past month, and the Falcons ride a three-game winning streak entering Sunday’s game at the struggling Browns. The 4-4 Falcons have scored 34, 23, and 38 points in their past three games. Suddenly, Sarkisian’s offense ranks first in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage (53.3), fifth in points per game (28.5) and seventh in red-zone efficiency (69.2 percent).
“We always believed in Sark, and we’re going to continue to believe in Sark,” Jones added.
“In the city of Atlanta, everyone’s a critic,” Falcons tight end Austin Hooper told reporters. “When we were 1-4, everyone hated us. Now everybody seems to be back on the train. We had Sark’s back from Day 1. And that’s all that matters.’’
Part of the root of Falcons fans’ frustration with Sarkisian stemmed from the fact they have one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the league in Matt Ryan as well as strong skill position support, and people wondered how an offense could struggle with that roster.
Ryan enters Sunday’s game having completed 70.8 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
For his part, Sarkisian took the high road when addressing his critics, saying, “I’ve been in this business for a long enough time now to know it comes with the territory.’’
“When things are good, people probably think you’re better than you are and when things aren’t going great, they probably think you’re worse than you are,’’ he told reporters. “The challenge as a coach and a player, really, is not to ride the emotional roller coaster of what’s going on outside of the building and not getting too high and not getting too low, but finding that even keel.’’
Maybe now Sarkisian can go out to dinner in public in Atlanta.