Goober Pyle

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Goober Pyle last won the day on August 14 2016

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  1. MOBILE, Ala. — It was a sight Thomas Dimitroff was happy to see. When the South team, coached by the San Francisco 49ers’ staff, lined up for one-on-one drills in the trenches, the offensive and defensive linemen were engaging more physically with one another than in years past. That actually has been a common complaint from front office personnel, that these interior drills at the Senior Bowl, haven’t been as physical as they need to be. That wasn’t the case during the first practice of the week, which took place Tuesday. Offensive linemen Tytus Howard (Alabama State) and Dru Samia (Oklahoma) stonewalled their men repeatedly, with Howard putting one defender on the ground. Defensive linemen Jonathan Ledbetter (Georgia), Montez Sweat (Mississippi State) and Jaylon Ferguson (Louisiana Tech) showed speed and aggression off the edge. The sheer sight of this was great for a general manager like Dimitroff, who will be tasked with filling holes and adding depth to both the offensive and defensive lines this offseason — with perhaps an emphasis being on the offensive line. A lot needs to play out before the team’s picture becomes clearer in terms of what position it might target in the first round of the NFL draft. The Falcons always could address these positions in free agency and feel good about taking another position earlier instead. In between the South and North teams’ practices at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Dimitroff took a few minutes to speak with The Athletic about what he is looking for when scouting offensive linemen as the Falcons’ unit could see position battles at left guard, right guard and right tackle this offseason. He also addressed Grady Jarrett’s upcoming contract extension and where things stand with Vic Beasley and the $12.8 million fifth-year option Atlanta picked up last year. With a new offensive coordinator, does that change how you evaluate offensive linemen? Obviously, that’s a position group a lot of people are interested in right now. Offensive line is going to be important for us. We will continue to look at it and build. I want to be very clear to everyone. We have a lot of focus on that position. We not only have myself and Dan Quinn involved, we have our personnel directors and assistant general manager and three O-line coaches (looking at it). We have a lot of focus on it. We know how important it is just like every team in the NFL does. It’s a different situation now with a lot of players coming out (compared to) the way that they used to. Work rules are different. There’s just a lot of things you have to be really honed in on to make sure that you have the right fits. To your question, when you bring a new offensive coordinator in, you’re mindful of the type of nuances to the offensive system. That said, we’re going to be very much consistent. We’ll continue, as Dan mentioned, to not only be on the outside zone scheme, but we’ll be moving inside, as well. That’s important for us as it gives us an opportunity to consider more of a pool of players on the offensive line than strictly being set outside or inside. On top of that, what are you looking for in this week of scouting from the few days you’ll be here? To get an opportunity to see these guys move around against the top-notch talent in the college ranks. That’s a big thing for us. Of course, you don’t get a chance to see physical drills as much — although the O-line and D-line drills (Tuesday) were fantastic. Kudos to (49ers head coach) Kyle Shanahan and the way they approached it. Every year we come in here and complain to the staffs about wanting more physicality. They did a great job; they ran really good O-line and D-line drills, which is good for a lot of us who are maybe looking for those positions. We get to an opportunity to see these guys move around. It’s good to see them physically because during the season some schools you don’t get to. You get an opportunity to see not only the big-time schools against the big-time schools, but you also get a chance to see some of the smaller schools against some of the top-notch schools out there and see how they stack up. Was there anything that stood out in those one-one-drills up front? Yeah, again, without getting into specifics about players … Which is what I wanted you to do … There was some physicality there. And quite honestly, there were a couple of players out there that when you combine their athleticism, and if you’ve done enough research, you can know who those guys are, they were also showing some physicality. When you are deemed an athletic offensive lineman, usually you come here, and you have to show you have physicality to you, as well, and you’re not just considered as finesse. I thought a couple of guys did that. Switching gears a little bit to some contract stuff. With Grady, I believe March 5 is the tag deadline. If you don’t have a deal with him by then, is that a possibility or consideration to franchise or transition tag him? I think with the way it’s set up in the league, you always look at that if you can’t get something done. But our focus is to see where we’re going with this negotiation. Again, he’s a very important part. He is our priority right now. We tabled it, as you know, in the fall, and we focused on the season. Of course, he did a very good job. We love what he does for us, not only on the field but off the field. We’re encouraged we’re going to get something done. On Vic Beasley, you picked up his option last year. What’s the status with that, and is (playing under the option) the plan? Or are you still working through that to figure out what you want to do with him? We’re in the spot right now of looking at the entire team. When the Super Bowl is over, Dan and I will spend a ton of time on it. We’ve already spent a ton of time together talking about it and looking at how things will be pieced together, being creative with our cap, of course. Vic’s a guy we’re continuing to focus on. We want him to be here. We want him to continue to thrive and continue to learn under Dan’s tutelage as a defensive coordinator/head coach and how important that’s going to be. Dan has a really good working relationship with Vic, and that’s important for us. Back to the players you’re looking at, once free agency begins, how much of that will impact what happens in the draft? It impacts it a lot. It impacts the idea of where you can spend your money and where you can get good values in free agency and where you know guys have already proven themselves. That’s a big thing coming into a season. And then go into the draft and focus on some of the guys you know are going to be developing. Free agency, to me, is a really important part. It may not be a situation where you’re picking up three, five or seven free agents. But one or two can be a big difference in how you approach the draft. One thing that’s been sticking with me is cornerback. I know with you guys, offensive line and defensive line have been a big emphasis internally and externally. But where do you stand on cornerback with what you want for the future? We feel we have a good group of corners. We had some play that was good this year, and we also had some inconsistent play. We have a great deal of faith in the number of players we have in that group. We’re going to continue to grow and continue to refine. That said, I don’t think you can ever have enough corners who are not only ready to step up right away but create a legitimate amount of depth. You know how it is over the years. Before you know it, you’re tapping into the fourth corner on your roster. I think you have to be very detailed and focused on that. It will be another important position to continue to look at. Sometimes you can pick a later-round player who can be very beneficial to an organization. I do believe that. There’s one guy who stands out to me, but I doubt you’ll want to comment specifically on him — (I revealed to Dimitroff after the fact it was Delaware’s Nasir Adderley) — but how much does versatility play into that? Obviously, a guy like Damontae Kazee played corner in college and then moved to safety and can play nickel. How much of that goes into the process when you’re looking at a DB? Versatility is big. Versatility is big at a lot of secondary positions. But to play inside and outside is important. It’s a big thing when we’re talking about it. Every scout is pressed to make their categorical comment on whether a guy can be an outside/inside guy or an inside/outside guy. We make sure we’re very detailed on prioritizing what their abilities are and trying to determine whether the guy ideally is inside or outside. To have versatility that way, not only to play the corner position but play safety if need be; yes, that is an important part.
