Posted: 2:20 pm Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Falcons make wrong call saying yes to ‘Hard Knocks’ 

By Jeff Schultz

Make no mistake: "Hard Knocks" is preferred by Arthur Blank, not Mike Smith. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Make no mistake: “Hard Knocks” was preferred by Arthur Blank, not Mike Smith.

The Falcons have decided to be the subject of the annual NFL-HBO voyeuristic enterprise called, “Hard Knocks.”

Well. This isn’t the worst decision they’ve ever made in recent years. There was that one year they hired Bobby Petrino.

So let me understand this: The same organization that fell apart a season ago, and not just because of injuries, has decided to let a cable television show go behind the scenes in training camp and follow players in practices and meetings and areas of Fort Flowery Branch normally off limits to non-team personnel?

Headquarters in Flowery Branch will be a sea of wires, cameras and microphone holders, and a director yelling, “There’s Bryan Cox making a rookie lineman cry! Shoot it! Hahahaha. Eat that, Jerry Springer!”

And this is a smart decision?

Let me put this in terms owner Arthur Blank can understand: “You just mandated that the sheet rock salesmen at Home Depot ride around the store on unicycles while juggling –all in the hopes it would stimulate sales of Home Depot painter hats.

This will fix an organization that runs through assistant coaches like socks and is 1-4 in the playoffs since 2008?

“We are looking forward to connecting with our fans across the country as the program chronicles our 2014 training camp,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said in an emailed statement.

I’m not going to call Smith a liar. That’s only because I refuse to believe he said that or typed that or would ever allow himself to think that. This is the same Smith who admitted when he was in Baltimore, he hid from the “Hard Knocks” cameras.

When Smith’s statement was dreamed up by owner Arthur Blank or  somebody in close proximity to his office, Smith likely was tied up and stuffed in a closet, with his mouth duct-taped shut.

Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff say they want to fix this team. I believe them. They’re both incredibly competitive individuals and spent time with organizations that won Super Bowls. Both prefer to operate in secrecy. That’s seldom what the media likes but it’s understandable. Most of their NFL fraternity members are the same way.

The Falcons finished 4-12 last season. They have one playoff win in six seasons under Smith and Dimitroff. Jobs are on the line. (That statement wasn’t in the disingenuous news release but it would’ve been far more honest.)

Focus was a problem a season ago. Effort and desire and emotion were problems after the season started to spiral.

There are a lot of ways to fix an organization and get everybody on the same page. But putting 90 players and a dozen coaches on a stage for a clown show isn’t one of them. The show is more likely to create distractions than eliminate them.

The first quote in the Falcons’ release came from Blank (duh): “We are excited about the opportunity to give our fans a behind the scenes look at what it takes to prepare an NFL team for the rigors of a 16-game regular season and beyond. This marks the first time that our franchise will be featured on ‘Hard Knocks’ and we look forward to showcasing our great players and coaches to football fans all across America.”

Yes. This is the Falcons’ first time on Hard Knocks. Do you know why? Because when HBO came after them in 2009, they said no. Actually, the business side of the building (read: Blank) said yes. The football side said no. Football won. Not this time. Branding won, football lost.

Perhaps the Falcons can find somebody in marketing to play inside linebacker, since marketing is carrying all of the weight here, anyway.

This is the same organization that wanted to make sure when Kroy Biermann was dating Kim Zolciek, his future wife and a co-star in the dumb reality show, “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” that the show’s camera crews weren’t going to turn their practice facility into a sound stage for one hour of stupidity.

So explain to me how this is different.

Explain to me how this makes the Falcons better.

The Cleveland Browns recently turned down, “Hard Knocks.” This is what new coach Mike Pettine said: “I just always felt that if there’s anything that causes us to think for one second about something other than preparing our football team for the opener, then that’s probably not a good thing.”

Now there’s some honesty.

