For the second straight season, the Atlanta Falcons have failed to live to expectations and in a bit of a recurring situation. Despite the record not looking abysmal such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins, and Detroit Lions (which the former two are in massive rebuild modes), Atlanta has been pretty much out by the start of November. The December run has made the team look “not horrible” and will have a shot at another 7-9 season.
Had this been 20-25 years ago in Atlanta, fans would have gone “okay, there is some hope that the team could compete next year.” But those days are LONG gone. It is unacceptable.
For the last twelve years Atlanta has seen one of the best quarterbacks in this era in Matt Ryan play nearly every snap (why he gets ridiculed in this town on a consistent basis is beyond me). For the last 9 years Atlanta may have seen the most dominant receiver of this generation in Julio Jones. Pieces have come and gone in that time period that have made an impact (early on: Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez and now it’s Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, and Alex Mack) so it isn’t a two-man band in the ATL. Early on, Atlanta’s offense could score at will with anyone, but the defense kept on imploding.
Enter Dan Quinn to coach after Mike Smith couldn’t cut it anymore. We know the story: Quinn was the defensive coordinator for Seattle’s legendary Legion of Boom defense. The hope was he would turn the defense around.
He did…for a brief moment in time.
Quinn’s fingerprints of the defense in 2016 loomed large especially at the right time where the Falcons streaked to the Super Bowl by easily handling Seattle and Green Bay in January with the young defensive stars of Vic Beasley, Jarrett, Jones, Keanu Neal thus bringing in the “Brotherhood” on defense.
The next year, the defense held their own (wasn’t as strong) but the offense sputtered a bit). The Falcons still ended up making the playoffs dominating the Rams and then losing on the last play to the Eagles.
Then 2018 happened. The defense was ravaged by injuries to Jones and Neal and the Falcons defense could not match the re-born offense and the team finished 7-9. What was the talk during training camp? “Okay, we were dinged up, but a healthy defense will put us back in playoff contention in 2019. Quinn is taking over like he did in 2016 and the defense is flying all over the place!”
And….no. Aside from Keanu Neal being hurt again, the defense was healthy. Desmond Trufant is regressing like Ray Buchanan did late in his Falcons career, Beasley was AWOL for the first half of the year and the ONLY constant seemed to be Grady Jarrett. They were giving up points and yards like crazy and making quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota and Jacoby Brissett look like Pro Bowlers. The Falcons were 1-7 heading into the bye week.
So…Quinn switched things up internally on his coaching staff as he was more hands off. Since then, Atlanta has gone 5-2 including road wins against quite possibly the two best NFC teams in New Orleans and San Francisco. Instead of the fan base feeling very excited, it’s “oh great, here we go again of coming up too little too late.” And now the “debate” is has Quinn did enough to keep his job after Week 17? Most fans have said no. However, Arthur Blank, Falcons owner, is known for a level head and isn’t a reactionary owner (hence why he kept Quinn after the 1-7 start) and many “experts” feel like the second half run for Quinn may keep his job. To me, this is a VERY. BAD. IDEA.
While I actually like Dan Quinn, he isn’t a Super Bowl championship caliber coach (despite the 2016 run), it just seems like something is missing with him. I’m not sure what it is, but I think it is time to move on. Here are a few things why.
(1) JEFF FISHER 2.0. The local sports radio station I listen to, they made a comment I think was spot on: “Dan Quinn is ‘just ok’ as a head coach. He’s like that doctor in the AT&T commercial.” And aside from 2016 & 2017, Quinn has been an 8-8 or 7-9 coach. He reminds me a lot of Jeff Fisher with the Titans and Rams. Fisher seemingly had 8-8 or 7-9 seasons constantly save for those years of Steve McNair and Eddie George in Tennessee in 1999-2000 (also getting to a Super Bowl and losing in heartbreak fashion). The argument can be made however, that Fisher had less talent than what Quinn has in Atlanta now. Right now seeing Atlanta be 12-4 or 11-5 under Quinn seems to be less of a reality anyway.
(2) SLOW TO REACT AND ADAPT: Quinn’s inability to react earlier before the Falcons went 1-7 is a telltale sign that he isn’t a championship coach. It seems like it was “hey, now that the season is over, let’s analyze what went wrong and fix it for the second half.” Great coaches are quick at adapting and reacting and Quinn did it way too late for the 2019 season. Had Dan Quinn made these changes let’s say after the Titans drilled Atlanta early on, we may be talking about the Falcons first round opponent instead.
(3) PLAYERS COACH: It’s not necessarily a BAD thing to be a players coach and it seems like the players are rallying behind Quinn. However, save maybe Pete Carroll in Seattle, most of the Super Bowl champions (Ravens, Giants, Patriots, Eagles), don’t have a coach that is considered that. Quinn may be a tough guy to the players behind closed doors, but he doesn’t have that feel and has that “loyal to a fault” thing going. I think that hurts a team if things aren’t going well. Also Falcons fans point out he seems more of that guy “who will say the right things” not to tick off anyone whether it’s his players or the media.
(4) DISHEARTENED FAN BASE: Anyone who knows the Atlanta sports base is that when the teams aren’t winning, the fans aren’t showing (i.e. bandwagon). It’s an unjust label as EVERY CITY has that same issue, but when Mercedes Benz Stadium, which is the newest NFL stadium with the bells and whistles currently, is sitting half-empty in December for the second straight year (like it was last year when the 4-9 Falcons played a pathetic Arizona Cardinals team-which I was actually at that game) has that issue then, it doesn’t look good for anyone. But the thing is, what gives any Falcons fan hope that 2020 is going to be very different under Dan Quinn? Fans are starting to say “well, I’m done going to the games and won’t renew for the season.” It may not be a main factor, but when fans stop coming out and tickets start to go to visiting teams (which we’ve seen in Atlanta time after time with fan bases packing it in) it eliminates any homefield advantage. And next year the Falcons host the Bears, Raiders, and the hated Saints who get their fans packing the place.
I think the argument for Dan Quinn to keep his job is that he is a likable guy. He doesn’t offend anyone with his comments. Players love him. Ownership loves him. I like him and I don’t WANT him to lose his job, but he isn’t the guy that will put Ryan, Jones, and Company over the top. He’s had 5 seasons to show for it and while he was VERY close one year, it may be the closest the Falcons will ever get under Quinn.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat