In any organization, it’s critical for its success that everyone within it understands their individual role. Each person has to understand where they fit into the larger puzzle and what is expected of them. That same principal holds true, perhaps even more so, for the Atlanta Falcons.
Retired Navy SEAL Ed Chambers of Acumen Performance Group (APG) was nice enough to share a unique story with me that explains what happens when an organization reaches its full potential and each member of the team believes in a singular goal.
“John F. Kennedy was touring the space center and walking around doing a meet and greet of all the employees,” Chambers explained. He asked a guy in coveralls what his job was at the space center. The man simply replied that he puts men on the moon. Kennedy would learn later at the end of the tour that the man in coveralls was simply the janitor.”
“That’s the Falcons organization right now,” Chambers continued. Everybody’s job in that building is to get the Falcons to the Super bowl, regardless of your role there. That message resonates throughout Flowery Branch (Falcons training facility). Everyone’s role is to put men on the moon in that organization so to speak.”
This is the same Falcons organization that suffered a crushing 34-28 loss to the New England Patriots in last season’s Super Bowl. Most would say they are hung-over from the jaws of defeat. In truth, the Atlanta Falcons aren’t looking back at last season, they are looking up and aiming for the moon.
Acumen Performance Group recently returned from Flowery Branch where they trained the Falcons on further developing the standard they first set prior to last year’s successful season. APG is an elite group of retired Navy SEALs that help organizations reach their highest potential. Ed Chambers, Scott Brauer, Bill Hart, and Nick Hays of APG recently expressed their optimism about the Falcons and this upcoming season to me.
“The Margin for error in the NFL is very thin,” the APG team explained to me. This was a team picked to win just 5 games last year. They came out and dominated what was considered by most to be the best team in the league for 3 plus quarters. They demonstrated that they have that ability. That’s not failure. That’s something to hang your hat on.”
“Looking forward, they are a lot faster,” they continued. They are a lot stronger and tougher. They are going to surprise a lot of people who are writing them off. Not only that, but it gives the Falcons a strategic advantage as well when people don’t see them coming.”
This is a Falcons team that scored 540 points during the 2016 season, the seventh most points in NFL history. They added another 108 points in the playoffs. If the 2017 Falcons are indeed faster, stronger, and both mentally and physically tougher, the media that has constantly bashed the Falcons is in for a big surprise.
Despite coming up just short in Super Bowl LI, the Falcons could be considered one of the winners of the NFL offseason. They are returning almost every starter on both sides of the ball and even upgraded at defensive tackle where they signed Pro Bowler Dontari Poe. In the NFL draft, the team added more speed and grit on defense with pass rusher Takkarist McKinley and linebacker Duke Riley.
The biggest question the Falcons will have to answer is how they can get their new additions to buy into the brotherhood. Scott Brauer explained how the Falcons adapt to these types of changes. “Their ability to push each other and mentor each other has improved since last year.”
“It’s a focused effort to get to know each other. To learn the ins and outs of each other. What does this guy like, what motivates him? When they understand that about each other, the process of working together as a team speeds up.”
The Falcons not only have the unique type of mentorship that comes from the brotherhood, they also have a very deep, young, and talented roster. They have incredible depth throughout the roster. But they also have incredible depth in leadership. Anybody on that team can step up and lead. That comes from the proper mentorship that’s in place. Players such as LaRoy Reynolds, Adrian Clayborn, Taylor Gabriel and Ricardo Allen are outstanding leaders that nobody really talks about.
Allen in particular has become a leader for all of the defensive backs. Late last season, he organized film study sessions to help improve communication on the field. “Ricardo Allen is so talented, Nick Hays explained to me. “Look at the confidence it takes to tackle in the open field like he does. He takes that same confidence when it comes to his mentorship. He identifies strengths of people and invests in them and gives them 100%. That’s what it takes to create that depth and leadership in a team, and that’s what the Falcons have this year.”
“Justin Hardy (Wide Receiver) is one of the toughest guys I’ve met,” Bill Hart told me. “He isn’t afraid to go across the middle and make the toughest catches. The Falcons have the toughest receiving core in the league, hands down.” Anytime a former Navy SEAL tells you how tough someone is, you listen. Hardy is the number four receiver on the Falcons depth chart, but he certainly plays better than a typical fourth receiver. That shows just how deep and talented the 2017 Falcons are.
At training camp, this Falcons team is simply having fun. The brotherhood is stronger than it has ever been. While the talking heads may have already decided what they believe will be the fate of the Falcons 2017 season, the team is ignoring all the chatter and is simply focused on getting 1% better every day.
“They all belong to something bigger than themselves, Nick Hays told me. That’s what the brotherhood has done. That directly relates to our experiences in the SEAL teams. This team has owned the process from day one. It’s amazing to watch.” The Falcons organization has a mission in 2017 that is bigger than any one player or even the team itself. That mission is to put men on the moon. After all, it used to be said that couldn’t be done either.
Written by Josh Schultz in August of 2017
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To learn more about Acumen Performance Group, visit their website.