- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW ORLEANS -- Call it the winter of discontent for the Atlanta Falcons.
I spent some time with general manager Thomas Dimitroff as he made the rounds Thursday through the Super Bowl media center. As he reflected on the Falcons’ season, he used the same word several times to describe how he, owner Arthur Blank and coach Mike Smith are feeling after losing in the NFC Championship Game.
“Speaking for myself and I believe I can also speak for Mike and our owner, we’re still agitated,’’ Dimitroff said.
I’ll just let Dimitroff continue from there.
“That’s a good thing because our expectations are high and we said that from the very beginning,’’ Dimitroff said. “I thought we developed in a lot of very good ways. We’re going to have to step back right now and, potentially, make some difficult decisions like every team does. We know that we have to figure out how to become that much more fundamentally sound and that much more sound roster-wise. We feel like we have a very good football team, but we still have to make some tweaks to get over the hump.’’
Dimitroff is right that being agitated is a good thing. The Falcons should be angry that, after a 13-3 regular season, the first playoff victory under the current regime and a 17-0 lead at home early in the NFC Championship Game, they’re not in the Super Bowl.
This is a supremely talented football team and, when you get a No. 1 seed for the postseason, you need to take advantage of it. The Falcons failed in that regard -- for the second time in three seasons.
I don’t think it’s time to panic. This team came within 10 yards of being in the Super Bowl, so it’s not time to gut the roster or make mass changes to the coaching staff.
But it is time to be agitated for a bit. The Falcons made some progress this past season. The playoff victory against Seattle showed this team can win in the postseason.
“It was very, very important to win a playoff game,’’ Dimitroff said. “It was very important for our team. It was very important for our fan base, for our owner and myself and Mike as well. And, yet, it wasn’t where we wanted to stop. We were 10 yards short of being here in this game. We’re proud of what we are as a football team and we believe that we belong in the final four and then some.’’
Stay agitated -- for now. But, as winter turns to spring, Dimitroff and Smith need to cool a bit. They need to reflect on what happened in the NFC Championship Game with some distance.
This is a team that could be on the cusp of something special. Sometime between now and free agency and the NFL draft, Dimitroff and Smith have to figure out the couple of things that will allow the Falcons just to take one more step forward.