181 comments
juliemac
juliemac

The NFL, not the individual teams, has the final say in which team will appear on the show. The ONE exception to this rule is when a team has a first year head coach. Then the team has the option to decline. Thus, The Falcons were able to decline before and the Browns were able to do the same this season. Would have helped if Jeff Schultz recognized that before laying blame on a decision that wasn't in the hands of the brass at Flowery Branch. He's right that the timing is poor though. What's more alarming for Falcon fans is that the Falcons are second fiddle to the BROWNS. Then again, the Browns have a pretty big clown in Johnny Football.

JSSN
JSSN

I'll miss Ted Striker! Rest well!

Ackshun
Ackshun

Arthur has a new Stadium to build and a Super Bowl to lure. This move screams that Smith and TD have lost his confidence. If the Falcons  don't win the Super Bowl this year, we will be discussing the prowess of Scott Pioli at GM and Mike Tice aat head coach next year.

MH18
MH18

"Hard Knocks"  is the equivalent of shock therapy this team needs. The Falcons are 30th in popularity, behind only the Titans and Jaguars. They are ignored by the press outside of Georgia. 2 seasons ago with the conferences best record on Showtime`s Inside the NFL, on 6 of their episodes they didn't even mention the Falcons. The Falcons aren't loved or hated, their ignored. Maybe this is a good thing?

iseestupidpeople
iseestupidpeople

This is a good idea.

If pro football players can be distracted from a job that pays a lot of them over 2 million a year then those guys should be on the team.

Football is a sport and those who play sports don't need to focus during the menial task of jogging, catching a ball or throwing one. An athletic person shouldn't be distracted from keeping his head up during a tackle or moving his feet while blocking. These abilities are natural.

And the focus argument totally goes against the flow of the actual game action.

Which do you think would be more likely to cause you to lose focus, a camera crew or a 330 LBs lineman trying to take your head off ? If your answer really is the camera crew the I would once again say that you shouldn't be on the field at all.

I am not pro hard knocks, I really don't care about them either way however I have watched it. This show does not sit in the players rooms at night, when they should be studying the play book.

This, like everything in life calls for a professional to be professional.

This team will be serious when needed and it will goof off when allowed - regardless of the presence of a film crew, if they can't do that, well like I said they shouldn't be getting 300,000 and up to be professionals.

4DaBirds
4DaBirds

So tell me, all of you great minded football people, how in the hell does filming a team in the off season affect what goes on in the regular season? 

ChrisRMurphy
ChrisRMurphy

At least now we know what the true, underlying problem is:  Arthur Blank.  Although nowhere near as block-headed as The Clampetts (aka the Rankin Smith family), his ego is quite similar and his football sense just as bad.

Ersatz
Ersatz

This franchise has been a clown show for a loooong time.  Hard Knocks just puts it on HBO.

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

LOL...well, I can see this building team cohesiveness...NOT! If there are any narcissists on this team, then this will be their moment. Jeff hit the nail on the head with this one.

Ver1tas
Ver1tas

A terrible decision, right up there with Petrino, turning a blind eye to Vick and his carousings, and the most egregious decision of all - another downtown stadium site. Good luck selling hose PSLs. I let my season tickets go two years ago - thankfully before the 2013 collapse.

TheOldGuy
TheOldGuy

I thought the stupid Falcons moves were done when Blank bought the team. But he was dumb enough to not see through Mike Vick and now he does this. Starting to remind me of Rankin Smith.


He seems to be long on dollars and short on cents (sense).

We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again
We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again

This does reek of a desperation move on the part of a dying regime. It's a little disturbing that a team that used to be so opposed to being featured on Hard Knocks has suddenly changed its tune so drastically. It makes you wonder if there's any kind of consistent and coherent philosophy in this organization.


I don't know what's happened to Smitty. That sense of urgency and discipline that was such a breath of fresh air when he came here in 2008 is seemingly long gone.

SimpleDawg
SimpleDawg

Who would want to do something the Jets did twice?


Why not just draft Michael Sam and bring the real circus to town....?

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

The best Clown Show in NFL history was the sAints BountyGate cheating scandal.


