Week 17 has come to a close and Atlanta finished out on a three game win streak. Atlanta finds themselves with the 14th overall pick in the draft this April. Dan Quinn had told the media his plan to re-evaluate his coaching staff over the off-season. That evaluation came quickly as Steve Sarkisian, Offensive Coordinator, Marquand Manuel, Defensive Coordinator, and Special Teams Coach Keith Armstrong were all relieved of their duties about 24 hours after the Falcons won in Tampa.
This season has been a confusing one. Atlanta closed at 7-9, just two games away from a wildcard playoff game. Obviously, Atlanta’s season was crippled with injuries to ultra important players like Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, and Devonta Freeman. However, finishing the season 7-9 and just two games out of the playoffs goes to show just how talented this roster still is.
Dan Quinn is still the great Head Coach Atlanta has come to know and he has valid reason to fire this trio of staff members. Quinn expects this team to compete into January every season, regardless of how injury plagued the team is. These coaches were all exposed at certain points throughout the season.
Defensively, Atlanta gave up 26.4 points per game. Dan Quinn, who is known for his success in Seattle as the Defensive Coordinator for the Legion of Boom who led the league twice in Opponent’s Points Per Game, does not see 26.4 PPG as acceptable. That certainly has to do with Manuel being relieved of the Defensive Coordinator job. With this, Dan Quinn has decided to take on the role as defensive coordinator for next season.
DQ taking over the defense is exciting. It should be great to see what he does with play maker Damontae Kazee next season with both Allen and Neal back. Regardless, Quinn will find a way to make this talented defensive roster get back to their fast and physical play. There is no doubt that this defense will get better next season, especially with the expectations to take a defensive lineman early on in the draft.
My optimism for Atlanta’s offense next season with the firing of Steve Sarkisian is not the same. Sarkisian has shown great progress this season. Last year, Sark was in trouble, struggling in the red zone specifically. This season, despite week one’s debacle, Sarkisian showed great improvement in scoring as Atlanta returned to be a top 10 offense.
With Sarkisian being fired, Matt Ryan will have his 5th offensive coordinator in 12 years. This will be the first time an OC has been terminated rather than leaving for a head coaching job. Sarkisian being fired may not be the right decision after all.
In each of the past two experiences with new offensive coordinators, Ryan has had career lows in touchdown totals, besides his rookie season. Matt Ryan is entering his 12th season and is playing some of his best football clearly. This season’s stats are almost identical to his MVP Campaign in 2016. I am not excited to see a year in Matt Ryan’s prime possibly wasted by the development of a new connection with a new coordinator.
Quinn has chosen not to enter a third season with Sarkisian controlling the offense, and has opted to gain new leadership on the offensive side. I am sure whomever it is, will have success with this loaded offensive roster. I am just worried about how long it will take for this offense to return to the league’s top tier. For an offense to move at full force, there needs to be comfort in attempting all plays in the book. No Atlanta fan wants to see a basic offense come out Week 1 in 2019.
As of whom, the Falcons choose to hire at Offensive Coordinator is almost a toss up at the moment. Darrell Bevell seems to be an option as Atlanta has already made contact with him for an interview. He previously coached in Seattle with Quinn, so the connection and trust is there. However, it should be interesting to see if Atlanta gives Dirk Koetter a call.
Koetter was just fired in Tampa Bay, and during his time in Tampa their offense has struggled with an identity. Tampa’s offense never had any problem putting up points. I would like to see Atlanta give him a call, simply because it could be a quick turnover for Ryan not having to relearn an offense.
Gary Kubiak has also been linked to possibly getting the job
Dan Quinn has a lot of decisions to make in this off-season. However, the offensive coordinator decision is most definitely the most important and will be made a top priority. Atlanta should be excited to hear some news hopefully quickly.