White’s Departure Signals New Falcons Era

When the Atlanta Falcons parted ways with pro bowl wide receiver Roddy White last week, it left defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux as the sole remaining member of the franchise’s 2005 draft class and roster.

White, the 27th overall pick in the first round out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, started 8 games in his rookie season for the 8-8 Falcons. In addition to White and Babineaux, the Falcons drafted Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo linebacker Jordan Beck, Florida State defensive end Chauncey Davis, Southern Miss linebacker Michael Boley, Tennessee Tech offensive tackle Frank Omiyale, Michigan State running back DeAndra Cobb, and South Carolina defensive tackle Darrell Shropshire.

Cobb was the first casualty after seeing action in only three games and garnering zero stats. The former Spartan latched on with the Jacksonville Jaguars but was released a few weeks before the season ended.

Shropshire, Omiyale, and Beck were shown the door after the 2006 season. Beck, a third-round pick, hung around the league for another season with Denver, while Shropshire, the seventh rounder, played his next series of downs in the Arena Football League. Fifth round draft pick, Omiyale, played ten more seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, and finally with the Seattle Seahawks. His final game with the Seahawks was a 30-28 playoff loss to the team that drafted him.

Two years later, Atlanta sent Michael Boley packing. It is fairly well known that the Falcons don’t tolerate drama. In 2008, Boley was charged but not convicted of domestic violence against his wife. He signed with the New York Giants in 2009 and was a member of the 2011 Super Bowl team. In 2013, three days after being released by the Giants, the troubled linebacker entered a plea agreement for child abuse for charges stemming from a 2011 complaint filed by his wife in Alabama. Boley played his final season in unspectacular fashion starting only one game for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013.

Fourth-rounder Chauncey Davis lasted through six training camps before getting the ax in 2011. Davis was caught up in the numbers game (too many players – not enough money) and let go in favor of newly signed free agent Ray Edwards. The highly touted former Minnesota Vikings defensive end didn’t finish out the season.

White leaves with a few franchise records under his belt that includes receiving yards (10, 863) and touchdown receptions (63). He also leaves after drawing attention to himself on two occasions. White drew both frowns and applause after revealing a “Free Mike Vick” shirt during a post-touchdown celebration in a game against the New Orleans Saints on December 10, 2007. This year it was Falcons fans wearing “Free Roddy” shirts in reference to the criticism of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s exclusion of the wide receiver from the offensive plays.

While the team denies White’s release was connected to the wide receiver speaking out about Shanahan, one can’t help but look back at the coordinator’s history. Donovan McNabb criticized Shanahan after being benched due to “stamina-related” performance in the final two minutes of a game. Remember he was benched for Rex Grossman…Rex ‘I can’t believe he’s that bad’ Grossman. McNabb’s benching made about as much sense as the Falcons offense not taking advantage of White’s talents, especially considering the Falcons lost 4 games by fewer than 5 points.

CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora wrote an article concerning Shanahan’s final season with the Redskins and controversy with quarterback Robert Griffin III that was positively telling. Quotes like “As a former member of the organization put it: “Kyle bitches about everything, and then his father has to fix it. He bitches about the food in the cafeteria, he bitches about the field, he bitches about the equipment. He complains and then Mike takes care of it. Kyle is a big problem there. He is not well liked” makes one wonder why the coordinator has been so highly sought after. RGIII has continued to struggle and is believed, by many, to be on his way out of Washington. Whatever the case when the Falcons hold mini-camp after the draft Shanahan will still be a member of the coaching staff and White will be on another team or contemplating life after football.

Is this business with Shanahan a trend or merely a coincidence?

Roddy over the years