DawgDadII
DawgDadII

"Falcons just turned team into a clown show"

My sentiments exactly.

Arthur Blank is more and more evolving into Jerry Jones, which is his right and may turn out to be very profitable, but it is still clownish "look at me" behavior.

slydawg
slydawg

It's called marketing and promotion. Get with it JS. The fact of the matter is, Blank is a first class owner who has an economy class front office and coaching staff. Please Hire Bill Polian as GM and Adam Gase as coach.

Tvshooter
Tvshooter

The NFL said months ago that if no team volunteered for Hard Knocks, that they would mandate a team to do it.

And that's how the Falcons came to be on the show. Earlier this year HBO approached several teams, and all said "no"....including the Falcons.

So the NFL picked the team.

Savdon
Savdon

Come on!  Get rid of this kind of stuff at the twitter feed:  ICYMI: Jeff Schultz suck a d**k.”<--No! 

BlackandRed
BlackandRed

I do believe there is animosity between "Old World Press" and New Media. Seems the general rule of thumb for newspapers is to ridicule, bash and dismiss anything considered competition in new media (except for the ones their parent company owns, of course).Oh like.. popular cable shows. 


Unless they buy advertising, of course.


The phenomena is equivalent to the last horse buggy manufacturers to ridicule automobiles for all their imperfections and unreliability. In hopes, of course, to stave off the inevitable.


A few more years and paid advertising newspapers will go the way of the horse buggy. Toobad-sosad.

BigAintheBigA
BigAintheBigA

This idea has got "Look at me, I'm Arthur Blank" written all over it. I don't like it either. Get serious about football and quit trying to be cute.

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

With this being the most critical year under this regime, why would you entertain this.


TD and MS will be fired by end of the season.


6 wins 10 loss is my prediction.


GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

CynthiaTuckerrhymeswith
CynthiaTuckerrhymeswith

Look, the NFL like most other 'sports' franchises has become no better - or worse - than pro wrestling.  It's a tool to part old guys from their money through the vicarious playing of a kids' game.

Pro sports - a waste of time and money for the ordinary folk; a way to enrich partly-cognitive and otherwise unemployable 'athletes' without making them think overly much; a way to put ga-zillions of dollars into the hands of 'owners', politicians and bureaucrats.

It's your money, spend it how you want.  Just know you are being taken for a ride and being shaken down while on the fairyland express.

legionaire
legionaire

Blank is a retail sales genius and this is nothing more than a marketing tool that he is going to need to convince season ticket holders to cough up a grand a seat for a "license".  I don't think having or not having HBO do this will have any effect on this bunch that Dimitroff has put together for poor Mike Smith.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

We need Tebow.  He could be Special Prayer Team captain.  HBO loves football with religion.

PeachtreeBart
PeachtreeBart

Actually, this show will be the highlight of their season.  Six wins will follow.

Diddler-on-the-Roof
Diddler-on-the-Roof

Schultz: this may very well be the best article you've ever written.  A classic rant that you probably typed in less than 20 minutes.  Straight from the heart of a fan, and well put.  100% agreement.  


Now, that being said,we will both probably watch every episode.  It sucks being a Georgia sports fan.  

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

This one is right up there with the decision to partner with the weakest radio station in town.

atlfalconno1fan
atlfalconno1fan

better beat the stinkin rotten aints in the first game and make the playoffs...or i will be mad as hell...season tickets arent cheap

4DaBirds
4DaBirds

@Ackshun Think about what you are saying here. If you think Blank has lost confidence in TD and Smith enough to make Mike Tice the head coach, then you must think Blank is a complete idiot. Tice was a HORRIBLE head coach, who's worst moments came when he lost draft picks 2 consecutive years for not getting his draft card to the podium in time. These were 1st round picks as well. He also had run ins with the NFL for scalping his Super Bowl tickets. Tice is not the sharpest tool in the shed. Pioli also failed miserably in KC. Niether Pioli or Tice have ever had the same success as TD and Smith.