  2. MOBILE, Ala. — NFL scouts were busy Monday, roaming around with the goal of speaking with numerous draft prospects on the second floor of the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza. The floor was crowded, with Senior Bowl participants arriving and immediately speaking with members of various teams’ scouting departments. The Falcons were like every other team, with a group of scouts scouring the area asking prospects to chat. With Senior Bowl week underway, draft season has begun. While most of the players participating in the Senior Bowl won’t go in the first two rounds, there are still plenty of talented players participating who could go in the middle rounds. Everyone knows the Falcons will be looking to fill holes on both sides of the line of scrimmage. There are actually a lot of offensive linemen who seem to fit the prototype that Atlanta is looking for — less than 315 pounds with the ability to move well. It’s a deep group on the defensive line, too. But for the purpose of this story, let’s take a look at players at other positions the Falcons might want to take a closer look at this week. Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin: Ya-Sin has the potential to rise up draft boards with a good week in Mobile. He’s a bigger cornerback at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, which is something Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has coveted in the past. Ya-Sin was known for possessing good press technique at the line of scrimmage during his lone season at Temple, which came after transferring from Presbyterian. Ya-Sin didn’t play much zone coverage in college. With the Falcons utilizing a lot of Cover 3 on defense, that would be a new skill for Ya-Sin to learn at the pro level. At the same time, that would be a learning curve for Ya-Sin with any team that selects him. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has Ya-Sin pegged as his top senior cornerback in this year’s draft. Massachusetts receiver Andy Isabella: Those who follow both the Falcons and Georgia might recognize Isabella’s name. Isabella torched the Bulldogs for 15 catches, 219 yards and two touchdowns, albeit in Georgia’s 66-27 blowout win. But Isabella earned a lot of attention, and deservedly so, for his performance against the SEC runner-up. He finished the year with an FBS-leading 1,698 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. While Isabella’s physical attributes may not wow scouts at the weigh-in Tuesday, his speed and agility will be on display throughout the week. If the Falcons lose Justin Hardy in free agency, Isabella should be worth a closer look, even with this particular position group showcasing great depth. Boston College tight end Tommy Sweeney: While Austin Hooper had a Pro Bowl season, the Falcons could have a tight end spot to fill with Logan Paulsen slated to hit free agency. With that in mind, Sweeney could be a potential name for the Falcons to keep an eye on this week. Sweeney fits the size profile at 6-5 and 255 pounds. He is balanced as an in-line blocker and receiver. Like all prospects, there is plenty for Sweeney to improve upon. At the same time, he has a lot of promise as a developmental tight end. Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew II: Quarterback isn’t exactly a position on the forefront of Atlanta’s wishlist, considering Matt Ryan has plenty of years of high-level football left. At the same time, the Falcons could be in the market for a backup quarterback if they decide not to re-sign Matt Schaub. This year’s Senior Bowl quarterback lineup is pretty strong, with Drew Lock, Daniel Jones and Will Grier headlining the group. A mid-round prospect of note is Minshew, who threw for 4,776 yards, 38 touchdowns and nine interceptions in Mike Leach’s air raid attack this past season. While there is a lot Minshew would need to learn at the NFL level, his arm strength and mobility could be intriguing for plenty of teams during the draft weekend. Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr.: Johnson has a great chance to boost his draft stock this week. While he only recorded one interception in two seasons at Kentucky, Johnson has the physical attributes that will have at least a few teams interested. With a good outing, perhaps Atlanta could become one of them. Johnson is 6-3 and 206 pounds, which would offer the Falcons the kind of size they don’t have at cornerback. There certainly will be some risk involved, considering Johnson didn’t post gaudy stats after transferring to Kentucky from Garden City Community College. Without a big-time week, Johnson could wind up being a mid-round developmental player. But as everyone knows, great cornerbacks can come from any round of the NFL draft.
