The Atlanta Falcons begin training camp on July 26 as they prepare for the 2012 NFL, but there is already conversation about how their playoff success, or failures, is how the team will be graded. The Falcons have made the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, but so far are 0-3 in those games.
Those teams the Falcons lost to were the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals. All three teams went to the Super Bowl with the Packers and Giants both winning, so the criticism might be a bit harsh toward the Falcons postseason success.
Head coach Mike Smith knows that how his team fares in the playoffs will be how his team will be graded:
"I think [the playoffs] is how everybody measures themselves," he said. "We didn't talk about expectations in the first year. We talked about milestones. One of them we wanted to reach was to participate in the second season. Where we are now and how we've developed in our first four years, we're going to judged on the playoffs."
When asked if he has picked up on something that the team has been missing in the postseason, Smith said: "It's been a group effort. We haven't played well in all three phases. We've turned the ball over. We haven't protected well. We've given up big plays. We haven't coached well. We made some coaching decisions that, when we took a second look at it, didn't turn out well."