After failing to make the playoffs, the Atlanta Falcons decided to make some drastic changes on “Black Monday”, firing their offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, and special teams coach.
The Atlanta Falcons were NFC Champions two years ago and managed to make it to the NFC Championship a year later, but the team stumbled to a 7-9 record in 2018.
Head coach Dan Quinn still has plenty of goodwill after leading the Falcons to back-to-back double-digit win seasons, so if changes were to be made, they probably weren’t going to involve him.
Those changes did indeed take place on the Monday after Week 17, as the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, and special teams coach Keith Armstrong were all axed. Quinn’s job appears to be safe.
Sarkisian had been criticized heavily by some Falcons fans, though the team finished 10th in the league in scoring despite missing star running back Devonta Freeman for most of the season. Because the offense has Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, and Austin Hooper, expectations are high for the team’s passing game, causing offensive coordinators to be placed under a microscope. Following Kyle Shanahan is never easy either.
It will be interesting to see how owner Arthur Blank, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, and the rest of the Falcons brass handles the search for coordinators. Do they still trust Quinn enough to have a major say in who is hired to work with him, or have they soured slightly after a 7-9 season?
It’s important for the head coach to have a good working relationship with their coordinators, otherwise a rift like the one between Hue Jackson and Todd Haley on the Cleveland Browns could develop. The Falcons seem to have confidence in Quinn, but 2019 will be a critical year for the former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator.
Quinn’s defense was ranked 25th in the league in points per game allowed and 28th in yards per game allowed, and that can be mostly attributed to injuries. Keanu Neal and Deion Jones hit the injured reserve early, and while Jones returned, those two injuries were big blows.
The Falcons have plenty of young talent on both sides of the ball, and even though they are in a tough division, the expectation is for them to make the playoffs in 2019. It’s time to see if Quinn can deliver the goods for the third time in his career, and he’ll need the best people around him to make that happen. Because so many head coaches were fired after Week 17, there should be plenty of options for Atlanta to choose from.