There are five games left in this Falcons season, but many of you already have an eye on the future. Others just want to argue some more about Matt Ryan and are bothered by the fact I think he's a good quarterback.
What's new? Not that.
There's also plenty of interest in Calvin Ridley, head coach Arthur Smith's job performance and the state of the offensive line. We'll hit all those topics and a lot more in Friday's Bair Mail, the last before Sunday's massive game against the Carolina Panthers.
Let's get to your questions right…now:
Dylan Hunnicutt from Macon, Ga.
What is Arthur Smith, in your opinion, doing or not doing right? How much is coaching to blame? Even the best of coaches can squeeze a little life from low end players. Dean Pees is legendary in my opinion, yet our defense, to show so much fight is continuously carved up. Mike Davis forgot everything he has learned since elementary flag football. Why are we such a bad 5-7 team with so many building blocks (Pitts, Matthews, Lindstrom, Hennessy, Jones, Oloukon, Terrell, Jarrett) in place. And what is the issue with pees scheme and Foye and Deion not being as good in pass coverage? And why can we not figure out how to keep a 30 million dollar a year upper echelon quarterback upright? Jesus just slam a Rolls Royce into concrete at this point.
Bair: There were, well, a lot of questions back into that submission, Dylan. Included them all because I think they're all relevant to what others have asked during a frustrating season.
I'm going to stick to the coaching questions here. I'm on record (several times) saying I think Arthur Smith is a good head coach with the right mindset to weather storms. That's vital to success in such a stressful position. And his offense is good. That's important to include. Has he been perfect? Has he done some things that raised an eyebrow? I think he'd say yes to both questions. He's objective in his analysis, and that includes some self-scouting. He's a rookie head coach and he's learning. I think he has gotten great buy-in from the roster. This team has progressed throughout the year and never stops fighting. That's the foundation for a good, well-coached team. Smith is on the right track and will be better for this year's experience.
Regarding Dean Pees: He needs more assets. And more time to install his scheme. It's that simple. If his core group increases mastery of the system, if he can get some ferocious young edge rushers and more defensive linemen that fit his scheme, and some do-it-all defensive backs, this defense will get better.
Jerry Brown from Atlanta
Do you see Calvin Ridley returning at all this season? If he did, would he start right away, or would he need a week or two to get acclimated?
Bair: There are so many unknowns regarding Calvin Ridley that it's tough to make predictions on this front, even though everyone's interested in his status.
There's still no telling if he'll return this season, though there's only five games left in the campaign. In that regard, time is running out. He has also been gone a significant chunk of time and, even if he's in good shape, he hasn't been practicing with a team. Football shape is a different level, and that could – key word: could -- take a little bit of time at least to re-acclimate. Again, there's so much we don't know about the situation.
The Falcons haven't had updates on Ridley in a while. In terms of a possible return, we don't know. It's clear, however, that time is running out on that prospect.
Sam Batchelor from Temple, Ga.
What about Patterson? He's been such a big play maker on this team. I mean where would we be without him right now? And the many positions he can play is insane. Are we planning on keeping him around for a while? Think we should?
Bair: If the Falcons can sign Patterson, they absolutely should. The deal has to make sense for both sides, and there's the issue. Patterson's looking to cash in. Who wouldn't be?? The Falcons don't have tons of cash, even if the salary cap increases significantly. And his age is a factor. So is his love for Atlanta and Falcons fans and his role in the offensive system. Can they find a pact, even both sides have to compromise a bit? It's possible. That will be a main storyline before free agency hits? Absolutely.
Mike S from Calgary, Alberta, Canada
What are the chances we get someone like Frank Darby some run on offense this week? our WR play has fallen off a cliff without Ridley, wouldn't mind seeing what we have in an explosive rookie!
Bair: Frank Darby hasn't been high in the rotation, even when the Falcons were down a few receivers, so I wouldn't anticipate him being elevated in the rotation with the Falcons still motivated by playoff prospects. They're going to do whatever it takes to win every game until the math says the season will end as previously scheduled. Lots of fans are curious about Frank Darby, that's to be sure, but he won't be given a spot above someone playing better, regardless of age or development status. That's not how Smith captains his ship. Darby must earn increased opportunities, not be given them by circumstance.
Fred Terry from Savannah, Ga.
It seems that everyone wants a tackle in the draft but it seems like we get more pressure up the middle than most. I think Jalen Mayfield is the weak link. Maybe move out tackle inside and draft a good tackle would solve both problems. What do you think?
Bair: It'll be interesting to see how the Falcons will address the offensive line this offseason. Drafting another tackle seems a popular position. Adding better veteran competition at left guard is another. Let's not forget that Matt Gono should re-enter the fray at some point and could be a factor. The Falcons are set for next year at left tackle (Jake Matthews) and right guard (Chris Lindstrom). After that, I wouldn't say anyone else is a lock. I also wouldn't say anyone else is gone. They need more from the front, especially in pass protection. Gotta upgrade there, in my opinion, for Matt Ryan and the quarterback who comes after. A strong offensive line makes everything better.
Wendell Brown from Macon, Ga.
I think we should unload ALL the high-priced players that are not producing & start ALL over like a new franchise but start with building the O & D lines first, along with a mobile QB that can visualize the whole field with a quick release.
Bair: That sounds like you want a full-scale rebuild, dead-cap money be damned. All I can do it bump what Terry Fontenot said to me at the start of training camp regarding the Falcons philosophy in this regard. They're not going to tear it all down like that. They're going to try to remain competitive, get right with the salary and build upon a young foundation. Will there be tough decisions made with big contracts? Sure. But they aren't going to tear it all down and start over completely. Fontenot has made that clear on several occasions.
Bill Whitten from Killen, Ga.
Bair, you and I clearly have a different opinion of Matt Ryan. I have watched him since he first came to Atlanta. You haven't. I do believe he has been a positive for the organization but not anymore. Yes, he still makes some great throws but since the Super Bowl debacle in 2017 Ryan in my view because he has gotten beat up so much over the years and at his advanced age panics when he's not able to quickly get rid of the ball. How else can you explain the horrible decisions he makes?
Bair: You're right, Bill. We have a difference of opinion on Matt Ryan. It's okay to agree to disagree. I'm still going to post your response even if we don't. I never want this mailbag to be only on topics that I like or with submissions from people who lavish compliments.
Same goes with you, Dickie Rosser from Dacula. You think I'm full of it regarding Ryan. That's cool. I just disagree and know I can't change your mind. Keep the submissions coming. Appreciate them all.