Posted: 6:00 am Monday, June 16th, 2014

Finneran: ‘Heads are going to roll’ if Falcons don’t win 

By D. Orlando Ledbetter

FLOWERY BRANCH – Former Falcons wide receiver Brian Finneran, who’s now a local radio personality on 680 The Fan’s The Front Row show, painted a bleak picture of the upcoming season during a segment on the SiriusXM NFL Radio show.

On the eve of mandatory minicamp, Finneran tossed out this bomb when asked about pressure to win this season on a recent segment on NFL Radio.

“But owners want you to win regardless of who’s on the field,” Finnernan said. “Who’s hurt and who’s not. They’ve got to do that this year or unfortunately, heads are going to roll because that’s the nature of this beast.”

Here’s some background on Finneran, who was not re-signed after the 2010 season.

A transcript is below, but some of the highlights included:

–He’s not very high on the defense.

–He believes Coach Mike Smith and the team is too uptight and stressed out. “To say guys are a little tight and maybe a little stressed is maybe an understatement, especially on that coaching staff.”

–He doesn’t know how they are going to replace Tony Gonzalez.

–Rates 50-50 as the odds that Steven Jackson can get the rushing attack moving.

–Joe Hawley will win the starting center competition.

–If they stay healthy, the Falcons may make a wildcard playoff bid.

Q: NFL RADIO: (Not on the clip sound clip, but had to be something about the defense.)

A: FINNERAN: When you look at that linebacker corps for the Falcons, it’s nothing to write home about. Sean Weatherspoon was one of the bright spots and he’s now gone for the season.

Q: Is his career in jeopardy, do you think?

A: I don’t know. He’s one of those guys, like you said, who’s an absolute specimen (with) physical workout speed, agility and power. The stuff that he brings to the football field is just awesome to watch.

Q: Hey, let’s talk a little bit broader about your team as you see these guys. It seems from the outside looking in, a lot of pressure is on the coach. This is the year they’ve got to perform. Do you think the owner is a little antsy with these guys?

A: To say guys are a little tight and maybe a little stressed is maybe an understatement, especially on that coaching staff. Coach Smith may be feeling it the most just because you want to go into a new stadium with a winning record and a winning attitude. That’s what they had up until last year. Injuries played a huge role. But owners want you to win regardless of who’s on the field. Who’s hurt and who’s not. They’ve got to do that this year or unfortunately, heads are going to roll because that’s the nature of this beast. That’s the nature of the NFL. If you don’t win for me and we have a new stadium coming, we have to figure something else out.”

Q: In any other year, no pressure on the coach, coming off a great season, we would have been focused on one subject, replacing Tony Gonzalez. But we almost never get any calls about it on this show. We seem to never discuss it, but ultimately that is a huge hole that has to be filled. How’s that looking?

A: That’s not looking so good at all. You’ve got Bear Pascoe, who can block people I think and maybe catch a ball in the flat every once in awhile off some play-action stuff, but he’s not going to get down the football field at all. You have Levine Toilolo who they had last year as a rookie. (He) surprised me a little bit. Jumped around and made some plays in the redzone. By no means or by (any) stretch of the imagination is he Tony Gonzalez, but he gives you another weapon in the redzone. He’s not a pure type of receiver like Tony was. But he has some ability. A very raw talent. But as far as what they were this year compared to last year, it’s a huge drop off and they will feel it in a huge way. Hopefully, guys like Roddy White can kind of pick up the slack there in third down situations. Harry Douglas, who had a big year last year, can kind of do the same. Those are some big shoes to fill and I don’t know if the Falcons can do it.

Q: When healthy Steven Jackson is an absolute monster. We know that your team wanted to get a little bit bigger in the trenches, not only defensively, but offensively. Obviously, getting (Jake) Matthews as your top draft pick from Texas A&M was huge, but what are the odds that Steven Jackson can get that running game cranked up here?

A: I’d probably put it at 50-50. It’s just a toss-up right now. If Sam Baker can stay healthy, that could give you a good chance. Justin Blalock has been a staple at left guard. Joe Hawley will get the center duties. He finished the season last year at that spot and Matt Ryan likes Joe a lot. With the guys they have on that roster, he’s probably the best fit for that team. Then you picked up Jon Asamoah from Kansas City. It’s a re-defined, whole new facelift line for that (offensive) line. Matt is happy with how they are looking. They are physical. Mike Tice brings an attitude to that offensive line as the new (offensive) line coach. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how the running game changes, but again Steven Jackson has to stay healthy. If he doesn’t, then Devonta Freeman, the kid out of Florida State, enough of a every-down back to help out? I don’t know.

