I’ve got my pitchfork nice and sharp, and even after two of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history, Dan Quinn is still the coach of the Atlanta Falcons. It’s no secret I’m in favor of cleaning house, so this is actually going to be an ongoing series! Keep an eye out for 10 offensive & defensive coordinator candidates coming soon.
Speaking of defensive coordinators, I’ll be focusing on offensive-minded coaches mostly. Excluding the Patriots, the last 3 Super Bowls have featured Andy Reid, Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay, and Doug Pederson. As great as the 2019 Niners defense was, Kyle Shanahan’s creative play-calling got that team out of the basement. Obviously, if there is a new GM (hopefully), he will handpick his own head coach, and the head coach will pick the coordinators. However, this is my fantasy world, and I’m going to have some fun with this.
My Top 5 Choices:
Eric Bieniemy (Offensive Coordinator — Chiefs)
Let’s get the obvious out of the way, shall we?
I’ve been advocating for Bieniemy since LAST season when the team was 1-6, and somehow the current staff kept their jobs. It’s unknown how much of Bieniemy’s success can be credited to Kansas City’s roster and Andy Reid, but Super Bowls aren’t won on accident. Quarterbacks don’t win MVPs on accident either.
Bienemy came to Kansas City in 2013 as a running backs coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator. In 2018, his first season as OC, the Chiefs led the NFL in yards & points while scoring the third-most points in NFL History. Second year QB Patrick Mahomes won MVP and became the second QB since Peyton Manning to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 TDs.
2019 ended with a title for Kansas City, and the offense led the charge the whole way. Regardless of if most of Kansas City’s success results from Andy Reid’s genius, Bieniemy is the best candidate and has learned a thing or two from Big Red. I’m salivating thinking about what he can do with Matt Ryan and these Atlanta weapons. Oh, and he’s not happy with leads in the 4th quarter. The Falcons have desperately needed this type of fire for a long time.
Gary Kubiak (Offensive Coordinator — Vikings)
The Falcons were famously denied interviewing Kubiak before hiring Dirk Koetter, so maybe they want another crack at him. Kubiak kept some pretty terrible offenses afloat in Houston and won a Super Bowl in Denver with minimal help at the quarterback position (thanks, Elway!). With someone like Matt Ryan, Kubiak would be working with the best QB (at the time) he’s ever had. He is undoubtedly the safest pick of the bunch.
Brian Schottenheimer (Offensive Coordinator — Seahawks)
If the Falcons somehow manage to let Bieniemy slip away, Schottenheimer isn’t a bad consolation prize. He and Russell Wilson are quite the pairing, but few guys can give up the opportunity to run their own show — just ask Kyle Shanahan.
Pete Carroll is the head honcho in Seattle, but Schottenheimer has shown he can balance the Seattle offense and let Wilson shine. Matt Ryan doesn’t have near the mobility, and fans may have reservations about another Seattle coach — but Schottenheimer will get his chance soon. He carved up Atlanta’s defense in Week 1, and the Seahawks are in prime position to win the NFC and get back to the Super Bowl.
Nathaniel Hackett (Offensive Coordinator — Packers)
Notice the pattern here? Poaching good offensive coaches from good teams. Don’t worry, this trend will continue. Aaron Rodgers is on a classic revenge tour, and Matt LaFleur has been excellent in his head coaching debut. The Falcons made a grave mistake letting him go with Kyle Shanahan, and they will pay for it in Week 4.
LaFleur is a noted “QB Whisperer,” and the success he had with Matt Ryan can’t be overlooked. Hackett was the offensive coordinator of the Jaguars team that took Blake Bortles to the AFC Championship (and almost won), so he has a solid track record. Hopefully, LaFleur has rubbed off on him. He could be another big name that gets a head coaching job this offseason.
Don Martindale (Defensive Coordinator — Ravens)
Alright, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention at least ONE defensive coordinator. Wink Martindale has been in Baltimore since 2010 and oversaw Ray Lewis & Ed Reed’s twilight years. While Dean Pees was the defensive coordinator until 2017, Martindale was the linebackers coach and has churned out multiple high-level talents at the position.
Since 2012, Martindale has seen Eric Weddle, Marlon Humphrey, CJ Mosley, Marcus Peters, Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Ed Reed go to the Pro Bowl. Some of these guys are legends in their own right. Still, it’s no accident that Brandon Williams (3rd Round Pick), Michael Pierce (UDFA), Matt Judon (5th round pick), and Patrick Onwuasor (UDFA) have flourished in Martindale’s defense. I want an offensive mastermind head coach, but pairing Martindale with an elite offensive coordinator could pay dividends.
May Not Leave but Could Work Out:
Josh McDaniels (Offensive Coordinator — Patriots)
I’m very wary about this pick. McDaniels is obviously a name that’s going to be discussed. He’s almost taken a few head coaching jobs, most notably in 2018, when he backed out of the Colts job the day he was announced as head coach. Besides a stint in Denver as the head man and a year as the Rams offensive coordinator — McDaniels has been a Patriot since 2001. Patriots assistants outside of Mike Vrabel have been pretty hit or miss. McDaniels went 11-17 in Denver, but that was almost ten years ago. Does he have any desire to leave? Who knows. Is he going to be talked about as a head coaching candidate? You bet.
Greg Roman (Offensive Coordinator — Ravens)
Roman isn’t a perfect fit, but he’s worth consideration. Lamar Jackson and Matt Ryan are not similar. However, Roman has had success with the run game, and it’s truly something to admire. Jackson is a very special talent, but Roman has a rich history of coaching and forming his gameplan to his quarterback. He was there for Colin Kaepernick’s best years in San Francisco, and Lamar Jackson was named MVP in 2019. Roman’s a bit suspect, as he’s mostly been working with option QBs, but he’s still running one of the NFL’s top offenses.
Brian Daboll (Offensive Coordinator — Bills)
I’m keeping Daboll and Roman next to each other for the same reason. Josh Allen, like Lamar Jackson, is unlike any other quarterback in this league. Both guys are way more mobile than Matt Ryan, but you have to take note when a guy is running an elite offense. Daboll had his warts as the co-offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2017, but they made it to the National Championship before losing in heartbreaking fashion to Clemson. He’s been really good in Buffalo, and he’s gotten the most out of Josh Allen. The Bills look primed for a deep playoff run, and they’ll get calls about Daboll.
The Wild Cards:
Mike Leach (Head Coach — Mississippi State)
This is about the wildest card you can pull. Mike Leach has brought the Air Raid to Starkville, and so far, he’s proven his offense can transcend any conference. Can it transcend to the NFL? Leach is… unorthodox, to say the least. He’s a character that his players seem to really love (unless you’re Craig James’ son) and consistently gets the most out of his quarterbacks. There would have to be some MAJOR adjustments, but we’ve seen Kliff Kingsbury have success. Leach to Atlanta may not be the most practical choice, but you can bet it would be the most fun.
Lincoln Riley (Head Coach — Oklahoma)
Lincoln Riley is another “QB Whisperer” from the college ranks that the Falcons may be interested in scooping. He’s produced three straight Heisman candidates, but Riley doesn’t come without his issues. Oklahoma has gotten throttled in the playoffs, and good defensive teams have slowed Riley to a halt in those games. However, like with Leach, Kliff Kingsbury is proof that you can make changes and adapt to the NFL (so far). Ryan isn’t the mobile QB that Riley is used to, but his creative schemes should open up lanes for Atlanta’s talented WRs and running backs.