Overreaction Tuesday: 2021 Head Coach and General Manager Candidates

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The performance against Seattle last Sunday has Dan Quinn “mad as hell.” Unfortunately, we have seen this facade before. Quinn has reacted the same way multiple times over the last few years in response to his team’s abysmal performance.

The overreaction is that this team is still comprised of a potent offense and a newly found pass rush. The Falcons could get back on track just as easily with a convincing win in Dallas this Sunday. However, I believe that not enough has changed. Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff will experience their last year in Atlanta in a similar fashion as the previous two, 7-9.

If the Falcons do not make the playoffs this year, Arthur Blank will have no choice but to clean house. The pressure of possibly wasting away the final good years of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones should be enough of a push to bring in a new head coach and general manager. 

The GM will have to be capable of creating value from cheap talent to get this team underneath the salary cap for 2021. The head coach could be defensive or offensive-minded. But if he’s a defensive coach, he will have to bring in an offensive coordinator capable of drawing the best out of Ryan and Julio Jones.

Most NFL teams will follow the traditional general manager hire before a head coach. There is no telling what Arthur Blank might do, but my hunch is he will ignore that advice and select “his” guy as the head coach, then choose a GM he can work with.

 

2021 General Manager Candidates

 

Indianapolis Colts, Assistant GM: Ed Dodds

Ed Dodds will be the hottest commodity for teams searching for a new GM following the 2020 season. Chris Ballard, the current Colts GM, brought Dodds over from Seattle, where he was vital in the Seahawks championship runs. Dodds is responsible for drafting Russell Wilson and piecing together the Legion of Boom. 

He improved his already impressive resumé by selecting two All-pros in Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard for Indianapolis in 2018. Considered to be one of the NFL’s best evaluators, Dodds would provide an immediate improvement over the current scouting department. 

 

Kansas City Chiefs, Director of Football Operations: Mike Borgonzi

Mike Borgonzi has a reputation for being thorough and bringing a hands-on approach to evaluating. He could be the next scout turned GM in Kansas City, who long has had a solid reputation for turning executives into GMs. 

It has been reported that Borognzi enjoys the process of scouting, making frequent on-campus visits regardless of being an executive. He should be given partial credit for drafting Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones, Travis Kelce, Eric Fisher, Dee Ford, Marcus Peters, Kareem Hunt, Juan Thornhill, and now what seems to be another bullseye in Clyde Edwards-Helaire. All of that has led to six promotions within the Chiefs organization. With both candidates thus far, the Falcons would have a better chance of replacing expensive veteran contracts with cheap rookie ones, while not sacrificing too much talent.

 

ESPN Analyst: Louis Riddick

Quick, let us play a little game: which one is not like the others? Louis Riddick is a lead analyst at ESPN but has just as much experience as any potential candidate this year. He played in the NFL from 1991-1998, but as an executive, he has even more experience.

Riddick was with the Redskins from 2001-2007, where he started as a pro scout before being promoted to director of personnel. Following that stint, Riddick worked for the Eagles as a pro scout in 2008 until being promoted to assistant director of personnel in 2009. He finished his time in Philadelphia as the director of pro personnel from 2010-2013. 

After the Raiders pulled Mike Mayock from the NFL Network, it is not as radical to hire TV analysts as it used to be. From 2010 to 2013, Riddick heavily contributed in drafting Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Dion Lewis, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Nick Foles, Lane Johnson, and Zach Ertz — almost all of whom helped lead the team to a Super Bowl victory. He is known on ESPN to speak his mind even if it is an unpopular opinion. The Falcons could use a leader like Riddick, who is zero-tolerance and hard-nosed.

 

2021 Head Coaching Candidates

 

Kansas City Chiefs, Offensive Coordinator: Eric Bieniemy

I am Bieniemy’s biggest advocate. He was absolutely snubbed last year for a head coaching job and is the league’s best offensive coordinator. 

Being the right hand to someone as offensively proficient as Andy Reid has its downside. After interviewing in back-to-back coaching cycles, he returned both times to Kansas City for reasons unknown. Maybe teams feel Bieniemy’s success is more due to the talented roster and Andy Reid. Although Reid speaks highly of his OC, Bieniemy might have to prove himself at the collegiate level before getting his chance in the NFL. 

To me, that particular thought is ludicrous, especially after the Giants hired Joe Judge! Bieniemy absolutely deserves a shot, and Atlanta is a perfect fit. His offensive background would mesh perfectly with the Falcons roster. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, and Hayden Hurst are the poor-mans version of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Bieniemy is creative enough to reinvigorate what was once one of the best offenses in football.

 

San Francisco 49ers, Defensive Coordinator: Robert Saleh

Saleh might be the best leader of men in the coaching carousel this year. “All gas, No brakes” was a slogan he used as a motivating tool for the 49ers Super Bowl run a year ago, and his defense was the second-best in football.

Saleh perfected the cover three scheme he learned in Seattle by modifying to rival evolving offenses. His defense finished in the top six in yards allowed and turnovers. However, the talented personnel he was afforded is a possible drawback on his otherwise impressive resumé. 

The Falcons defense has good enough players for Saleh to transition the group into a standout unit, but his control over the defense would leave a vacancy on offense. It would be a tough, early decision for Saleh, but I believe his leadership and intensity are enough to turn the Falcons situation around. 

 

New England Patriots, Offensive coordinator: Josh McDaniels

The hype will surround Brian Dobell (Buffalo Bills) and Greg Roman (Baltimore Ravens) for their part in the development of two young quarterbacks (Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson). Still, I believe the fit with Josh McDaniels better suits Atlanta’s roster. 

Matt Ryan is already an established quarterback who needs a better offensive system than Dirk Koetter’s. With McDaniels, the New England offense has been top-five in scoring since 2012, except for one year when they were seventh. McDaniels backed out of the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job, leaving many in charge questioning his motives. Is he waiting for the right situation? Would he rather be a coordinator in New England? McDaniels could burn the Falcons, but his experience would prove valuable in resurrecting this offense.

More than likely, Atlanta will do something in between like keeping Dimitroff and firing Quinn unless something dramatic changes Arthur Blank’s mind. The Falcons owner will be the final voice, which is an unpredictable one at that. To me, the best situation would be hiring Ed Dodds and giving him majority control over the head coaching decision. Dodds will revitalize whichever franchise he lands with.

Photo: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

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