Posted: 2:20 pm Thursday, June 12th, 2014
By Jeff Schultz
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.
About the Author
Sports blogger and columnist Jeff Schultz has been with the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution since 1989. He has been honored several times by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA) and several other organizations.