A little over two months ago, the Atlanta Falcons were heading into a short week with a 5-0 record, preparing to take on their division rival New Orleans Saints. The offense was hitting on all cylinders, averaging 32.4 points per game, and the new offensive schemes that Kyle Shanahan brought to Atlanta seemed to be working to perfection. Julio Jones was on pace for a record breaking season, and Devonta Freeman was leading the league in rushing touchdowns and looked unstoppable. The defense, while still suspect, was undoubtedly improved and Dan Quinn looked to be the leading candidate for the Coach of the Year award.
Oh, how things have changed.
Atlanta lost that Thursday night game in New Orleans. Numerous mistakes and a crucial special teams mishap saw the Falcons leave New Orleans with their first loss of the season. Atlanta bounced back (sort of) with an ugly 10-7 win over the Tennesee Titans, but since have failed to record another victory. The Falcons have lost their last 6 games in terrible fashion and watched their playoff hopes diminish in the process. Turnovers, penalties and just flat out boneheaded mistakes turned a very promising looking season into an embarrassment.
Surprisingly though, it was not the Atlanta defense that let the team down, it was the offense. The same offense that averaged over 30 points through the first five weeks of the season has completely disappeared in the second half of the season. The Falcons offense is averaging just over 13 points over the last seven weeks, as Matt Ryan has performed about as poorly as any quarterback in the NFL. Kyle Shanahan’s dinks and dunks seem to have run out of luck, and while the whole offense has talked about making adjustments week by week, it does not seem like any are being made.
Since week 7, Ryan had more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (9). He is in the midst of the worst season of his career, and while many are quick to jump on the back of the quarterback, the system Kyle Shanahan has put him in has done nothing to help. Atlanta has run very little of the no-huddle offense, a style that has suited Ryan well over the majority of the career, and has heavily relied on the play calling of Kyle Shanahan, which has been dismal. It is clear after this season, one of these two has to go, and my money says it is not Matt Ryan.
The defense has performed valiantly for the majority of the season, and could be even better if the offense could stay on the field. They have consistently been one of the best teams against the run, and the new acquisitions have turned out well. However, Atlanta has failed to get any pressure on opposing QBs. The Falcons rank dead last in sacks with just 15 and that will surely be the top priority heading into the offseason.
It has no doubt been a strange first season under head coach Dan Quinn. The Falcons have looked completely pathetic down the stretch of this season, and there is now doubt Quinn deserves some of the blame for that. Even though there were not very high expectations for the Falcons this season, it would be foolish to call Quinn’s first head coaching season a success. Quinn is a great defensive coach, and this team certainly made strides on that side of the ball, but Atlanta also clearly regressed offensively under Kyle Shanahan. If Quinn and the Falcons want to be successful in the future, Kyle Shanahan has to go.