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Dan Quinn has failed, and his firing from Falcons appears inevitable

Goober Pyle

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It’s over.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, a good man but an increasingly ineffective coach, logically is going to be out of a job soon. The firing won’t happen Monday, assuming Falcons owner Arthur Blank wasn’t just running a misdirection play when I asked him after the season’s most recent dumpster fire Sunday. It’s more likely to happen during the bye week following next week’s scheduled loss to Seattle, or whenever Blank finally pushes himself to emotionally surrender.

But it’s going to happen. Because Quinn is a lost coach with a lost locker room in a lost season and his players — for as much as they say they love him — aren’t following him.

Organizations don’t collapse because of one bad coach or one bad player any more than corporations collapse because of one bad investment. It takes a series of mistakes and unplanned mutations. But this is mostly on Quinn. The Falcons’ 37-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams was punctuated by all forms of ugliness, from quarterback Matt Ryan being sacked five times before leaving with an ankle injury to the team rushing for 38 yards, the defense looking silly, the offense being held without a touchdown until it was 30-3, and a fumbled punt return that led to one final pie to the face with 11 seconds left.

The Falcons’ overall talent probably has been vastly overrated. There’s also little question that the leadership void that was so evident in 2018 was not fixed during the offseason.

Sports teams just don’t spiral like this unless (1) veterans who are supposed to take charge in bad times are either failing miserably at that or more worried about their direct deposit, (2) there’s a lack of accountability in the locker room and (3) players who say they love their coach nonetheless don’t follow their coach, possibly because they have the moral fiber of nougat.

For the fifth time in seven games, the Falcons trailed by double-digit points at halftime. They have been outscored 120-50 in the first half. That goes to readiness, preparation, coaching.

Players are not following Quinn. So they share the blame but mostly blame Quinn because he gets paid to coach, motivate and lead.

This is a 1-6 team with a $30 million quarterback and a $20 million wide receiver. There are several other players — too many, probably — not living up to fat contracts. But Quinn has picked most of these players in concert with general manager Thomas Dimitroff since 2015. The team is underachieving and getting worse. Everything has been backsliding since the Super Bowl three years ago.

Quinn has had time to fix all this. He has failed.

Blank is clearly struggling with this decision. He likes Quinn and doesn’t want to have to blow up the coaching staff and front office again, even if that seems inevitable.

Following is a brief exchange I had with Blank as he was exiting an interview room following Quinn’s postgame news conference Sunday:

Do you still support your coach?

“Of course. We’ve got games to play. I support the players. I support the coach. I feel all the pain that the fans feel and also the players do and the coaches do, as well.”

Is there any chance Quinn gets fired tomorrow?

“No. But that doesn’t change the record. It is what it is. It’s just very disappointing for everybody.”

So you have no decision at this point?


At which point he continued out the door, trailed by security.

Blank has made a financial investment in Quinn as well as an emotional one. Quinn and Dimitroff received contract extensions through 2022. The coach also was given uncommon autonomy for a first-time head coach in personnel decisions, from signings and roster cuts to draft decisions.

But so many of those decisions have backfired. Quinn’s coaching staff has struggled on both sides of the ball. Even new special teams coach Ben Kotwica spoke during the week about Rams punter Johnny Hekker having the ability to pass, but the punt return team looked completely unprepared for a fake punt on fourth-and-3 in the second quarter. Hekker completed a 23-yard pass to Nick Scott, setting up a field goal.

Quinn fired his offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators after last season. He’s struggling as the team’s new self-appointed D.C. He acknowledged after Sunday’s loss that he has started to step back in coordinator duties and that “some of the other assistants” took over some play-calling last week against Arizona and again against Los Angeles. It didn’t help.

It gets worse. Blank has PSL owners and fans to answer to. They’ve turned on this team and on Quinn.

“We want our money back!” one fan yelled as he walked down the corridor in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

There were thousands of empty seats in the stadium; thousands of other fans left early. Secondary markets like StubHub were dumping tickets for as low as $18. Anybody standing outside before the game and holding out their hand probably could’ve gotten in for free — if they felt like witnessing such misery.

Quinn’s news conference was cut off after five minutes but not before he was asked if he felt he had lost the team.

“I understand why the question is (asked),” he said. “It’s a fair question, honestly, because you spend most of your time trying to connect and get the team to play the way we’re capable of. The answer, I would say, is no. But why the disbelief at times of not playing like we’re capable of — that can be very frustrating. When you don’t do that, you want to look and search and find answers. That’s what I spend most of my time doing.”

Does he consider this a lost season for either the team or himself?

“I never think you’re out of a fight. You shouldn’t think that way as a team member, and I certainly never think that way as a coach,” he said. “I recognize when you don’t play well those are fair questions.”

He also surely recognizes where this is going: Dan Quinn will soon be without a job.



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