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How did the Falcons go wrong? Glad you asked

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Who saw this coming? Nobody. If you claim you did, I’ll insist on a polygraph. As bad as last year was, the Atlanta Falcons were 7-9. Now they’re 1-6, and the “1” required a fourth-down conversion, a fourth-down stop and a Nelson Agholor drop.

 

Everyone asks: How did this happen? As a public service, I offer these observations/guesses. 

Theory No. 1: The coach’s credentials. Dan Quinn began coaching in 1994. Until 2011, he’d been a defense coordinator only at Hofstra, and then only for the 2000 season. That team went 9-4-1 and lost to title-bound Georgia Southern and Paul Johnson in the FCS quarterfinals. PJ’s offense hung 48 points on DQ’s defense.

Quinn was Pete Carroll’s defensive line coach/assistant head coach with the Seahawks in 2009 and 2010. Will Muschamp, chosen to succeed Urban Meyer at Florida, tapped Quinn as defensive coordinator. The Gators were eighth nationally in total defense in 2011, fourth in 2012. Though Quinn -- who’d known Muschamp when the two were Dolphins assistants under Nick Saban -- was a key figure, the belief in Gainesville was that the head coach ran his own defense.

Quinn returned to Seattle and was part of consecutive Super Bowl seasons – the Seahawks won the first and should have won the second – that featured the NFL’s top-ranked defense. That stamped him as the NFL’s hottest assistant. The Jets made a pitch, but Arthur M. Blank got what he wanted, as Arthur M. Blank invariably does. 

One reason Quinn came here was that Blank offered control of the 53-man roster, basically making him czar of football. Mike Smith had reported to general manager Thomas Dimitroff; Quinn would report to Blank. This isn’t quite a second-guess, seeing as how we raised it at the time, but granting such sway to someone who’d never been a head coach at any level was unusual if not unprecedented.

And the Seahawks didn’t just learn how to defend under Quinn. They were the NFL’s ninth- and fourth-best defense in 2011 and 2012 under Gus Bradley, who left to coach the Jaguars. After Quinn left, they were the NFL’s second- and fifth-best defense under Kris Richard. Those Seahawks were a harmonic convergence of defensive excellence: Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin. Quinn did great work there, but he wasn’t the only one. 

Theory No. 2: The Shanahan factor. The best season under Quinn took the Falcons to the Super Bowl -- this despite them ranking 25th in total defense. Indeed, Quinn seized the defensive reins from coordinator Richard Smith after Thanksgiving. That team scored 540 points, tying for the eighth-most in NFL annals. It scored 80 more in playoff victories over Seattle and Green Bay. After the opening loss to Tampa Bay until the final quarter of Super Bowl 51, Kyle Shanahan had one of the greatest play-calling seasons ever. Matt Ryan was MVP. Julio Jones caught 83 passes for 1,409 yards. Devonta Freeman rushed for 1,079 yards. The line blocked liked thunder. Everything worked. 

Nothing has worked as well since. Shanahan left to coach the 49ers. Quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur took a job as offensive coordinator under Sean McVay with the Rams, Quinn having hired Steve Sarkisian as OC here. Sarkisian lasted two seasons and was among three coordinators fired on New Year’s Eve. Shanahan’s 49ers are 6-0. In Year 1 as the Packers’ head coach, LaFleur’s team is 6-1. 

Theory No. 3: Nobody to say no. Dimitroff’s job changed with Quinn’s arrival. The GM’s mission became to acquire players of the coach/czar’s liking. When the coach/czar reaches the Super Bowl in Year 2, his power is absolute. Quinn’s concept of Brotherhood became boilerplate on official team releases. One of his many bromides – “Iron sharpens iron” – adorned the lobby at 4400 Falcon Parkway. 

Only once under Quinn has the Falcons’ defense ranked among the league’s 10 best in yards against. That was in 2017, when Marquand Manuel (since fired) was a rookie coordinator. Last year the Falcons ranked 28th in total defense, sixth in total offense. Their top two draftees, both in Round 1, were offensive linemen. Did not the defense require more immediate help? 

The guess is that Quinn believed that, with him again running the defense and injured guys presumably healthy, he’d coach everybody up. Almost all these players were of his choosing – DQ Guys. Heck, he might relight the fire in Vic Beasley, the 2016 NFL sack leader who’d done little since. Quinn announced his intention to make Beasley his personal project. Duly enthused, Beasley skipped OTAs.

Sometimes total control leads to tunnel vision. Shouldn’t somebody – Dimitroff, or even Blank – have said, “Are you sure you can get more from these guys just because you like them? Are you sure there’s more to get?” Or, going bigger-picture: “In trying to keep all these guys happy, aren’t we spending ourselves into salary cap ****?”

