Here's a direct note to the next Falcons head coach. It describes what he must do to get Atlanta -- just a play away from a Super Bowl berth two years ago -- back into contention after two dreadful seasons under Mike Smith.

*We all expect Atlanta to hire Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as the confetti falls -- whether it's mainly neon green or not -- moments after Super Bowl XLIX, so this column was mainly crafted for his eyes.

1. Talk tough: Ask to get GM Thomas Dimitroff, assistant GM Scott Pioli, director of player personnel Lionel Vital and director of college scouting Steve Sabo in a room, and reiterate your mission to add more ruggedness, strength and overall machismo to your new team. Be sure to say "machismo." It's a word not used enough. Super underrated.

As a reminder, the Falcons recently reconstructed their front office, and to be honest, the chain of command isn't crystal clear.

From the club's website:

"As part of the realignment, Assistant General Manager Scott Pioli will take on pro and college scouting and NFL Draft responsibilities, reporting to Dimitroff. Dimitroff will also retain management responsibility for salary cap, player affairs, equipment, sports medicine and performance, and video activities."

"Pioli will be supported by Falcons Director of Player Personnel Lionel Vital, who will assume additional pro scouting responsibilities and play a role in college scouting, and Director of College Scouting Steve Sabo, along with their staffs."

Pioli and Dimitroff go waaayyy back -- like to the "famed" 1995 Cleveland Browns team coached by Bill Belichick -- but there could be some tension between the two given Pioli's expanded responsibilities and Dimitroff's diminished duties ... although Pioli still "reports to" Dimitroff.

Anyway, as constantly noted last year on HBO's Hard Knocks, Atlanta needs to shake its "soft" reputation.

Dan Quinn's Seahawks defense is known for its ruggedness. (USATSI)
Dan Quinn's Seahawks defense is known for its ruggedness. (USATSI)

Regardless of the offensive talent on hand, an NFL team that routinely can't match its opponents' physical nature is going to lose more games than it wins. It's that simple. Heck, the Seahawks are almost always the more physical team, and they're 20-7 since the start of 2013 and are playing in their second straight Super Bowl.

Which brings me to my next point ...

2. Start at the front: When chatting with Dimitroff, Pioli, Vital and Sabo, reiterate your desire for bolstered offensive and defensive fronts. In all likelihood, that need was a point of emphasis during your interview, but it needs to be priority No. 1 for the entire 2015 calendar year.

Look, you're in an atypical but luxurious situation. The majority of head coaches take jobs on teams without any semblance of a viable starting quarterback. You have Matt Ryan, a soon-to-be 30-year-old signal-caller who has thrown for over 4,500 yards and completed more than 66 percent of his passes in three consecutive seasons. His career passer rating is 91.1. Yeah, 91.1. From the most-important-position perspective, you've got it pretty darn good, man.

But as evidenced by the 2013 and '14 campaigns, the Falcons won't be an NFC powerhouse if they get whipped in the trenches on offense and defense.

Let me explain how bad it has been on Atlanta's offensive line in the two years following the crushing defeat in the NFC title game.

Pro Football Focus gave your club a cumulative pass-blocking grade of -54.1 in 2013, the third-worst in football. The run-blocking was better but still in the negatives and just slightly above the bottom fourth of the league.

In 2014, the pass-blocking grade jumped to -18.2, but the run-blocking regressed to a score of -40.8.

Also, only the Colts and Vikings allowed more quarterback pressures than the 200 the Falcons' offensive line surrendered last year.

The defensive line hasn't been exactly scary either. While your club allowed a respectable 4.2 yards per carry in 2014, it also gave up 8.2 yards per passing attempt, the highest average among all 32 secondaries.

You have Desmond Trufant, a young, stingy cornerback with some Richard Sherman in him, but if the pass-rush continues to be as anemic as it has been in his first two years, he'll be left out to dry too often.

In 2013, your Falcons finished with 32 sacks as a defense, the fourth-lowest number in the NFL. This past season, they finished with a unintimidating sack total of just 22.


Therefore, whether it be in the draft, free agency or via trades, you must get more powerful up front. Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora can't be your featured edge rushers anymore, especially playing in the NFC with gun-slingers like Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford. Oh yeah, and Russell Wilson.

Jake Matthews -- who's skilled but needs to take a step as an NFL sophomore -- and Justin Blalock formulate a fine tandem on the left side of your offensive line. And the raw but super-talented Ra'Shede Hageman, a 2014 second-round pick, can be a defensive-line anchor.

But, without question, major talent injections have to be made on both lines. On defense, your linebacking corps could use an overhaul, too. Great defenses have stud linebackers. Bad defenses do not.

Bookmark PFF's free-agent tracker on your work and personal laptop. A handful of solid offensive and defensive line contributors will be available come March 10, and there's always a collection of impactful linemen in the early rounds of the draft.

Remember, you're playing in a division that just had its first repeat champion --  the Panthers -- since the four-team group was created in 2002. As a member of the NFC South, you're never too far away from a home playoff game.

3. Buddy up with Julio Jones: He's a downright stud who, in respect to national publicity, has sort of drifted into the shadows during the past two "dark" years in Atlanta. In the 20 games he has played since Week 1 of 2013, the former Alabama star has averaged 7.25 receptions and 108.65 yards per game. Bonkers.

He's fresh off one of the most unheralded seasons of 100-plus grabs and 1,500-plus receiving yards in league history.

Dimitroff and Co. intelligently picked up Jones' fifth-year option, which means he's essentially playing on a one-year, $10.176 million contract in 2015.

In terms of size, speed and the intimidating physical prowess you want your entire team to embody, Jones has it all.

You, as the head coach, can't promise anything, but remind him you'll do everything in your power to push for an extension for him in the decision-making meetings upstairs. With Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas, your head-coaching career will begin with one of the league's premier pass-catching trios.

Julio Jones is the full package when it comes to a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. (USATSI)
Julio Jones is the full package when it comes to a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. (USATSI)

And, yeah, you want Jones around for as long as possible.

You've probably noticed this letter didn't include many specific, quantifiable things that need to be done.

(Well, I forgot to mention that you should probably part ways with veteran running back Steven Jackson, who's not much more than a big body at this stage of his illustrious career and will represent a $5 million cap hit this season.)

That's because the Falcons have the franchise quarterback and No. 1 receiver 75 percent of the NFL is desperate to find. Because of that, you're instantly ahead of just about every new head coach.

Wholesale improvements on the offensive and defensive fronts coupled with a "culture change" to a nastier, stronger and more aggressive -- yes, the term "culture change" is cliché, but in your case, it's needed and something that can be brought upon by you -- will significantly help to reinvigorate the Falcons franchise.