Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, broke some not-so-surprising news regarding the Falcons possibly cleaning house once the season is over. He confirmed- as Arthur Blank has reiterated- that both Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff are expected to be retained, but the same cannot be said for the rest of the coaching staff. Pelissro said there is a “strong possibility” that the Falcons part ways with both of their coordinators.
Steve Sarkisian took over the offense last year after Kyle Shanahan accepted the San Francisco 49ers head coaching job. Following the man who had just put together one of the best offenses in league history was not the easiest task for an offensive coordinator with limited NFL experience, and Sark never seemed to find his footing.
The offense faded to 15th in points per game in 2017, dropping nearly 12 points from their 2016 average of 33.8. They were still top 10 in terms of yards per game, but the red-zone offense was a puzzle he could never figure out.
Outside of a poor opening game, those same struggles seem to have passed in Sarkisian’s second season. Atlanta scored 11 straight touchdowns in the red-zone from weeks two through four. His seat cooled tremendously, but with the Falcons losing four of their first five games, somebody was going to have to take the blame if things did not turn around.
Of course, they never did, and Sark’s success was short-lived. As the Falcons playoff hopes were treading water, the offense hit a major speed bump from weeks ten through fourteen. A discombobulated effort resulted in a double-digit loss to the Browns. The next four weeks followed a similar pattern, failing to eclipse the 20-point mark and dropping all four games.
While not all of the blame lies on the shoulders of Sarkisian, his underwhelming results to go along with the failures of the team as a whole were never a promising sign for his future. With the Falcons coming into the season with Super Bowl aspirations, it seems highly unlikely the team will retain him.
Several names will be floated around for the Falcons new offensive coordinator position, and it should be a job envied around the league. There are many offensive minds out there that would love to have the opportunity to coach an offense that includes an MVP-caliber quarterback and a bevy of elite weapons surrounding him.
One name Pelissero mentions as a possible replacement is former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Quinn and Bevell know each other well from their days in Seattle. Pelissero also states, “I’m told, (Bevell) was actually in the building in Atlanta this past spring doing some work with the coaching staff. He stayed in close touch with Dan Quinn, knows the type of offense they want to run…”
On the other side, Marquand Manuel is a slightly different story. He came over from Seattle with Quinn to take over as the Falcons secondary coach in 2015 before being promoted to the defensive coordinator role in 2017.
In his first season as DC, the defense underwent tremendous strides especially as they entered the playoffs. By the time the season was over, this was more of a defensive team than it was an offensive one. Nobody would have predicted that prior to the 2017 season.
With a young core intact, and basically the entire defense returning, 2018 was supposed to be a breakout year for this bunch. However, injuries never allowed that to happen. In total, four defensive players hit IR, including two of their three Pro-Bowlers, Keanu Neal and Deion Jones, who went down in week one. Two other starters, Takk McKinley and Grady Jarrett, also missed multiple games.
As a result, the Falcons are currently ranked 24th in total defense and 29th in points allowed per game. There are still some areas of concern outside of the injuries like the decline in effective cornerback play, lack of development among the pass rushers, and overall failure to make adjustments. With that being said, it would be a tough break for Manuel to lose his job after a year where half his defense wasn’t available.
If Manuel is indeed let go of, it shows there must have been some disconnect between Quinn and the way Manuel was running things. After all, Quinn is a defensive guy and has his hands all over that defense.
The Falcons are coming off their most disappointing campaign in recent history. Given that, Quinn enters 2019 with his seat as hot as ever. Whoever, he chooses to be his coordinators for next season, he is trusting with his job.