Q: Wow. There is a lot of work to do in Atlanta. After talking to you, I feel differently about this team. They need to get through preseason without a single injury.

A: That definitely has to happen. They have to stay healthy. Julio has to stay healthy. If that happens, Matt will be very pleased and this team will go . . . will (make) a run at the playoffs. Maybe, a wildcard. If somebody else gets banged up on the offensive side of the ball, they are going to have a tough, tough year.

PHASE THREE OF OFFSEASON PROGRAM

–Monday, June 16 – Physicals.

–Tuesday, June 17 — Day One: Mandatory minicamp (Open to Public, 3:30 p.m. to 5:20 p.m.).

–Wednesday, June 18 – Day Two: Mandatory minicamp (Open to Public, 3:30 p.m. to 5:20 p.m.).

–Thursday, June 19 – Day Three: Mandatory minicamp. (Offseason program ends for veterans).

–June 22-28  – Rookie Symposium

TBA – (Late July) – Report to Training camp.

PRACTICES WITH TEXANS — Wednesday, August 13 and Thursday, August 14.

THE LATEST FROM OTAS

Sean Weatherspoon suffers season-ending Achilles injury

What’s next for Sean Weaatherspoon?

What’s next for the Falcons at linebacker?

Javier Arenas gets to watch longtime role model

Falcons cut Szczerba, Yoklic

Falcons minicamp is open to the public

VIDEO CORNER

Sean Weatherspoon to miss 2014 season

Matt Ryan on Harry Douglas’ contribution to the offense

Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox

Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo

Falcons assistant head coach Terry Robiskie on Devin Hester

Falcons coach Mike Smith on OTAs

 DRAFT CLASS STORIES

Jake Matthews brings strength of family to the Falcons

Ra’Shede Hageman could turn into defensive force for Falcons

Dezmen Southward ready to compete for playing time

Warrick Dunn likes the pick of FSU’s Devonta Freeman

Falcons signed 20 undrafted rookie free agents, 5 from SEC 

Falcons invite 24 players in for tryouts

NFL Draft 2014: ESPN’s Todd McShay on the Falcons’ draft class

VIDEO: Reaction to the Atlanta Falcons’ 2014 draft class

THE ATLANTA FALCONS 2014 DRAFT CLASS

Round 1 / 6 — Jake Matthews, RT, 6-5, 308, Texas A&M

Round 2/37 – Ra’Shede Hageman, DE, 6-6, Minnesota

Round 3/68 – Dezmen Southward, FS, 6-0, 211, Wisconsin

Round 4/103 – Devonta Freeman, RB, 5-8, 206, Florida State

Round 4/139 – Prince Shembo, LB, 6-1, 253 Notre Dame

Round 5/147 – Ricardo Allen, CB, 5-9, 187, Purdue

Round 5/168 – Marquis Spruill, LB, 6-1, 231, Syracuse

Round 7/253 – Yawin Smallwood, LB, 6-2, 246, Connecticut

Round 7/255 – Tyler Starr, LB, 6-4, 250, South Dakota

63 comments
warfalcon
warfalcon

Her we go again with all of you great blog coaches, and I bet non of you ever played touch football let along tackle football. THE aints suck[watch BREES will be exposed this year, worse year ever].Pants eat dirt[no offence this year ,defense will be on the field 65% of the time and we no what that means- heads hanging tongue  out].Bucyucs has crabs[new coach same players that do not want to do what the coach says].Now that`s a tough NFC South.

Remember this comment from   WARFALCON all of u pos`s [NO REAL FANS HERE]


LETS GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

Falcons63
Falcons63

I keep hearing fans and writers alike talking about the failure to replace Tony Gonzalez as receiver.  No way that was going to happen.  With the stated desire to return to a power running game,  It could well be that the thinking among the staff is what you lose in receiving will be somewhat alleviated by the dramatic improvement in blocking by Pascoe/Toilolo.  Loved Tony as a receiver, but his run blocking and pass protection was horrific.  Take the 2008 team.  Power running game with Turner(1,699yds) behind an Oline that couldn't block anyone the year before(sound familiar)?, 138 combined catches by White/Jenkins.... and a grand total of 18 combined catches by TE's Justin Peele and Ben Hartsock.  That team won 11 games... with Mike Freaking Jenkins as your 2nd leading receiver!  In Atlanta Gonzalez spent much of his time split out as the 3rd or 4th WR.  I suspect you will see more 4 WR sets and more inline TE play. Losing Tony as a receiver hurts,  but the running game and pass protection improved the day he retired.  Jackson staying healthy and the development of a 4th WR will be especially important.  Watch out for Devonta Freeman.  He could be a big surprise.   JMO.....