  3. Similar to most positions on the roster, the Falcons had high expectations for their linebackers. Deion Jones established himself as a top-tier linebacker in 2017. Other than Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner, there isn’t a better middle linebacker in the league. De’Vondre Campbell made major strides following an inconsistent rookie season. While Duke Riley endured a frustrating rookie season, the coaching staff remained confident in his abilities to become a solid rotational player. Drafting Foye Oluokun and re-signing Kemal Ishamel rounded out an exciting linebacker group. With the defensive line losing Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe, it was expected that the linebackers were going to be challenged more in the running game. Losing a violent versatile lineman like Clayborn and a true run-stuffer in Poe were significant losses. The lack of support up front proved to be too overwhelming for the linebacker group. They still managed to show some flashes in what turned into an infuriating cruel season. Deion Jones The game-changing linebacker suffered a severe foot injury in a second consecutive grueling defeat to the Eagles. For him to miss essentially three months of the season left the defense overmatched across the board. Jones’ instincts, range, and speed gives Dan Quinn’s defense a wide variety of options. They can be more aggressive with Jones’ ability to cover acres of space. How he can match up against running backs and prevent them from picking up easy chunk yards is integral to the Falcons’ scheme. Playing a massive role in limiting Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, and Todd Gurley in three straight games proved Jones’ value as one of the most valuable defensive players in the league. It’s difficult to assess a player’s performance after only playing six games. You must take into account that Jones likely took two games to get back into game shape, especially when he rarely leaves the field and handles the most defensive responsibility on the field. Once the playmaking linebacker got back into the groove, he made his mark during Atlanta’s three-game winning streak. He showed noticeable improvement against the run in taking on blockers. That was arguably the biggest knock on his overall game. If Jones can continue to hold his own at the point of attack, there is no reason why he can’t become the best middle linebacker in the league. De’Vondre Campbell After shining in his second season, it was a strange season for the versatile linebacker. Campbell was pressed into a bigger role with Jones’ absence. He took the reins in communicating with the coaching staff during various stages of the season. Some of the defense’s better performances occurred when Campbell was leading the defense. Their overall improvement didn’t feature many memorable plays from him. He didn’t produce the same amount of difference-making plays he did in 2017. Whether it consists of breaking up a pass on third down or making a big stop against the run, Campbell rarely made notable plays. When Jones returned from injury, Campbell looked more comfortable alongside his running mate. His presence allowed Campbell to blitz more often. With his explosiveness and power, the former fifth round pick is capable of causing havoc as an extra pass rusher. The coaching staff utilized him as much as possible in a blitzing capacity during the last three games. Giving him less man coverage assignments and more opportunities to get after the quarterback would be an effective strategy in getting the most out of Campbell. The coaching staff knows they have a solid linebacker on their hands. How they use him going forward will determine how much of an impact Campbell can truly make in Quinn’s Cover 3 based defense. Foye Oluokun What was considered to be an intriguing flier pick may end up becoming one of the best late-round selections in the Quinn-Dmitiroff era. Oluokun was quickly pressed into action after Jones was sidelined for nearly three months. Instead of being moved down the depth chart after the star middle linebacker returned, the coaching staff continued to give him significant snaps. That is a testament to how well the former sixth round pick performed on a consistent basis. Oluokun emerged as a real physical presence against the run. From not being fazed when taking on blockers to rarely missing tackles in the open field, the Falcons have a real talent on their hands. It wasn’t surprising to see Quinn bring in another speedy prospect be inserted into an ultra-quick linebacker unit. Oluokun also brought much-needed ferocity to an undersized front seven, which solidified his place in the rotation. How the coaching staff uses him moving forward remains to be seen. Whether it’s using him as a strong side linebacker and (or) rotating with Campbell on the weak side, Oluokun could very well develop into a key contributor in 2019. Duke Riley As Oluokun earned the coaching staff’s trust, Riley did everything possible to earn a place on the bench. The once highly touted linebacker has proven to be a major liability on the field. His tackling issues from his rookie season transferred over into 2018. Not being able to take on blockers left him overmatched against the run. Failing to diagnose plays in coverage allowed skill position players to pick up easy yards underneath. Many draft analysts praised Riley for his instincts coming out of LSU. That hasn’t translated to the pros, as he is constantly a step behind on his assignments. It’s difficult to be optimistic about Riley’s outlook. After two seasons of not making any positive impact, the former third round pick is under enormous pressure. The front office will likely bring in more competition to challenge for backup roles and to handle special teams’ duties. If Riley doesn’t make a positive impression in the summer, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the coaching staff give up on him. They can’t afford to keep players that continue to make the same blunders and fail to show improvement. The clock is ticking for Riley following a dismal season. Kemal Ishmael Ishmael wasn’t used as much as he was in previous seasons. Considering all of the injuries and personnel issues surrounding the defense, most would have expected Ishmael to receive more opportunities. The versatile linebacker is one of the most reliable open-field tacklers on the team. Despite being somewhat undersized as a former strong safety, his willingness to throw his body on the line against the run has always been admirable. There is no fear in his game. Ishmael embraces contact at all times, which can’t be said for all linebackers. It’ll be interesting to see how much interest Ishmael attracts in free agency. Most thought he would depart after playing well in 2016. His decision to re-sign with the Falcons was surprising at the time. Not many players with his experience stick with a team that has no plans to use him in a major role. Will Ishmael try his chances elsewhere or reclaim his place as a reliable backup? Based on his limited snaps when the defense was at its worst, the multi-dimensional defender will likely go to a team that can provide more opportunities.
