Atlanta may be the 90’s Cowboys reincarnated
Okay, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin may not like to hear me say this, but I think they have been replicated by the Atlanta Falcons. Yes, that’s right. That 90’s Dallas Cowboys dynasty that won 3 out of 4 Super Bowls and had one of the most memorable offensive trios in the history of the NFL, has had their secret sauce stolen by Atlanta Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff.
Matt Ryan reminds many NFL minds of a young Troy Aikman, only without the putrid start that Aikman had in his first season as quarterback for the Cowboys. Like Aikman, Ryan does not wow us with his numbers, nor does he appear to have a knack for putting on the cape like a John Elway or Brett Favre, but he does win games. And he wins a lot of them. Like an elite NBA point guard, Ryan uses the talent around him to make the Falcons offense as efficient as possible. That means you don’t always see Ryan airing it out downfield, forcing the ball in between defenders or scrambling for his life before making an electrifying throw for a first down. No, that’s not his game, and it wasn’t Aikman’s game either. Ryan just takes what the defense gives him, and thanks to players such as Michael Turner, defenses have to give him a whole lot.
Who knows if Michael Turner will have the longevity that Emmitt Smith did, but he does have Smiths’ skill set. You couldn’t arm tackle Emmitt Smith, because he always used that off-arm to shrug defenders hands off of him—Turner uses a similar strategy between the tackles. Emmitt always ran with his butt very low to the ground, and Turner does the same. Neither running back has used incredible speed to make plays by turning the corner of the defense, but they both have deceptively quick feet that have made defenders hesitate before attempting to tackle them. The only real difference between Smith of the 90’s and Turner of today, is that Turner is a little bit more of a power back, while Smith was a bit smoother with his approach to the line of scrimmage. However, put both backs on the 1-yard line with the football, and the results are usually the same, as each of these guys has found it quite easy to punch the football into the end zone when near the goal line.
Of course, running the football in any situation is made a lot easier when you have a guy like Roddy White on the outside. White may not run his mouth as much as the former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver and Hall of Famer did back in his day, but he sure does produce like him. Despite numbers that cannot be denied, Roddy White does not get the respect he deserves. Sure, experts and fantasy football players know who he is, but ask the casual fan who the best wide receiver in the NFC is, and you will hear names like Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings and even Miles Austin before they get to Roddy White, who just happens to lead conference in receptions (by 22 catches) and yards (by 116 yards), and that’s before he has played his Week 16 game. White’s knack for exposing cornerbacks on sideline routes, as well as making himself available on third down, has been uncanny over the last three seasons. Furthermore, there’s no doubt that White’s ability to draw coverage in his direction makes it hard for defenses to stack up against Michael Turner in the rushing game. And while White may not be as outspoken or flamboyant as Michael Irvin was, Roddy’s recent Twitter beef with the New Orleans Saints may have been the start of a Hall of Fame campaign.
The similarities between this Atlanta Falcons team and the Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s go beyond the big three at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.
Tony Gonzalez may be aging, but his production at tight end is still more than comparable to the Cowboys playmaking tight end of the 90’s, Jay Novacek.
Also, Ovie Mughelli, the Falcons power-blocking fullback, has a build that reminds many people of Darryl Johnston, Emmitt’s lead blocker for years.
And up front, the Falcons offensive line is one of the biggest forces in the league, especially on the right side, where Harry Dahl and Tyson Clabo combine for over 630 pounds of mass. Sure, the power-side of the ball for the Cowboys was always on the left, but those of us who remember some of the on-field (and off-field) exploits of those Dallas squads know that not everything that went down in Dallas was exemplary of the right way to do things.