I’ve thought about this often, but there were a number of reasons everything clicked for the Falcons in 2016. The talent on the roster was elite; although, it was far from the most talented roster of all time. The offense was incredible, but the defense left a lot to be desired, which showed in the second half of the Super Bowl. However, the coaching staff might have been one of the best groups ever assembled.
The 2016 #Falcons coaching staff
HC: Dan Quinn
AHC: Raheem Morris
OC: Kyle Shanahan
QBs: Matt LaFluer
Off. Assistant: Mike LaFluer
Off. Assistant: Mike McDaniel
LBs: Jeff Ulbrich
Pretty crazy how many future HC's & future coordinators were all coaching together that year. pic.twitter.com/FyyenYFa2E
— Miles Garrett (@MilesGarrettTV) January 19, 2023
Dan Quinn was eventually relieved of his duties, but he was far from a bad head coach; it was just next to impossible for the same group to recover from what happened in the Super Bowl. The ghosts from that moment still haunt the franchise today, but not Quinn, who has moved on happily as the Cowboys defensive coordinator and will likely be named a head coach again this offseason.
Kyle Shanahan was the brains behind the Falcons’ historic offense, and in hindsight, the team probably should have just fired Quinn and named him the head coach. It would have been unprecedented, but Shanahan has proven to be, in my opinion, the best offensive mind and arguably the best head coach in football. It doesn’t matter who is under center for the 49ers, they thrive. That’s a testament to the creativity of Shanahan’s offense, something that was a staple of the Falcons back in 2016.
Quinn and Shanahan are only the beginning, though. Quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur went on to become the offensive coordinator for the Rams in 2017 before becoming a head coach in Green Bay, where he owns a 47-19 regular season record.
Mike McDaniel followed Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco, where he was the run game coordinator for four seasons before being named the offensive coordinator. After just one year as the OC for the 49ers, he was named the head coach of the Dolphins and made the playoffs in his first season.
Mike LaFleur also followed Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco, serving in different offensive assistant roles before he was named the offensive coordinator for the Jets in 2021. New York’s offense has been anemic for the most part since he took over, but a lot of the blame lies on the shoulders of Zach Wilson. LaFleur is highly respected around the league, and I expect him to eventually be a head coach as well.
Raheem Morris was the assistant head coach, passing game coordinator, and wide receivers coach in 2016. He actually became Atlanta’s defensive coordinator in 2020 before taking over as the interim head coach when Quinn was fired. After the Falcons hired Arthur Smith as their next head coach, Morris became the defensive coordinator for the Rams and helped them to a Super Bowl. He is now one of several coaches interviewing for head coaching opportunities, and he’s one of the more deserving candidates. Even if he doesn’t get the chance this hiring cycle, being a head coach again is somewhere in Morris’ future.
Last but not least, we have Jeff Ulbrich, who is also a member of the Jets. He took over as their defensive coordinator in 2021 and has already turned the Jets into one of the league’s premier defenses. With the way the league is trending, flashy offensive coaches are going to get the first opportunities at head coaching gigs, but New York’s defense is legit, and they feature a ton of young talented pieces. If Ulbrich can keep this group hungry, he may eventually get a head coaching job as well.
A lot of the success of these coaches can be pointed to the Shanahan coaching tree. Mike Shanahan taught Kyle Shanahan, who brought guys like Matt LaFleur, Mike LaFleur, and Mike McDaniel under his wing, but the defensive coaches were no slouches either. Dan Quinn will likely be a head coach next year, and Jeff Ulbrich could follow in his footsteps.
The 1990 New York Giants under head coach Bill Parcells also deserve recognition — a staff that included Tom Coughlin, Bill Belichick, Al Groh, Romeo Crennel, and Charlie Weiss. The 1992 Green Bay Packers under Mike Holmgren and 1986 San Francisco 49ers under Bill Walsh are also highly regarded.