  4. That looks like posts from 2011.....not saying it's not true, though. Their DB coach just came to UGA.
  5. When I moved to Atlanta nearly 30 years ago, the significance of the Falcons-New Orleans Saints rivalry eluded me. Neither franchise had ever played in a Super Bowl to that point, both were largely associated with spectacular failure, and this struck me as important of a rivalry as, say, a fish stick throwdown between Mrs. Paul’s and the Gorton’s fisherman. I came to learn otherwise. It is the closest thing you’re going to find to a college rivalry in the NFL, with each team reveling in the other’s misery. So it should not come as a surprise that in the eyes of many in Atlanta, a Falcons season mostly devoid of joy hit a high note Sunday when the Saints lost. After leading all but the final five minutes of regulation, the Saints fell, 23-20 to the Los Angeles Rams in overtime in the NFC championship game at the Superdome. What this means is the Rams are going to the Super Bowl — and as the key byproduct of this, the Saints are not. They won’t travel to Atlanta. They won’t play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in two weeks. They won’t practice all week in the Falcons’ training facility in Flowery Branch. The Falcons are relieved. The Falcons are laughing. The Falcons are happy. Let’s start with the owner. “I am smiling,” Arthur Blank said via text message. “It was a hard fought game, and the Saints’ fans made a big difference early on — but the Rams’ defense played strong from the 1st Q on…” From there, Blank held his tongue (or his texting fingers) a bit. When asked if he had dreaded the thought of the Saints practicing at his team’s facility, he responded, “We welcome the best teams — period.” I texted, “Politically correct. Thanks.” He responded, “Correct.” I cannot confirm that a 76-year-old was sliding across a wood floor in his socks on the other end of the phone. In the AFC championship game, New England (Atlanta fans’ second least-favorite team) defeated Kansas City 37-31 in overtime. Had the Chiefs won, Atlanta might’ve thrown a parade Monday. Back to the Falcons-Saints thing. The negative feelings between the two franchises are real. That was never more evident than last month when it was confirmed the NFC champion would practice in Flowery Branch, and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was asked about the possibility of the Saints being in his building. The question seemed to throw him for a loop, and as relayed by The Athletic’s Jason Butt, Quinn stumbled a bit in his response: “Whoever’s playing for the championship … this is the host … I guess I’m more disappointed that we won’t be playing and practicing at our site.” He then suddenly ended the news conference, walking out of the room. The Saints joyously mocked the Falcons for blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl two years ago. In last season’s visit to New Orleans, a marching band spelled out, “28-3” during a halftime show. There also was repeated video board lampooning. Return fire was expected Sunday. It may seem a bit juvenile for the official Twitter accounts of NFL franchises to be taking jabs at opponents, but welcome to the middle school world of “professional” social media departments. The Falcons Tweeted, “Hey @RamsNFL” nice win,” with a winking emoji and a clip from a 1986 Rams’ music video, “Ram It.” Carolina, another NFC South team, followed: “We are really, really (…) happy the @RamsNFL won.” If we still lived in an adult world, Lombardi and Halas would be throwing down lightning bolts from the heavens. Falcons players also threw shots in cyberspace. Running back Ito Smith Tweeted a string of laughing/crying emojis, then followed with a quick video of him dancing to Choppa Style (by Darwin “Choppa” Turner), which has been the unofficial soundtrack of this Saints’ season. Carolina, another NFC South team, followed: “We are really, really (…) happy the @RamsNFL won.” If we still lived in an adult world, Lombardi and Halas would be throwing down lightning bolts from the heavens. Falcons players also threw shots in cyberspace. Running back Ito Smith Tweeted a string of laughing/crying emojis, then followed with a quick video of him dancing to Choppa Style (by Darwin “Choppa” Turner), which has been the unofficial soundtrack of this Saints’ season. (The video posted by @ItoSmith has been removed.) Jabs ranged from the spiritual (Mohamed Sanu) … To the thankful for a blown non-interference call (Damontae Kazee) … To the endorsing of the Rams (Brian Poole). (I had to consult Urban Dictionary: “No cap” translates to “Not lying.” I would be dead without Urban Dictionary.) To the artistically creative (Matt Bryant): And his wife (Melissa Bryant): The Falcons didn’t make it to the playoffs, but their players, fans and owner were spared further misery.
