No part of me has ever been a Dan Quinn hater. He made his fair share of mistakes in his first couple of seasons as a head coach – most notably – blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl, but the good far outweighed the bad early in his regime.
He drafted talented defensive stars that turned the entire unit around, peaking in 2017 when they were a top-ten defense in the league. That was unheard of in the Mike Smith era. Quinn took a gamble and hired Kyle Shanahan as his first OC, who did not have a prolific track record before coming to Atlanta, leading to one of the most outrageous offensive juggernauts in NFL history. And believe it or not, he established a winning culture that did not exist before his arrival. But like 100% of coaches not named Bill Belichick, eventually, messages become saturated, and they are no longer getting through to the players. That’s what is happening with Dan Quinn, and it is just a matter of time before he is fired.
Hiring Steve Sarkisian was a substantial downgrade, but there are very few, if any, that could have come close to replicating Kyle Shanahan’s production. In hindsight, it’s become obvious that Sarkisian was more of a scapegoat for the offense’s issues rather than the problem itself. The second reign of Dirk Koetter in Atlanta has been cringeworthy. The offense moves the ball at times, but there is no rhythm, and I have no idea what they are thinking once they cross the 50-yard line. Despite all the weapons Atlanta has, they can’t figure out how to score 20 points a week, and they’ve yet to play the 1985 Bears. It’s almost unfathomable, but I wouldn’t even call it one of the primary reasons Dan Quinn will be on the shelf by season’s end.
Firing Marquand Manuel was the one decision the Falcons made this past offseason that caused me to take a step back. Under his watch – in his first season ever as a DC – Atlanta put together one of the best defenses they have had in recent memory (2017). The following year, we all remember how quickly the Falcons’ entire defensive core went down with injuries. Before the first week had even ended, Manuel lost his two best players to IR, and that was only the beginning. Ricardo Allen tore his Achilles a couple of weeks later, Takk McKinley missed games, and so did Grady Jarrett along with others. While the defense was pitiful in 2018, Manuel had plenty of excuses and a track record – albeit a short one – of success. However, Quinn – a highly touted defensive coach – wanted to put the pressure on himself, which for a coach on the hot seat, is something you have to respect. But so far, it has been an utter failure.
Much to the happiness of the fans, Quinn stepped in as DC and did make plenty of changes. The base defense is no longer the same, and the Falcons play a ton of five-man fronts with two linebackers, along with several other tweaks. Unfortunately, even worse results have followed those alterations, and Quinn doesn’t have the excuse of half of his defense missing like Manuel did last year. Quinn also doesn’t have anybody to blame but himself.
The Falcons lack identity as a whole, but their defense is recognizable around the league – for being predictable and easy to navigate. Here are just a couple of things some opponents and former Falcons have said regarding the defensive scheme.
The scheme! The whole league no how to attack Atlanta defense. #softzone https://t.co/I4aslATrcs
— Ron Parker (@ghost_0836) October 7, 2019
Texans WR Keke Coutee on Falcons' defense: 'We knew they were a pretty basic defense that wasn’t going to do too much. They were going to keep running the same thing over and over. Once we kind of found out their kinks they had, we just started capitalizing on our opportunities'
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) October 6, 2019
Those are some extremely embarrassing comments to hear as a defensive coordinator, but if you watch the games, how can you not agree? The Falcons sit back and play soft off the ball on almost every play. They are rarely aggressive and don’t blitz nearly enough. There is no creativity in this scheme, and that all falls at the feet of Quinn. The Falcons now have the league’s 31st ranked defense, allowing 30.2 points per game and only seem to be worsening as the season progresses.
Unsurprisingly, with a struggling offense that lacks rhythm and an unbelievably predictable defense, the players have lost faith, along with the fans. There is nobody in that locker room that genuinely believes they are just one or two small tweaks away from turning this thing around, and I can’t wait to see MBS for the next home game against the Rams.
Two words: Ghost Town.
It’s an embarrassing moment in the franchises’ history, and the question is no longer “if” Dan Quinn will be fired; it’s “when?”
If I had to guess, it will happen at the end of the year for two simple reasons. The first is Quinn has been a class act representing the organization. He’s also done some superb things as a head coach that only one other coach in franchise history has been able to accomplish (reaching the Super Bowl). He deserves to be fired but not made a point of, especially when there are no better options to turn to at this point, which brings me to my second reason.
If the Falcons were to fire Quinn in the middle of the season, they would have to promote one of their assistants to take over, and none of them are deserving. Dirk Koetter is the most obvious candidate, and I don’t even want him calling the offense any longer. Spiting Quinn in favor of Koetter wouldn’t make any sense. So with that being the case, the Falcons don’t have any other choice but to ride this out to the end of the season and then make the necessary decision to part ways with Seargent Slogan.