4DaBirds
4DaBirds

@ChrisRMurphy


When has Blank ever shown himself to be an egomaniac? 


The Smith's couldn't even deliver back to back winning seasons in the 34 years that they had the team. 


Blanks moves may not always be perfect, but they are always done in the sprit of improving the team. The Smith's never cared about the fans, or fielding the best team that they could. Blank wants nothing more than to win yet the hayseeds here only want to criticize what they can never comprehend in the first place.


I'm amazed at the idiot post/replies I read here. You morons don't anything about running an organization or even being a success. Also, Schultz is your typical garbage AJC reporter with an opinion that is right inline with the rest of the hillbillies here.

iseestupidpeople
iseestupidpeople

The entire NFL is in this mode. They are interested in expanding brand. Why do you think they send teams to Japan, Canada and England ?

Do you think those teams can properly focus ?

It's all a show that's why you can't hit the QB anymore, that's why the WR can rip the CBs head off and not be flagged, it's why you can't touch a WR after 5 yards.

It's all about the show.

Hard Knocks is a show about the show.

ThomasBrown
ThomasBrown

@Ersatz 


What is there left for anyone to say, once you said that, Ersatz !  You took the words right out of my mouth.  I tried to tell these clowns in here that the Falcons had all kinds of holes especially on Defense and OL last season and at RB, only these clowns said I was wrong.

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

@We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again 


Remember how Smitty and Blank made the move for 'character' and got rid of all those mean, scrappy guys? Well, I guess it's a real love fest in the locker room now and Smitty is ready to show off all the Bro love.

JSSN
JSSN

@SimpleDawg

The Rams Camp is going just fine. Pick another team and player, he's not Chad Ocho Cinco!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

I'll add this: Blank (not TD, not Smith) is going to take a lot of well-deserved heat if this team once again goes 0-for-preseason, having brought in this distraction.

4DaBirds
4DaBirds

@BigAintheBigA


You'll probably see Blank make only a few appearances if that. Blank goes down to the sidelines at the end of games, and for some reason that bothers people. Blank does not try to run football operations, but many of you act as though Blank is pulling a Jerry Jones.

BlackandRed
BlackandRed

@BigAintheBigA so why does this bother you so much? It is Blank's team you suggest he leave the country so you can be satisfied this had nothing to do with his ego?


Why do you even care?

BlackandRed
BlackandRed

@devounknown1000 Why is this, of all the years, the MOST critical? Do you have crystal balls that allow you to peer into the far future?

4DaBirds
4DaBirds

@CynthiaTuckerrhymeswith

You do realize that men and women of all ages (and from other countries) enjoy watching the NFL. To compare it to a scripted side show like the WWE is just wrong. Pro football is entertainment and nothing more, and many see it that way. You can chose to spend your money on it or not, but either way you can still view the game. 


Some one is always going to get rich off of something that is wildly popular and as entertaining as the NFL. Whats wrong with that. Should we all just wonder around aimlessly and kick rocks, and would that make us all better people?


Seeing as how you're so smart and righteous, then what should we do with our time and money? You make these comments and link all football fans together like we are all the same, and you make it sound as though you are above it, but here you are reading about the Falcons.

BlackandRed
BlackandRed

@CynthiaTuckerrhymeswith 


blah blah blah...


SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!


heh...

BlackandRed
BlackandRed

@PeachtreeBart actually, the word *actually* is one of the most abused words in the English language.


To be honest, I disagree. It is more fun to watch live games than television.

BlackandRed
BlackandRed

@atlfalconno1fan they are not that good this year. Breezus is one nail away from crucifiction. He be getting OLD...


Love to see Trufant take him out on a blindside blitz...

JSSN
JSSN

@SimpleDawg 

Nope, the NFL did not pick them. They have the option too, but this all Flowery Branch.

slydawg
slydawg

@JSSN @SimpleDawg The truth is a little bit of both. Whoever did not raise their hand, especially the teams with the worst record, would get picked at random. The Falcons chose to go first.