  6. Lolololol! Get ‘em Mud Duck!
  7. It’s not like Dirk Koetter is walking into an unfamiliar position. Having been with the Falcons just five years ago, he previously worked with some players still with the organization. The obvious example is quarterback Matt Ryan, who saw his career blossom under Koetter’s guidance. Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder also were on the roster then. The hope, when it comes to welcoming Koetter back to the team, is that Atlanta’s offense can hit the ground running without any type of learning curve. With each of the past two offensive coordinators, this learning curve existed. It took some time for the offense to jell with Kyle Shanahan in 2015. Steve Sarkisian underwent an adjustment period with his personnel in 2017. Having coached some of these players before, Koetter, who was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator from 2012-14, shouldn’t have those growing points. That’s the goal at least. “I can speak from my own personal experience of a player you may have coached at one spot and then you revisited with them again,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. “You can definitely get up to speed more quickly.” Quinn spoke with local reporters on a conference call Thursday to discuss his new hirings. He also hit on a few other topics in what was roughly a 25-minute media session. Finding the right kind of balance Considering how the past couple of seasons went, it seemed slightly odd for Quinn to tab Koetter as his next offensive coordinator. Koetter’s Tampa Bay teams threw the ball a bunch while running it less than 40 percent of the time throughout the past two years. But digging a little deeper into Koetter’s history shows he has run the ball effectively, especially when he was Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator. In 2007, Fred Taylor totaled 1,202 rushing yards and five touchdowns with Maurice Jones-Drew running for 768 yards and nine scores. In 2009, Jones-Drew ran for 1,391 yards and 15 touchdowns and followed up that season with 1,324 yards and five scores in 2010. In 2011, Jones-Drew posted a career-best 1,606 yards, while punching in eight touchdowns. He did so on 343 carries. Coaches don’t typically like making comparisons, but it is worth noting that Jones-Drew and Freeman are built similarly. Both are shorter backs ranging from 205 to 210 pounds. “I understand the comparison, but really it will be the way we can feature (Freeman) in different ways,” Quinn said. “Although the players’ production can be similar, how they’re featured can be done differently. The running game, for us, with (Freeman) and how we attack, is really important. We’re going to make sure we can feature those guys in the best ways.” Quinn did note that Jones-Drew, like Freeman, was exceptional at running inside zone plays. With Koetter getting to work with a veteran Freeman, as opposed to the rookie he was in 2014, it will be interesting to see how Freeman is incorporated into the scheme. Ultimately, Quinn wants to see better balance primarily on first and second downs. A quick look at the numbers suggests first down primarily served as a passing down for Atlanta in 2018. The Falcons ran 467 plays on first down, with 62.5 percent of those being passes. On second down, Atlanta passed the ball 59.1 percent of the time. Quinn said he would like for his offense to be a little more unpredictable. “That’s where we’ve had extensive conversations about how we intend to attack,” Quinn said. “In those moments, in what we call regular downs, that’s where it starts. How do you utilize those in openers? And how do you utilize those in different moments of the game? That’s all by game plan, but that’s where you try to have more of your balance.” The offensive ‘blend’ With Koetter and new tight ends coach Mike Mularkey joining the coaching staff, Quinn said the 2019 offense will be a “blend” of what has worked for everyone in the past. The inside and outside zone runs still will be a key part of the offense. Mularkey and offensive line coach Chris Morgan will work in tandem to help improve the run game. While Morgan can continue teaching the zone blocking Atlanta has used the past four years, Mularkey has vast experience running power plays. Koetter obviously has a vertical passing game background. At its core, Quinn said the philosophy will resemble previous Atlanta offenses. At the same time, there will be some wrinkles added in. “A number of the concepts that Dirk runs and that we run are already in sync with that,” Quinn said. “We will keep the passing game here that we have, and Dirk will add tweaks to that. As far as the run game goes, I’d say Mike is really equipped in a lot of ways, with inside and outside zone being one of those. “We’ll establish our identity loud and clear with Chris and with Mike in the run game, as well. The play-(action) pass in the run game will be a big part of what we do continually.” The in-game and clock management assistant Quinn revealed Thursday that Kyle Flood, previously the assistant offensive line coach, will become a senior assistant responsible for program development, in-game decisions and clock management. This will also involve ensuring replays are reviewed timely so Quinn can throw the challenge flag. This has become a new trend in the NFL, with the Los Angeles Rams employing Jedd Fisch to perform a similar role. Other assistant moves Quinn announced that Bernie Parmalee, who coached running backs, will now be an assistant special teams coach. Dave Brock, who was assisting in coaching wide receivers, will now coach the running backs. Raheem Morris, who holds titles of assistant head coach, passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach, will remain in his position. Before taking this role in Atlanta, Morris spent most of his career coaching on the defensive side of the ball. In addition, sources told The Athletic that the Falcons parted ways with defensive assistant/defensive backs coach Charlie Jackson and football research and development staffer Todd Nielson. Jackson assisted defensive backs coach Doug Mallory, and Nielson’s work revolved in analytics.
  8. It was about four years ago when the Falcons, having already fired head coach Mike Smith, allowed then-offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and all other assistants to interview for jobs elsewhere, even though Koetter had a year left on his contract. The clear reason: Impending new head coach Dan Quinn, who hadn’t yet officially been announced, was going to change the offense, bring in his own guy (Kyle Shanahan) and didn’t want Koetter. On Tuesday night, Quinn reversed field. He hired Koetter as the Falcons’ once-again offensive coordinator, confirming the move first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and subsequently denied by the organization late Monday night. It’s a policy of mine not to pre-judge coaches, even coaches who’ve been here before and have a clear body of work that illustrates what they’re all about. So I’m not going to predict if Koetter’s hiring qualifies either as a brilliant decision that will put a non-playoff team back on the rails or doom Quinn’s future as a head coach. I like Koetter personally, and he did a solid job as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator for three seasons. That said, the jury is out on whether this qualifies as a real upgrade over Steve Sarkisian, considering the spoken parameters of the search. The job search certainly leaves one to wonder if the Falcons really spent as much time as they could have to try to find the best candidate possible, or if this just seemed like the safe decision. Quinn reversed field in so many ways. He said recently he didn’t want the Falcons’ offense to move away from the outside zone scheme that Shanahan brought in and Sarkisian continued. Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff had worked to rebuild the roster to fit it. But Quinn hired Koetter, who’s mostly known for a vertical passing game. In a team-issued statement, Quinn said the Falcons’ may benefit from Koetter’s “familiarity with our division.” He said nothing about scheme. Quinn said he wanted a coordinator who would provide more run-pass balance than Sarkisian. But he hired a coach who ranked significantly lower in rush attempts and success rate than passing in the six seasons he called plays for the Falcons and Tampa Bay (one year as a coordinator and his first two years as head coach). One exception was Koetter’s first year as the Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator, when he had 1,400-yard rusher Doug Martin at his disposal. Quinn hired a coach who actually had less success calling the Bucs’ offense than Todd Monken, who was handed play-calling duties this season. Koetter strangely took back play-calling for one game this season, a 16-3 loss to Washington, in which the Bucs had 500 yards in offense but went 0-for-5 in the red zone. So, yes, you could make a case the Falcons hired Tampa Bay’s second-best coordinator. If Koetter was the leading candidate from day one, as was reported, the Denver Broncos would not have felt compelled to block Quinn and Dimitroff from interviewing former head coach Gary Kubiak (who likely will return to play-calling duties this season, assuming he and the Broncos’ new head coach can work out a deal). Because you don’t block unless a request has been put in. So at best, that drops Koetter to the No. 2 choice. At the outset of the search, there was reason to believe the Falcons also liked former Miami head coach Adam Gase, who was a coveted offensive coach in Denver and Chicago and is a strong fit with the zone scheme. But there was a belief that Gase would fill one of the NFL head coaching vacancies. As of Tuesday night, Gase did not have an offer, but the Falcons chose not to wait and see if he would be available. Contrary to what Quinn stated last week, the Falcons also (presumably) chose not to wait to talk to another potential candidate who was currently is in the playoffs with another team. Basically, they did absolutely nothing what they said they were going to do. After the AJC reported late Monday that Koetter had been offered the job, the Falcons (read: Dimitroff, Quinn) vehemently denied to The Athletic that was the case, as if suggesting somebody had jumped the gun. There was enough apparent confusion in the front office to suggest that one party might have said something that the other party knew nothing about. Regardless, it was clear at that point that the Falcons were going down the Koetter road and had discussed at least the parameters of a deal. This much also became apparent about the Falcons’ search: One of the primary objectives was to make quarterback Matt Ryan happy. When Quinn was asked last week how much influence Ryan would have in the selection process, he responded, “As far as going to select people, that’s not part of his influence. All the players do to a certain regard. We want to keep the system going where Matt thrives in. So, he has a part of it, but not part of who, if that makes sense.” It’s well known Ryan and Koetter were close when the coach was in Atlanta. Ryan and Shanahan weren’t always close. But Shanahan certainly got results in Year 2. Ryan was the MVP in 2016. He also has had statistically his two best seasons in this offense (2016 and 2018). Now Koetter steps in. The extent of the changes to the scheme remains to be seen. Maybe this works. Maybe it was the safest hire the Falcons could make. Or maybe Quinn reached into the franchise’s past at a time when he should not have.
  9. Where things stand, what we know about Falcons' offensive... Jason Butt 8-10 minutes Seven days into the new year, there is still no reason for the Falcons to rush this offensive coordinator search. If the franchise wants to hire a high-quality candidate who believes in head coach Dan Quinn’s vision for the offense, the best course of action is to wait and see who becomes available during the coming weeks. And that has been the plan thus far. While the Falcons have spoken with a number of candidates already, it is evident there is no clear front-runner or favorite for the position at this time. On Thursday, Quinn said there wouldn’t be a timetable on the search, alluding to the fact that it could take some time to finally nail down the right candidate. He even noted he would like to speak to other candidates still coaching in the postseason. There are eight head coaching openings right now. Before the Falcons zero in on a short list for this position, those jobs need to be filled first. Generally, when one team hires a head coach, others soon follow suit. When that happens, a clearer picture of who will be available for Atlanta will emerge. In addition, the Falcons, much like they do with their player personnel, will seek the right fit for this coaching hire. Quinn wants to keep the same philosophy as previous seasons while offering a better balance between the run and the pass. For those following the search, it may seem frustrating that the process isn’t moving at a faster pace. But having let go of his three previous coordinators and deciding to take on defensive play-calling duties, Quinn is aware of just how important this hire will be — for the franchise as a whole and for his own future. Checking in on Kubiak While Denver blocked Atlanta from interviewing Gary Kubiak, which was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, there is still a chance Atlanta could get a crack at him in the end. This hinges on whoever the Broncos decide to hire as their next head coach. Kubiak wants to coach again but only as an offensive coordinator. Therefore, if the Broncos hire an offensive-minded head coach who wants to call plays or run a different scheme than Kubiak’s, general manager John Elway could reverse course and allow Kubiak out of his contract. Elway is basically playing it safe right now. He doesn’t want to lose Kubiak if he doesn’t have to. Clearly, the Falcons want the opportunity to speak with Kubiak if the opportunity presents itself. And there are many obvious reasons why the Falcons would love for Kubiak to run the offense. Throughout his career, Kubiak has been among the best at the zone-running scheme. His style would match Atlanta’s personnel. His commitment to the run game is something that is certainly enticing to a head coach like Quinn. The 2018 season marked the first time in four years that Atlanta didn’t run the ball at least 420 times. In 2017, the first for former Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, the Falcons ran the ball on 43.7 percent of their plays. This past season, the Falcons ran the ball only 34.8 percent of the time. With Kubiak, there isn’t a worry of whether he will remain committed to the run game. Kubiak also has had a knack for getting the most out of his offensive linemen, which was an underperforming group for Atlanta in 2018. Under Quinn, the Falcons’ offense has been at its best when the run game is going and the play-action pass can work off of it. Those happen to be Kubiak’s areas of strength. For Kubiak to work in Atlanta, Denver would first have to hire a head coach who prefers a different offensive scheme. If Elway hires someone like-minded to Kubiak, he more than likely will be Denver’s offensive coordinator. But if Denver goes a different route, it is believed that Elway could let Kubiak out of his contract to pursue coaching opportunities elsewhere. While the Falcons were blocked recently from speaking with Kubiak, they aren’t ruling him out as a possibility just yet. Another high-profile name to keep an eye on While the Falcons are willing to wait on Kubiak, there is another potential candidate to start monitoring. The Falcons would be interested in speaking with Adam Gase for their offensive coordinator position if he is unable to land a head coaching job. As of now, Green Bay and the New York Jets have expressed interest in the former Miami head coach who was fired shortly after the 2018 regular season ended. With that in mind, how often does someone fired following his first head coaching stint find a job elsewhere in the same role? Gase went 13-19 the past two years after going 10-6 in year one. But with eight head coach openings, perhaps another team thinks he will be a better fit than what he was in Miami. The Miami Herald did report that Gase had several verbal disputes with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. One has to wonder how much this affects his head coaching candidacy with other teams. If Gase strikes out on a head coaching opportunity, look for the Falcons to enter the picture, especially if Kubiak stays put. When Gase was in Denver, he coached a potent offense that saw Peyton Manning throw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns in 2013. It’s worth noting that the 2018 Dolphins ran the ball 44.9 percent of the time. Considering the skill position talent surrounding Matt Ryan, landing a brilliant offensive mind like Gase would be of intrigue to the organization. Regarding Koetter and Bevell One thing to keep in mind with this search is the scheme fit. Quinn wants a coordinator who will offer balance while maintaining a commitment to the run. This wouldn’t seem to favor Dirk Koetter, the former Tampa Bay head coach who was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator from 2012-14. Koetter’s run-to-pass ratio in Tampa Bay this past season was actually similar to Sarkisian’s, with the Bucs running the ball only 38.4 percent of the time. In 2017, Koetter’s offense ran the ball 39.1 percent of the time. The closest to 50 percent the Bucs got under Koetter was in 2016 when his offense ran the ball 43.9 percent of the time. When Koetter was in Atlanta, his offenses ran the ball 38.1 percent of the time in 2012, 32.8 percent of the time in 2013 and 37.1 percent of the time in 2014. Within the Falcons’ organization, Koetter is not considered the favorite or front-runner for the job. In addition, conventional wisdom would suggest that if Koetter was, or is, the leader for Atlanta’s position, he would have been hired after his recent interview. When it comes to Darrell Bevell, one of the first names linked to the job, he has great familiarity with what Quinn wants to run. While Bevell eventually was fired by Seattle in 2017, he had some success — the final offensive play of Super Bowl XLIX notwithstanding — in the two years he and Quinn worked together on Pete Carroll’s staff. In 2014, Bevell’s offense ran the ball 53.6 percent of the time. In 2013, Seattle ran the ball 54.8 percent of the time. While teams are passing more than ever in the NFL, Bevell would seem to be the safer option when it comes to offensive balance as a play-caller. On Mularkey Early on, the Falcons spoke with Mike Mularkey, which was initially reported as an interview for the offensive coordinator job. According to a source, however, the Falcons were not considering Mularkey for this job. Instead, the Falcons were interested in speaking to Mularkey about a non-coordinator assistant coaching job. It is worth noting that Mularkey has prior experience as an NFL tight ends coach, which is a position Atlanta has open after firing Wade Harman. That isn’t to say Mularkey interviewed for a specific role. But he isn’t being considered to be Atlanta’s offensive coordinator.
  10. PriMe TiiMe correcting primetime
  11. I shared this tweet in a different thread on OC choices. Since the scuttlebutt is that part of the reason Sark was let go was because of how the offense fared against playoff teams, I thought it was interesting.
