Jerry Jones was quoted a couple days ago as saying that the Dallas Cowboys’ window of opportunity is closing, and closing quickly. The Cowboys may have some key parts that aren’t getting any younger or players who are not going to come out and surprise anyone, but I don’t think they are anywhere near their window of opportunity closing. The really interesting thing about this though is that this quote has driven every fan and franchise to think about their individual window of opportunity for winning a Super Bowl.
Naturally this leads me to looking at the Falcons, and just how long their window will remain open for having a legitimate shot at winning the Big Game. On Atlanta’s 680 The Fan, the guys on the Buck and Kincade show discusses this very topic. They also took calls from Falcons fans (I was one of them) and presented their own ideas as to how long the window would be open for the Falcons.
There are a couple thoughts here. It would be easy to say one or two years, since Tony Gonzalez is retiring after this season as is Todd McClure, John Abraham will be completely washed up after another couple seasons, and players like Jonathan Babineaux, Roddy White, and Michael Turner will not play forever. While the last three that I mentioned are still in their prime, there will eventually be an expiration date on their careers. The seriously pessimistic (I’m looking at you John Kincade) would have us believe that if the Falcons don’t win this year, or at very latest next year, the window is closed, and there will be no joy in Mudville.
The second thought, is that the Falcons have about five years. With Matt Ryan as the franchise QB at the helm, several good years left in Roddy, Julio Jones bursting onto the scene, and defensive players like Sean Weatherspoon, Corey Peters, Brent Grimes and Asante Samuel still being reasonably young and extremely talented, there is no reason the Falcons will not be competing for a Championship for the next half decade. And lets be honest here, having a franchise QB is the most important key to competing for a Super Bowl title. Without Ryan, this Falcons team would not be competitive.
I think the truth lies somewhere with a combination of these two ideas. There is certainly something to the one-year theory. After the 2012 season, McClure will be departing, Gonzalez will be departing, and everyone else on the roster will be a year older & more veteran. It is not impossible for the Falcons to win Super Bowl XLVII. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will. I suspect that 2013 and 2014, barring huge additions through the draft that really make a huge difference or big name additions in free-agency, will be somewhat re-building seasons. Don’t get me wrong, the Falcons will win 8 or 9 games a season, but may not be as competitive. That will change completely in 2015. All of the Falcons past three draft classes will be coming to fruition, the players drafted the next two seasons will be veteran and replacing players like Tony Gonzalez, John Abraham, McClure, and many others. This team could be completely overhauled by that time, and this team would certainly have the talent level and killer instinct to win and win big in the post-season.
The key to the Falcon’s window being open for what I believe is the next five years is Matt Ryan. He has been very good the last couple seasons, and is on the very cusp of being an elite QB in this league. I also believe he hasn’t been allowed complete control of the offense since he has been in Atlanta. He will have that from here on out. Add on top of that Ryan is just now 27, and is just now entering what is expected to be his prime. If he stays healthy, he will have a five or six year period of his ‘prime’ that the Falcons can take advantage of. The quarterback position is so important in the NFL that he can make up for some team deficiencies, and Ryan is a player who will do that for years to come. As long as a team has an elite qb, a good receiving target, and a couple defensive playmakers, they can always compete for a Super Bowl title. I think the Falcons will have all of those elements for at least the next five years. That in and of itself will keep the Falcon’s window open.