Goober Pyle

Falcons plan to interview assistants who are still coaching in the NFL postseason

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https://theathletic.com/749548/2019/01/04/falcons-plan-to-interview-assistants-who-are-still-coaching-in-the-nfl-postseason/

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.

Edited by Goober Pyle

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It's obviously Fisch, but for what position?

I could understand it for an assistant HC job, but for OC? I just don't see it. 

This offense needs a brilliant X's and O's man, nothing less.

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Biiiiig if...IF the Texans fire Bill OBrien would you go after him if no one looks at him for a HC job.  I’d be 50/50 with it bc you know if we did well he’d be gone for a HC job in a year 1 or 2.  So nvm my non-sense, just answered my own question.

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12 minutes ago, KCFalcon22 said:

Biiiiig if...IF the Texans fire Bill OBrien would you go after him if no one looks at him for a HC job.  I’d be 50/50 with it bc you know if we did well he’d be gone for a HC job in a year 1 or 2.  So nvm my non-sense, just answered my own question.

No.

The only creativity in the Texans’ offense comes via Deshaun Watson’s legs when the play breaks down. 

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I would rather have Koetter come back than either of those two to be honest.  He at least has had success calling plays in the NFL and familiarity with Ryan.

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Can appreciate DQ trying to get it right this time because he knows his job could potentially be on the hot seat in the future.  He’s doing his due diligence on these next positions!

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Still think it will be Koetter as OC. Would love DC to be Dallas Seconday coach Kris Richard - an aggressive guy who would definitely be stepping up into a DC role and is familiar with the Seattle Defence we run. The one drawback might be if DQ insists on calling the plays - water downs the DC role for potential applicants. That’s probably my ideal IC/DC combo

KCFalcon22 likes this

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1 hour ago, HouTXFalcon said:

No.

The only creativity in the Texans’ offense comes via Deshaun Watson’s legs when the play breaks down. 

My best friend is from Conroe close to Houston and is a big TEXANS fan.  He told me, IM SICK OF HIS CRAP lol 

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8 minutes ago, KCFalcon22 said:

My best friend is from Conroe close to Houston and is a big TEXANS fan.  He told me, IM SICK OF HIS CRAP lol 

It’s not just him. The general feeling in Houston is that O’Brien needs to go, as he has been the beneficiary of a very weak division over the last five years (Colts appears to be back, though). Fortunately, he had Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, a weak schedule and a bonehead Frank Reich decision in Week 4 to get him a #3 seed and home playoff game.

He’s no offensive genius. He’s a .500 coach with a 1-3 playoff record, but the Texans sell out every game and they just handed him a four-year extension after a 4-12 season. We could certainly do much better in Atlanta than another ex-New England coordinator that parlayed Brady and Belichick’s dominance into a bigger role for himself. 

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14 hours ago, KCFalcon22 said:

Biiiiig if...IF the Texans fire Bill OBrien would you go after him if no one looks at him for a HC job.  I’d be 50/50 with it bc you know if we did well he’d be gone for a HC job in a year 1 or 2.  So nvm my non-sense, just answered my own question.

1st why in the world would O’Brien get fired? 

2nd if he does, he will be a top candidate for another HC gig in the league, if not a major college would be after him. Success in the NFL and what he did for PSU would have him in high demand in ncaa.

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2 minutes ago, 1989Fan said:

1st why in the world would O’Brien get fired? 

2nd if he does, he will be a top candidate for another HC gig in the league, if not a major college would be after him. Success in the NFL and what he did for PSU would have him in high demand in ncaa.

Word in Houston is they want someone to get them over the top and they don’t just want to get in the playoffs, they want playoff wins.

To the 2nd part of what you said, I mentioned that it would only lead to him leaving if we did well.  So I agree with part 2.

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OR....maybe he is waiting on all the head coach dominoes to fall (perhaps they want to hire Adam Gase).

And I seriously doubt Rico Allen will be ready by training camp...his injury could be a lingering problem all next season.

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