The Atlanta Falcons have reached only one of the first 50 Super Bowls.
The closest they came to a second Super Bowl appearance was the 2012 NFL season. A man named Glenn Thomas was an offensive assistant for then-head coach Mike Smith. Yes, Julio Jones will make any offensive staff look good, and yes, Atlanta's offensive line performed well enough to make the whole operation flow smoothly. Nevertheless, Thomas was Matt Ryan's quarterback coach that season, part of a seven-year stint with the Falcons. Ryan enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career. Ryan had firmly established himself as an NFL veteran, but remember:
1) Many NFL quarterbacks need time to fully process and figure out the sport, often attaining mastery only after several seasons in the league. Thomas enabled Ryan to attain a higher level of performance,
2) Ryan -- not helped by the deterioration of his offensive line, and not served by the actions of the Falcons' front office or Jones's health woes -- has declined since Thomas's departure.
This Glenn Thomas fellow might know a thing or six about quarterbacking, and he might know how to make a quarterback comfortable when presiding over an offense as a coordinator.
However, that last part -- coordinating -- is the true question with Thomas.
Not quite 40 years old, Thomas has immersed himself in coaching -- he's a football lifer, unlike some men who started as stockbrokers or law professors or CEOs before meandering to football as abrupt results of career changes. Thomas has been married to football all the way, and that's ample reason for Temple coach Matt Rhule to be confident in his new coordinator heading into this season. (Marcus Satterfield, who was Temple's offensive coordinator last season, took a lower-division head coaching job, leaving a vacancy Rhule filled in-house with Thomas.)
Yet, being an FBS coordinator is something Thomas will try to do for the first time in his career this season. Yes, he's been in a coaching booth for an NFC Championship Game. Yes, he's been a coordinator before, but not since 2007 with Midwestern State, far removed from major college football. Thomas -- if he's going to climb the coaching ladder -- must be able to make the leap from quarterback coach to coordinator at Temple. Quarterback P.J. Walker has said he grew and developed under Thomas last season, but a position coach-quarterback relationship and a coordinator-quarterback relationship are two different entities. Thomas and Walker seem to enjoy a very sound relationship, which is likely to make the project work, but the first year of an FBS coordinator's career is hardly the sort of thing that is guaranteed to succeed.
One element of mystery surrounding Temple's 2016 season -- especially germane to Army, since the Owls open their season against the Black Knights -- is that the team's offense played poorly in both the AAC Championship Game against Houston and the bowl game against Toledo, failing to score 20 points in each instance. Neither defense (Houston or Toledo) could be called particularly stingy, but Temple couldn't find solutions. Temple enjoyed a great 2015 campaign, but the defense carried most of the workload for the team. The offense didn't get in the way of the Owls' progress last year, but it was not the center or source of the team's progress.
Glenn Thomas isn't inheriting a seat of power which lies at the heart of a program's strengths. Thomas must repair what went wrong in December and restore an offense so that Matt Rhule can maintain what he built last year.
Army should study P.J. Walker's habits and mechanics as a quarterback in order to get a read on Thomas. Some Matt Ryan study might help as well. Yet, Glenn Thomas, FBS coordinator, is a new thing this year. Army will have to live with the mystery of the situation... and try to confuse Walker as much as humanly possible in the season opener.