Welcome to Straight from the Beek! The Falcons are wrapping up their third and final set of organized team activities (OTA) today – and minicamp is right around the corner. In the meantime, you've got plenty of questions. So, let's get right to them. Just remember that all opinions here are mine unless otherwise noted.
And we're off.
Ken from Wheatland, CA
I've been a longtime Falcons 35 years or more from California. I'm hoping to see a great season and a greater playoff run. It seems like they are getting a lot more depth this year overall. I think with Matt Ryan already familiar with the returning offensive coordinator, they can make a run for the Super Bowl this year.
Matt: Ken, the Falcons are lucky to have longtime fans like yourself – and thanks for reading Straight from the Beek. I appreciate you guys. I sat down with Matt Ryan, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and tight ends coach Mike Mularkey for a podcast that will be out this coming Monday (so be on the lookout for it) – and I can tell you that they are a tight-knit group with history and familiarity. They've also had a lot of success in the past together. Koetter, if you recall, was the Falcons' offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2014 and Mularkey held the same position from 2008 to 2011. Ryan has experienced success under both of them and now they're all working together. I won't go into all the stats, rankings and records under those guys but you can read about it here and here. As far as making a Super Bowl run, well, a lot must happen before that takes place. I can tell you that's the ultimate goal for this team. In fact, I asked all three men what it'll take for the Falcons to get there in 2019 – and I think you'll find their responses fascinating. The keys will be winning the NFC South, winning at home, staying healthy and catching a few breaks here and there. If they can win 10-11 games and get into the playoffs (and I think it'll take double-digit wins), anything can happen. I'm pretty sure Falcons fans like yourself will be jacked up when they listen to the podcast.
Tristan from Douglasville, GA
Hello, Beek! First-time writer. I was wanting to know if you could explain to me how a player can choose not to show for MANDATORY minicamp? Mandatory is defined as "required by law or rules." So what that he is making $15.2 million this year, show up and do the job someone is paying you to do! Show up and show someone that you are worth much more, not saying he hasn't proven himself time after time, but I mean come on, I would like to try and tell my employer that I am not showing up for mandatory training because I don't make as much as someone else. I would be jobless quick! Thank you.
Matt: Thanks for writing in, Tristan. Well, since you didn't mention any names here, I won't either. But I can tell you that skipping the three-day mandatory minicamp is costly for the players, never mind the optics of it all. As it is spelled out very clearly in the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, the maximum amount a player can be fined for skipping mandatory minicamp is $88,650. Broken down by day it's $14,775 for Day 1, $29,550 for Day 2, $44,325 for Day 3. Should a player decide to skip training camp, it gets even more costly. Players are fined $40,000 for every day of training camp missed and one week's regular-season game check for every preseason game he skips. Those are pretty hefty and can pile up in a hurry.
Jim from Townsend, TN
Beek, I need you to talk me off the ledge. I see many troubling signs coming out of our Falcons at a time when they really need to establish a selfless team approach to the season. Vic Beasley's absence, Takk McKinley's disappointing and immature approach to the media after an eventful offseason, and stalled contract agreements with Grady Jarrett and Julio Jones have my attention. I know all of this is irrelevant if we take it to the Vikings in Week 1. What do you think? Reason for concern or not? Thanks for your great coverage.
Matt: Hey, Jim. Yes, I'd definitely back off from the ledge, for now. Remember, up until now all three sets of the organized team activities have been voluntary. And it's not like these guys are sitting home doing nothing, either. Let's see who is here next week for the mandatory minicamp. That'll be telling. And as of right now, Falcons coach Dan Quinn is expecting the players you mentioned above to be present. As for Takk McKinley's interview with the media, all I can say is that I've seen a lot worse. McKinley apparently didn't have a lot to say other than, "It's good." Yes, it was, uh, different but it was just one interview – and it has nothing to do with how he's playing. Look, this is a big year for McKinley and the expectations are high – and I'd rather spend time critiquing his on-field performance than his responses at pressers. I'm giving him a pass on this one.
Jaydon from Stockbridge, GA
Hey, Beek. As soon as you see this question, please write me back as soon as you can – know you're a busy man. Is Matt Gono still on the team and are the Falcons watching film of the last two seasons and seeing what needs to be corrected?
Matt: Yes, Matt Gono is definitely still on the team, Jaydon. The Falcons think highly of him and, as we all know, offensive linemen take time to develop. Gono has quietly been a great story for the Falcons – he played at tiny Wesley College and made the team's 53-man roster last year. The Falcons have made a lot of moves this offseason with their offensive line and it'll be interesting to see if Gono makes that jump from Year 1 to Year 2 and can stay in the mix.
Barry from High Point, NC
Hey, Beek. No, I just couldn't let things lie. I feel a need to respond to your response to my last post. I am smiling as I sit here and type this, just as I was smiling when I wrote that post and was smiling when I read your response. Several people recognized that it was me giving you a light-hearted dig and said, "Wow, he sure put you in your place," Well, I didn't see it like that. You did exactly what I expected you to do and used your response as an excuse or vehicle to state the facts as needed. (You have to state these facts daily or some fans will forget.) You started light hearted and finished light hearted and I saw no insult or personal affront. You even taught me something about that great philosopher Mr. Cricket that I had not known before and for that I thank you. However, the question still remains: What will it take to get you excited? During the coming season what will the scenario be that will cause you to lose it and join the "frenzy"? I am quite sure that I am not the only one that would like to see that if only for one day, for one column. In the meantime, keep doing what you do so well, and you can count me as a loyal fan. FALCONS DAMNIT!
Matt: Hey, Barry. When I first read your email, I have to admit I laughed (a little) out loud – and I appreciated your critiquing. As you probably know, a lot of fans are passionate and tend to have knee-jerk reactions when it comes to wins, losses, signings, draft picks, free agents, etc. Often, things like the salary cap and statistics are overlooked by fans – and their logic is, well, off. You're right, I try not to overreact, but I'll call it like I see it. I think if you go back through some of my columns here, you'll definitely see that. Nothing, so far, has caused me to get worked up into a "frenzy," as you put it. Trust me, when it does, you'll know. And thanks for writing in – I appreciate you, Barry!
Scott from Buford, GA
Beek, I'm a longtime Falcons fan and loyal reader of SFTB. But my question is about the podcast. Do you plan on bring it back? Really enjoyed both of your interviews with Dan Quinn and it got better as the season went on last year. Please bring it back! Love you what you do for us. Keep it up! Thanks. RISE UP!!!
Matt: Yes, Scott! As I noted above (first question), Falcons Audible podcast will make its return Monday, the day before minicamp, and it might just be the best one we've done yet. The plan, for now, is to have at least one per week during the season and I'm contemplating doing a second one that'll run at least every week throughout the entire year. Stay tuned for details on that, and let me know what you think of Monday's podcast with Matt Ryan, Dirk Koetter and Mike Mularkey. And thanks for being a loyal reader, Scott!