ChuckClausen
ChuckClausen

I coached 15 seasons in the NFL, there are factors outside the control of the coaching staff, which can significantly effect your record, injuries to key players, draft choices who turn out to be as good as advertised. I lived near the Falcon complex and frequently sit on the hill and watch Practise. Player leadership inside the locker room is critical. I'm a fan of Mike Smith, he's an easy guy to pull for. My guess this will be a good bounce back year..

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

Sounds like if Julio Jones and Steven Jackson don't stay healthy that  offense will sputter. Mike Smith is uptight he knows that injuries or not he must  win. Coach Robiskie can't keep his son on the roster this year. Nepotism won't fly. Well those two linebackers, Bartu  and Worrolow  must grow up in a hurry. Plus that vet  safety they brought in must play well. Time will reveal the direction of the team shortly.

FalconJames
FalconJames

Hopefully Finn will make a better talk show host than he was a receiver.  By the way, is he a Falcon Fan? Couldn't really tell by this interview.

RedoubtSouth
RedoubtSouth

Heads should have already rolled... 


But, being a fan since '68, one comes to expect such. I love my team but... the gridiron gods have a curse upon us.

TimeforTea
TimeforTea

 Ok let's put last year in perspective please.


(1) We lost 7 games by ONLY 7 points or less.

(2) We lost 33% of our starters.  I'm sorry Finn but that's not insignificant or a "coachable" or "draftable" fix.  It's a statistically freak occurance.  Period.

(3) After losing our starting LT and RT and a RG that couldn't close an open door, we addressed all three.  Baker is healthy.  We drafted probably the best RT / LT available.  We signed the best RG available.  We're going to start Hawley over Konz at center.  Where he'll be playing with SIGNIFICANTLY better talent to his right making his play also better.

(4) We addressed our run defense and strength on the DL.  Soliai and Jackson make it a much better run defense and take pressure off our interior LBs.  

(5) We addressed our secondary concerns with Lowery (who is MUCH better than DeCoud in mine and PFF opinion).  Trufant and Alford won't be rookies this year.  We drafted Southward.  Our Defensive backfield will be better if for nothing else than Lowery.

(6) LBs will be better this year even without Spoon and that's saying something.  Worrilow and Bartu won't be rookies and will have benefited from another year of conditioning and all that playing time.  We brought in SEVERAL more LBs for competition and depth.  

(7) Antone Smith getting a shot at more reps and Freeman draft will make the RB position stronger as well.

(8) Julio, Roddy, and Jackson will be back.


How does that not make a team that barely lost several games not a better team and a contender for a playoff spot?

Falcons63
Falcons63

Didn't really see Finneran say anything that the average Falcon fan doesn't already know. For the most part I try to avoid  NFL offseason reporting.  It's mostly guys filling up air time. However, I have heard supposedly reputable guys like Tony Dungy and Mike Mayock say they believe last year was an aberration... which in reality means very little.  This is the NFL.  Everyone has talent. The difference between 5-11 and 11-5 is very small.  Stay healthy and they will be pretty good?  Mike Smith is feeling pressure? Wow! What a scoop. Finneran is just another talking head trying to shout over all of the offseason white noise. 

OneBlood
OneBlood

Finneran's right about heads rolling...the new stadium deal is directly linked. 


As for everything else...well, there's a reason why he's working for that POS radio station, rather than NFL.com or some other reputable media outlet. Hell, he doesn't even write for bleacherreport....lol

DenverDawg
DenverDawg

to JSSN - 


another TED STRIKER fan here...  wish I knew you so we could trade stories....

Whiznot
Whiznot

The Falcons are doomed. Management ran off all the quality free agent and overpaid Ryan. The lines are below substandard. Matty Ice will look like Matty Pancake.

