When the first offseason move of a team that missed the playoffs is to fire both line coaches, the implication is clear.
But Falcons owner Arthur Blank made it clear, saying his team needed to be tougher. Blank also admitted they were likely to add someone to bolster the lines with the sixth overall pick.
“I think the nature of the game is that it’s a physically violent game,” Blank said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com “It is a tough game. To play football on the professional level and the college level or even the high school level, you’ve got to be a tough kid. You’ve got to be a tough person, I think. And I think a lot of our players are certainly that.
“I think, at the end of the day, if I asked you, . . . give me a brief definition of what toughness is, I think you might say something else, but you might say to me it’s how you control the line of scrimmage. Can you run the ball? Can you stop the run? . . .
“And I don’t think we did either one of those things very well this year. So I would say, if you looked at toughness from that perspective, I don’t think we were as tough as we needed to be.”
Blank was careful to say he wasn’t prepared to sacrifice character in the pursuit of said toughness.
“It doesn’t mean we want players that are going to end up in different sections of the newspaper other than the sports section,” Blank said. “But I do think we want players that have the capacity to be tough; as tough as they need to be, to play right up to the line, to the edge of the line, and to have coaches that can coach them that way as well.”
They’re still working on finding those, but the Falcons were also built a certain way. They’ve devoted resources to paying a quarterback and top-end skill position talent, then drafting cornerbacks with their first two picks last season to help keep up in the passing game arms race with the Saints.
Until they actually spend some currency on linemen, the tough talk is just that.