Before all of Falcons fandom burns me in effigy for claiming that Mike Mularkey may not have been at fault completely for the ill fated 2011 Falcons offense, let me promise that I will explain, and that fans should at least consider my thought as a valid one. What if Mularkey wasn’t a no-gooder who was bent on having the most predictable offense in the NFL, one that completely lacked originality and explosiveness? What if that underachieving phase of the game didn’t achieve due to other reasons than a poor offensive mind? I’m going to explain a couple of the reasons Mike Mularkey may be truly blameless, and other coordinators (like Dirk Koetter) could one day face the same fate.
Now I don’t think that Mularkey was a particularly genius coordinator in the first place. However, I think he began the 2011 season with all intentions of opening up the offense, allowing an aerial attack to be the most prominent part of the Falcons offense, and reducing the dependence of the team on Michael Turner and the running game. Through the first three games of the season, they tried exactly that. They started off 1-2. The problem was that the offensive line was unable to hold up and protect Matt Ryan long enough for that plan to come to fruition. Mike Smith, feeling the heat of the prospect at going 1-3, probably forced Mularkey’s hand into going back to a run-balanced offense. The Falcons toyed with the prospect of the ‘aerial attack’ but it worked so poorly that Atlanta realized their only prospect at winning with the given o-line situation, was to run the ball and play-action off of it.
Could Dirk Koetter suffer the same fate? It is certainly possible. With Peter Konz, I think we have reasonable solution at Right Guard for the 2012 season, and there is no doubt in my mind that Konz will provide a better push than any player did at RG in 2011. If Sam Baker is healthy this season, there is no doubt he will be more productive than a tandem of hurt-Sam Baker/Will Svitek. I think the entire solution to the Falcons o-line puzzle isn’t completely solved for good, but I don’t see the situation changing drastically for the better this season. If it holds up the way I hope it will, Dirk Koetter’s offense can take flight, and we can stretch the field vertically with the passing game. If it doesn’t for whatever reason, the Falcons are in deep trouble, and Koetter will have to resort to running the ball with Michael Turner once again.