Mandingo
Mandingo

What I got from this article is that the Falcons ownership, front office , coaching staff and overall organizational philosophy suck. You are not going to have the luxury of having the best players at every position on your team before you can win on a regular basis............... Develop the talent you drat to do what you want done in your schemes.

JSSN
JSSN

Leaving a message in memory of long time AJC Blogging legend and humanitarian: Ted Striker! Thank you for your years of wit, insight, and goodwill in hard times! Rest well, please find peace now!


notPlanB
notPlanB

LB is a weakness but I like the way Worrilow got into the backfield on blitzes and mostly from the inside. Maybe some of the 4 LB's we drafted can come through like he did.

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

We been saying this since last year...........not like Finneran is dropping a bomb here! Only reason Smitty and the crew is back because if they do stink it up it gives AB an opportunity to hire the "FACE" AKA.............Scowling Cowher, to give that "toughness" he wants and to also sell more seats moving into the new stadium.............heck Fin, if that is all you got maybe they need to hire me instead of you...........you dropped no bombs! 

Bogey
Bogey

Finn is correct.  IF the Falcons stay healthy, they might have a shot at the playoffs.  I say MIGHT because they don't operate in a vacuum - both the Bucs and Carolina will be better, and the Saints likely won't decline just yet.


I'm already a bit tired of everyone saying Toilolo/Bear, etc aren't as good as Tony G.  Uh, NOBODY is as good as Gonzalez was, and he won't be fully replaced by one guy, at least not immediately.  Give Levine a chance - IF he can develop, I like 6'8" in the red zone.


As far as Steven Jackson goes, he WILL be better this year.  For 3 reasons:  the OLIne is light year better, he'll be fully healthy at least at the start, AND he can't be worse.


Finally, as much as Arthur likes Mike Smith, if they don't hit at least .500 this year (at least make a run at the playoffs) he'll be toast.  And very possibly Dimitroff too.  Much if not most of the blame last year falls on TD's head - yes injuries were the symptom, but the lack of talent and depth especially in the trenches points directly to the GM.

MitchJolly
MitchJolly

Spoon is over rated. He has played one full season. How can people regard his loss as a killer? We've never really had him. 


Falcons are better than the talking heads make it out. Prisco, of CBS has an objective view of the Falcons. 


Seems like the local guys give in to some pressure to err on the side of overly critical in order to keep up their relevance among themselves. Just an observation. 


Birds are going to be better than last year. They lost a lot of their games by close margins. They are not as bad as made out to be. 

JLTee
JLTee

Nothing Finn said is shocking. The Falcons did 0 to improve our pass rush and they took a step back by losing an already suspect Sean Weatherspoon. Plus, Tony's loss is huge. he opened things up for Roddy and Julio on the edge. We hope Roddy doesn't play at his age and Julio is fully recovered.

Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

Any new word D O L on Falcons signing a vet linebacker.  It sure could not hurt to have a vet in camp, but not one that comes to camp with a cane and walker.

JSSN
JSSN

@Falcons63

Oh yeah, you have 4th and 5th receivers (Davis and Johnson), they just need targeting. Davis has been ready since last preseason, play him. Your problem is and will be that you have no one to make people respect the space between the hashes! And keep sending Julio in there, physical freak or not, you're courting disaster! 

JSSN
JSSN

@Falcons63

And that "power running line" that was stifled when they were needed in the 2008-2009 Wild Card playoff. You mean the 11-5 team that got fat on the AFC West that had no team over .500 (3-1). The team that Michael Turner racked up 1181 rushing yards in 8 games against teams that went a combined 44-84 in 2008! The Falcons were a facade in 2008. But a W is W, and all things are equal in the perception of a "power running game!"  Mershawn Lynch has spoiled the well for who think anyone can claim a "power line play." In 2010, they at least pretended that were balanced. Oh there's that word again: "balance!"

JSSN
JSSN

@ChuckClausen

You coached under Dan Henning in two places. You always drop the Philly Super Bowl year, but you rarely bring up the dysfunctional periods in Atlanta and San Diego when teams went bad. 

Do you mind talking about what happens regarding the team when coaches and administration fail?

Dman
Dman

Nice to see someone who actually knows what they are talking about commenting on this blog. Thanks coach...

Dman
Dman

Finn was an awesome receiver with great hands. Never dropped the ball and could go high to get it. I miss Finn. He was a great Falcon...