  12. Falcons plan to interview assistants who are still coaching in the NFL postseason Jason Butt One of the most interesting items from the Falcons’ end-of-year news conference Thursday was the revelation that Dan Quinn wants to interview assistants still coaching in the postseason. Twelve teams are still playing, with those coaches, per NFL rules, not yet able to talk to teams about other job opportunities. For Atlanta, several names have been linked to the offensive coordinator job: Gary Kubiak, Darrell Bevell, Dirk Koetter and Mike Mularkey. Kubiak, Bevell and Mularkey didn’t coach in 2018. Koetter recently was fired as Tampa Bay’s head coach. Two of these candidates already have been interviewed by Atlanta — reportedly Mularkey and presumably Bevell. With Quinn wanting to speak with assistants still coaching, there is a chance for this search to last a little while longer. “I didn’t put a deadline amongst ourselves due to teams that are still playing,” Quinn said. “Obviously, that’s a factor in it.” Now, this could have more to do with the special teams coordinator spot than the offensive coordinator position. That’s because, from the looks of it, only three names from the 12 teams would make sense as potential offensive coordinator hires. At the same time, the teams themselves would have to grant the interviews and not block the Falcons from potentially hiring them away. While three assistants appear to make sense, two of them seem unlikely for very different reasons. Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy: It certainly would be a challenge for the Falcons to pluck away someone with the same title, even if the Chiefs granted an interview. Plus, Bieniemy, wrapping up his first season as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, is seen as a candidate for head coaching jobs. The Falcons could sell the move as an upgrade with more money, potentially with an additional title like assistant head coach and with play-calling responsibilities. In Kansas City, Andy Reid calls the plays. Bieniemy getting the opportunity to call plays would be a big boost to his résumé if he winds up without a head coaching job. Bieniemy is lauded greatly in coaching circles, which is why the Buccaneers, New York Jets and Cincinnati have been interested in his candidacy to take over their teams. Although Atlanta hypothetically could sell play-calling duties, it could still be tough to convince Bieniemy to leave a sure thing in Kansas City. New Orleans quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi: Lombardi obviously has been in a great situation, having been able to coach Drew Brees directly for eight total years. Lombardi first joined the Saints’ organization in 2007 and spent two years as an offensive assistant. In 2009, he became the quarterbacks coach. He has held that role except for two seasons when he went to Detroit to be the offensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015. But he didn’t last the full two years with the Lions. Lombardi’s offense ranked 19th in 2014 and was abysmal through seven games in 2015. This came despite having Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate throughout this stint. That resulted in his firing, with Lombardi taking his old position back in New Orleans in 2016. Sure, Lombardi can point to play-calling experience, and maybe he has learned enough to be ready for another go at it. Even so, it would still be seen as quite the risk for the Falcons to make such a move. There does appear to be one intriguing candidate flying under the radar at this time. Los Angeles Rams senior offensive assistant Jedd Fisch: Fisch has two previous years of NFL play-calling experience, which came with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013 and 2014. While Lombardi had some talented pieces to work with in Detroit, Fisch had Blaine Gabbert at quarterback in year one and Blake Bortles as a rookie in year two. Finishing 31st in total offense in both seasons, Fisch was fired. Fisch then went back to the college ranks at Michigan as a quarterbacks and wide receivers coach to go with a passing game coordinator title. Under Fisch, Michigan got more out of quarterbacks Jake Rudock and Wilton Speight than many could have anticipated. Speight, in particular, had a solid sophomore season in 2016 under Fisch, throwing for 2,538 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions. When Fisch left to take the offensive coordinator job at UCLA in 2017, Speight saw a drop-off from a 61.6 completion percentage to 54.3, before a season-ending injury occurred. With the Bruins, Fisch guided Josh Rosen to 3,756 yards, 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He was out of a job, however, when Jim Mora was fired from the Bruins’ head coaching position, which ended with Fisch taking over as UCLA’s interim head coach in the program’s final two games of the 2017 season. This year, Fisch has been a senior offensive assistant with the Rams, learning the ins and outs of head coach Sean McVay’s system. Fisch’s game-day responsibilities are to assist McVay in clock management situations, an area McVay admitted he struggled with during the 2017 campaign. Fisch and Quinn are friends and have known each other for a while. Fisch actually was considered for the open quarterbacks coach position last January before Quinn opted for Greg Knapp. If other top options don’t materialize, perhaps Fisch could be a candidate for this role. If another option works out, Fisch could still be an option to bring on in a promotional opportunity — if the Rams and his contract allow it. You’re not fired … yet In addition to the coordinator firings, Quinn confirmed that tight ends coach Wade Harman has been let go from the Falcons staff as well. A decision has yet to be reached on anyone else, with the impending coordinator hirings having a great say in who stays and who goes. “There may be some adjusting moving on within the staff. But in terms of position changes, no other changes at this time,” Quinn said. The Harman news was somewhat surprising, considering tight end Austin Hooper steadily has progressed the past three years. It was also an interesting decision since no one else got the preemptive firing treatment. Good news on the injury front For all of the bad news the Falcons got with injuries in 2018, the new year is beginning with some positivity in this department. Quinn said he expects for every player who ended the year on injured reserve to be available when training camp begins during the late summer. This includes safeties Keanu Neal (ACL) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles). Running back Devonta Freeman (groin), running back Ito Smith (knee), offensive guard Brandon Fusco (broken ankle) and long-snapper Josh Harris (hip) also will be ready to go in training camp. “I don’t think there is anybody in any jeopardy in training camp,” Quinn said. “I think there would be some on a limited basis. But not from a training camp.” Derrick Shelby (groin) and Andy Levitre (triceps) ended the year on injured reserve but soon will be free agents.