Sometimes a GM needs to tell his HC, “Whoa.” Can a GM who serves at the pleasure of this HC do that? Was there anybody in Flowery Branch to say, “Maybe trying to be HC and DC isn’t the greatest idea”? (In a nod to reality, Quinn revealed last week that defensive play-calling is now a communal process.) 

This isn’t to suggest that Quinn was a bad hire. Twenty-four months after he took the job, his team led the Super Bowl by 25 points. But from the first, the Falcons have treated Quinn as if he wasn’t just a coach but a magic man. The cold truth is that, after 71 regular-season games, he has been worse than his predecessor. His record is 37-34. Mike Smith’s was 50-21.

https://www.ajc.com/blog/mark-bradley/how-did-the-falcons-wrong-glad-you-asked/F6072sxwfyCMQXsXaX0uSN/#

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I really don't understand the need to compare Quinn to Smith.  

Smith was let go when it was obvious he was washed up here.  His overall record is better than Quinn's, but that's totally irrelevant.  

If everyone had foresight as keen as Mark Bradley's hindsight, the Smith family would've hired Bill Belichick back in 1991.  

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6 minutes ago, octoslash said:

I really don't understand the need to compare Quinn to Smith.  

Smith was let go when it was obvious he was washed up here.  His overall record is better than Quinn's, but that's totally irrelevant.  

If everyone had foresight as keen as Mark Bradley's hindsight, the Smith family would've hired Bill Belichick back in 1991.  

If that was washed up, I don’t know what this is now. The 2019 Defense is only better than than 1966 in first 7 weeks . DQ has historically worst defenses in last two years. 
Smitty had major injuries in 2014, what’s the excuse this year. 

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Spot on and brutal. Everybody could see that Shanahan might go on and be successful. But letting LaFluer go is looking even worse at this point. It's looking like another Favre moment. Matt Ryan loved LaFluer as a QB coach. Was he even consulted?

Our tendency to throw out the baby with the bath water is killing us. Zimmer, LaFluer, heck even Wade Phillips.

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There are some good points in there, but a few things that seem incorrect or disingenuous.

"Or, going bigger-picture: “In trying to keep all these guys happy, aren’t we spending ourselves into salary cap ****?"  <-- Seems like Blank might be more to blame for salary cap **** with the Falcons for life comments.

Using the first 71 games vs Smith's body of work doesn't seem fair.  Were you to that that after the first 2 seasons, Quinn looks better with the Playoff wins and Super bowl appearance.

JDaveG likes this

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Once upon a time the falcons had a 28-3 lead in the super bowl then the Big Bad BB and his trusty sidekick TB figured they could just nickel and dime us down the field and we’d let them. The whole league watched and saw exactly how to beat us and we never changed a thing. The end. 

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OMG! I never knew this bit

Quote

Theory No. 1: The coach’s credentials. Dan Quinn began coaching in 1994. Until 2011, he’d been a defense coordinator only at Hofstra, and then only for the 2000 season. That team went 9-4-1 and lost to title-bound Georgia Southern and Paul Johnson in the FCS quarterfinals. PJ’s offense hung 48 points on DQ’s defense.

I think I remember that game

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3 hours ago, falcons007 said:

Smitty had major injuries in 2014, what’s the excuse this year. 

Actually 2013 and 2014... you know, Smitty's only 2 losing seasons.

But hey.  Quinn with his 2 winning seasons and only 1 without Shanahan is somehow clearly better than Smitty's, right?

Oh wait maybe it was because Smitty had Ryan and Julio on rookie contracts?

Nah... as they say the eye in the sky don't lie.... and THIS season.  It speaks for itself.

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Hit every nail on the head.

His defense couldn't make ONE stop with 17 mins left in the SB. Never told Shanny to just run the ball and or throw safe/quick throws but instead to just stay aggressive when clearly the Pats had the momentum. 

Let Matt LeFleur (who is 6-1 now) go. Hired an alcoholic with no NFL playcalling experience from college to run Shanny's historic offense. Was scapegoated and fired even though he improved year two. Also fired MM claiming the "compass was off". However, the defense now is the worst it's ever been. 

Picks up a 13 million dollar option on Beasley when everybody else around Quinn including us fans know Beasley just doesn't care about football and has gotten by on his athletic ability and not work ethic his entire athletic career. Continues to trot out Campbell and Ishmael when they're both backups at best. Blown coverages and missed assignments every game.

Yes we tried to hire Kubiak but failed. However, he then hires Koetter, who is Mr. 4 verticals, to run an "outside zone, play-action" scheme (Quinn's words after Koetter was hired) that is an interpretation of Shanny's offense. Result? The offense has been a jumbled mess that has no identity. 

His actions, time after time have been questionable and downright wrong. 