CrescentMusicandMedia
CrescentMusicandMedia

@TimeforTea Excellent points! I think the main thing we have to deal with is so many players needing time to gel as a unit. Consider the numerous Offensive line and Defensive personnel changes. They'll get stronger as the year goes on. I think this will be a good year. Look for the critics to start the "yeah but its only the regular season" crap again. We were in just about every game last year. Winning game one this year is important. Get 'em birds!

Dman
Dman

We actually lost 50% of our starters if you count the guys who were supposed to be starters that went down in training camp. Well said TimeforTea...

Dman
Dman

Stick to football and they won't be deleted...

TimeforTea
TimeforTea

@notPlanB They will be helped a LOT by the two big bodies we signed in the offseason on the DL.  Soliai and Jackson.  Those two help both the run defense and the pass rush by taking up bodies and freeing up our LBs.  

DOrlandoLedbetter
DOrlandoLedbetter moderator

@AnsweredTHIS We beg to differ. Former players rarely are open when talking about their former teams. Finneran dropped several bombs. 

BigAlHeBDMan
BigAlHeBDMan

@Bogey Unfortunately for Mike Smith, he is in a tough competitive division. The Bucs will be vastly improved with Lovie Smith. The Panthers will be a challenge as Cam is actually improving. Now if he gets some receivers he will be downright dangerous. The Saints will be tough as long as Brees is their QB. Unfortunately for Mike, this is put up or shut up year for him and probably for Dimitroff also. Will the pressure be less or more intensified now that the Falcons are on Hard Knocks? I believe more intensified are the words I would select.

notPlanB
notPlanB

Agree!! But only if we stay healthy. TD is known for drafting injury prone guys. Konz, 18 reps of 225 lbs. about the same as the kickers lift probably. It's probably due to his medical disabilities.

notPlanB
notPlanB

Doesn't help this year but maybe we can use 1st & 2nd round next year on safety and TE. All the good TE's have some basketball background. They have the height plus the ability of keeping their body between the coverage and the ball. They are much better athletes than most LB's covering them.

notPlanB
notPlanB

Good to know that Worrilow and Bartu have several games under their belt. Doesn't usually happen under MS's WPP.

Falcons63
Falcons63

@JSSN  Not going to argue the quality of the 2008-2009 playoff team with you.  Just voicing what I think the plan may be... but.... at 30+ Steven Jackson is no "Mershawn Lynch". 

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@JSSN


I can answer that..............NFL


Not

For

Long


They get fired! 

zuzu331
zuzu331

@JSSN Why dont you enlighten us all Oh Grand Wise Poobah of All (as If you need any encouragement) on Failing? You are the Resident Expert...

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@DOrlandoLedbetter @AnsweredTHIS


Dled......we have to differ; the former player is now in the media so his job is to talk about the team.  It would have been a bomb if he had some inside info that might back up what he was talking about, but as you know Dled and as we all know, that this is a make or break season for this staff as well as some of its players.  This is not new news........say that fast three times new news, new news, new news!!! :)

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

@TimeforTea @MitchJolly  I agree Spoon hasn't been on the the field long enough to make an assessment. How can you miss someone that can't consistently play.

JSSN
JSSN

@Falcons63 

In all case in this division, everyone is going to amp up the running games this season. So the Falcons aren't going to sneak up on anyone with a emphasis on running the ball. They are all practicing against it again because they are trying to get ready for the NFC West where the real power in the Conference rests!

JSSN
JSSN

@Falcons63 

Not trying to argue it with you as well, Smith liked throwing that term around. They've never had the line to play real smash mouth football. They ran the ball well in max blocking scheme (9 offense v. 11 defense) extremely well in 2008 and 2010, but they will never be confused with the 1990 Giants. I'd take Bart Oates and 30+ Ottis Anderson in a heart beat over what they have out at the Branch

Hawley and Konz are going to have transform more than they should be able with one offseason of physical training to just strong enough to be viable. If they morph into something more, check the chemist!

JSSN
JSSN

@zuzu331 

It wasn't addressed to you. The old ball coach can answer if he likes. If not, I won't lose any sleep. Meanwhile, your nose will be so far up an colon, there's not enough Hibiclens to get the stench off. #Palabra

Oh this won't be one of those threads with you. I've said my piece. Out of respect to Ted Striker's memory, I'll not engage your detestable tripe!  No honor in you, why even entertain what you do.