FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes why the Falcons were chosen as having the NFL's most stable franchise as well as the massive deal Jimmy Garoppolo signed with the 49ers.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
The Ringer: Falcons chosen as the NFL's most stable franchise
Turnover is a given in the NFL - heck, in all of professional sports – but the Falcons have enjoyed relative stability under head coach Dan Quinn. Yes, they did lose both coordinators after their 2016 run to the Super Bowl, but the majority of their roster returned intact, helping the Falcons become the only NFC team to return to the playoffs in 2017.
This year, there will be no such turnover among the coordinators, as both offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel will return, and there remain few holes for the Falcons to address on the roster. The returning cohesion helped Atlanta earn the No. 1 spot in Danny Kelly’s stability index for The Ringer.
"If this feels underwhelming, that's because, well, it is underwhelming—but the Falcons' place atop these rankings hints at the current state of tumult across the league," Kelly writes. "In three years at the helm, head coach Dan Quinn has proved to be a savvy game planner (see: the team’s wild-card win over the Rams) and capable leader, and is in no danger of losing his job. Both coordinators will return (a rarity this year), the schemes and language therein remain unchanged, and both sides of the ball are packed with talent—with few major holes to patch. There's plenty of hand-wringing in Atlanta about the decision to retain offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, but a drop-off from the team's offensive explosion under Kyle Shanahan in 2016 was completely predictable (plus, they weren't as bad as you might think from an efficiency point of view, finishing ninth in offensive DVOA). This isn't the sexy top pick, but it's hard to find a team that checks more stability boxes."
Experience and talent trump a great many things in professional football, and the Falcons should have plenty of it next season.
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BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL
NFL.com: Garoppolo, 49ers agree on five-year, $137.5 million deal
After a 5-0 start to his career with the 49ers, many people talked about quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as if he was the very manifestation of greatness. On Thursday, he was payed as though that were the case.
Garoppolo and the 49ers agreed to a five-year contract worth $137.5 million, according to the NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. The contract is the largest in NFL history on an average-per-year basis. With Kyle Shanahan as their head coach and Garoppolo set at quarterback, the 49ers will likely be a popular pick this preseason to make a push in the NFC.
"Those questioning the small sample size or the lack of touchdowns (7 TDs, 5 INTs) are either not watching Garoppolo play or forgetting that the 49ers owned a dead-on-arrival offense before he entered the lineup. The 49ers scored 28.8 points per game under Garoppolo; they scored 17 points per tilt in games he did not start in 2017.
Garoppolo immediately morphed the 49ers into one of the most enjoyable teams to watch down the stretch. He had Niners players espousing comparisons to Tom Brady, and giddily talking about his "different aura." More importantly, his arrival in San Francisco made playing hella more fun for his teammates.
Garoppolo's leadership and talent caused the greatest coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick, to balk at getting rid of the quarterback before he absolutely had to make a move. As colleague Chris Wesseling eloquently detailed, Belichick envisioned Jimmy G as the perfect post-Brady quarterback. Only TB12 stiff-arming Father Time caused a ripple in that plan."
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