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I never wanted Quinn. TD threw Smith under a bus to save himself, which obviously worked. He has the king's ear, after all.  Beyond that, I understood that Smith had to go, but they should've gone with an experienced guy with a proven track record. They blew it. 

 

Here's to hoping they won't blow it again...

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23 minutes ago, The Don™ said:

Hit every nail on the head.

His defense couldn't make ONE stop with 17 mins left in the SB. Never told Shanny to just run the ball and or throw safe/quick throws but instead to just stay aggressive when clearly the Pats had the momentum. 

Let Matt LeFleur (who is 6-1 now) go. Hired an alcoholic with no NFL playcalling experience from college to run Shanny's historic offense. Was scapegoated and fired even though he improved year two. Also fired MM claiming the "compass was off". However, the defense now is the worst it's ever been. 

Picks up a 13 million dollar option on Beasley when everybody else around Quinn including us fans know Beasley just doesn't care about football and has gotten by on his athletic ability and not work ethic his entire athletic career. Continues to trot out Campbell and Ishmael when they're both backups at best. Blown coverages and missed assignments every game.

Yes we tried to hire Kubiak but failed. However, he then hires Koetter, who is Mr. 4 verticals, to run an "outside zone, play-action" scheme (Quinn's words after Koetter was hired) that is an interpretation of Shanny's offense. Result? The offense has been a jumbled mess that has no identity. 

His actions, time after time have been questionable and downright wrong. 

This. He dug his on grave.

 

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3 hours ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

Actually 2013 and 2014... you know, Smitty's only 2 losing seasons.

But hey.  Quinn with his 2 winning seasons and only 1 without Shanahan is somehow clearly better than Smitty's, right?

Oh wait maybe it was because Smitty had Ryan and Julio on rookie contracts?

Nah... as they say the eye in the sky don't lie.... and THIS season.  It speaks for itself.

My bad, this defense through first 7 weeks has been the worst except for 1966. This is screw up of historic levels.

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10 hours ago, shc said:

"Or, going bigger-picture: “In trying to keep all these guys happy, aren’t we spending ourselves into salary cap ****?"  <-- Seems like Blank might be more to blame for salary cap **** with the Falcons for life comments.

I've thought this one myself. 

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9 hours ago, thanat0s said:

I never wanted Quinn. TD threw Smith under a bus to save himself, which obviously worked. He has the king's ear, after all.  Beyond that, I understood that Smith had to go, but they should've gone with an experienced guy with a proven track record. They blew it. 

 

Here's to hoping they won't blow it again...

Who did you want?

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1 minute ago, Falcons Fan MVP said:

Who did you want?

Of the ones we had on our short list, I was fine with Rex. He’s nutty, but he’s a **** of a defensive coach. 

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3 minutes ago, thanat0s said:

Of the ones we had on our short list, I was fine with Rex. He’s nutty, but he’s a **** of a defensive coach. 

Maybe we will consider him this offseason for DC

thanat0s likes this

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15 hours ago, falcons007 said:

I will buy Theory No. 2. The obsessive X and O’s coach KS with an MVP QB masked lot of the short comings on the D in 2016. DQ went along for a ride... 

Biggest day light robbery in NFL.

And, Mr.Blank cannot yet see this.

You feel me once, You feel me twice...and .....

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Is there some billionaire out there who cares about winning that will buy this team? AB chooses community service and blind loyalty over the fans of this city. 

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17 hours ago, The Don™ said:

Hit every nail on the head.

His defense couldn't make ONE stop with 17 mins left in the SB. Never told Shanny to just run the ball and or throw safe/quick throws but instead to just stay aggressive when clearly the Pats had the momentum. 

Let Matt LeFleur (who is 6-1 now) go. Hired an alcoholic with no NFL playcalling experience from college to run Shanny's historic offense. Was scapegoated and fired even though he improved year two. Also fired MM claiming the "compass was off". However, the defense now is the worst it's ever been. 

Picks up a 13 million dollar option on Beasley when everybody else around Quinn including us fans know Beasley just doesn't care about football and has gotten by on his athletic ability and not work ethic his entire athletic career. Continues to trot out Campbell and Ishmael when they're both backups at best. Blown coverages and missed assignments every game.

Yes we tried to hire Kubiak but failed. However, he then hires Koetter, who is Mr. 4 verticals, to run an "outside zone, play-action" scheme (Quinn's words after Koetter was hired) that is an interpretation of Shanny's offense. Result? The offense has been a jumbled mess that has no identity. 

His actions, time after time have been questionable and downright wrong. 

The nail in the coffin is Beasley telling Dairy Queen "no" in the off season, he was going to go and play awful shorrt armed recreational basketball instead of coming in early to work on his craft in OTAs. Should have cut his Vrex ace on the spot and let him go try out for Bball team in China. 

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