When Falcons head coach Mike Smith is delivering his most boilerplate coachspeak, he likes to say the team keeps its goals internally.
If that’s the case this offseason, then his players are not doing a very good job of keeping that information confidential.
In truth, after the Falcons advanced to the NFC championship last January, losing on a fourth-down play in the final minute that could have sent them to the Super Bowl if it had gone the other way, it’s fairly obvious what the Falcons goals are for the 2013 season.
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Falcons wide receiver Roddy White can be prone to saying some outrageous things via his Twitter account or through any other medium. But when he appeared on ESPN’s First Take on Wednesday, he was just pointing out the obvious.
“We’re ready to make that next step,” he said of the loss to San Francisco in the title game. “We know how good our football team is. It’s either Super Bowl or nothing for our team.”
When pressed by one of the show’s hosts, White repeated the host’s words back to him, not backing down.
“We know now it’s Super Bowl or bust,” he said. “Anything short of that is not a good season for us.”
Don’t expect those words to come out of the mouth of Smith or general manager Thomas Dimitroff. It will be interesting to hear whether owner Arthur Blank allows himself to go there in public, if the right microphone gets within range.
However, make no mistake: Even if Blank doesn’t say it, he’s thinking it. It’s pretty much all or nothing for the Falcons this season. In a recent television interview, tight end Tony Gonzalez did not equivocate. He said this would be his final season.
So many other pieces have been put together for that single purpose, including the signings of running back Steven Jackson and defensive end Osi Umenyiora. When Gonzalez chooses to retire, the Falcons stand a better-than-even chance of taking a step back offensively. Being able to persuade him to come back was a major reason why the Falcons have made such a high-profile push in free agency.
On Wednesday, Jackson appeared on Atlanta sports station 92.9 The Game. He was asked about White’sstatement of a few hours earlier. Jackson did not back away from it either.
“That’s our goal — is to win the Super Bowl,” Jackson said. “I didn’t come here to go .500. I’ve done that enough times. I haven’t been part of the playoffs since ‘04. The last few years, the Falcons have been the most consistent team in NFC. Getting to the NFL championship game and not winning leaves them more hungry than before. For me to come on at this moment suits everything we have a plan for.”
Jackson mentioned how he had considered retiring. The reasoning: He wants to win a Super Bowl.
“I’m in pursuit of a Lombardi Trophy,” he said, “and that’s why I decided to keep playing.”
The idea is implicit that he would not have signed with the Falcons if he didn’t think the franchise were capable of winning a Super Bowl.
In most instances, such claims would ratchet up the pressure on everyone in the organization: players, coaches, the general manager, personnel guys, scouts. Even equipment guys and public relations officials. But for the Falcons, it’s a reality. Everyone included in that group knows what the situation is and not only accepts it but embraces it.
It’s not an uncomfortable reality because it’s what they want. To achieve that goal, every player must, as the cliché goes, pull in the same direction. That’s why the Falcons jettisoned defensive end Ray Edwards in the middle of last season.
Despite all of his recent whining to USA Today about how Smith “didn’t like me,” if Edwards had shown Smith that he cared more about winning than he did about, say, underwear modeling or boxing, then he likely would have remained with the team.
If the Falcons find another player, no matter how key, equally uncommitted as Edwards was, don’t be surprised if he’s gone. Because, as White said, it’s Super Bowl or bust for the Falcons.