Goober Pyle

A closer look at the Falcons’ new-look defensive play-call alignment

42 posts in this topic

https://theathletic.com/1379497/2019/11/14/a-closer-look-at-the-falcons-new-look-defensive-play-call-alignment/

As it turns out, this isn’t an unfamiliar setup for the Falcons’ coaching staff.

Beginning with the Falcons’ loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6, head coach Dan Quinn, who has been doubling up as the team’s defensive coordinator, passed on play-calling duties to his assistants. Taking the “lion’s share” of these duties, Quinn previously revealed, was linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich. For Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Saints, Raheem Morris joined Ulbrich in sharing defensive play-calling duties. Morris recently was moved to coach the defensive backs after spending the past three-plus seasons with the team’s receivers.

The setup worked like this: Ulbrich called plays on first and second downs. Morris called third-down plays and those in two-minute situations. While the first change in play-calling responsibilities — in games against the Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks — didn’t offer different results, things changed for the better against the Saints. Defensive backs remained in their assignments and covered well. The pass rush made things uncomfortable for Drew Brees when he dropped back to throw.

But just a few days after the game, each coach who played a role with the defensive play calls against the Saints has downplayed the significance of the changes. On Monday, Quinn said credit should go to the players for getting the job done. Ulbrich and Morris said their hand in play-calling wasn’t the reason why Atlanta upset New Orleans. Still, it’s hard not to notice the lone change that resulted in this outcome had to do with a coaching reassignment.

After all, a defense that hadn’t been too successful previously appeared dominant against a hated rival.

“A lot was made of that,” Morris said. “When you plan it, we all plan it together. So when you plan those things, it’s just a person reading off a sheet. We did a nice job of working together and working for each other. I just think that was the most helpful part, bouncing ideas off each other and going to work and having a successful game.”

This wasn’t the first time Morris has played a part in sharing play-calling duties. In 2015, Morris said he and former defensive coordinator Richard Smith shared this responsibility. With Morris moving to the offensive side to coach receivers in 2016, it’s believed Smith was the sole defensive play-caller until Quinn took the role from him midseason.

Morris said he has seen and heard of other teams going with a committee approach when it comes to either game-planning or calling plays. That’s one reason why he seemed a little surprised at the reaction this news garnered during the weekend.

“It’s been done here in the past, too, with other people,” Morris said. “A lot of people do it that way. I know a lot of people are in situations who have a guy who is constantly focused on third down and constantly focused on situations, so when they come up, he can be ready to have a suggestion, or he can be ready to have what he thinks you should do ready to go. It’s no different than what most people do. You do it on offense, as well. You may just talk about it in between series as opposed to during a series. It just happens that way.”

While Quinn is no longer the primary play caller, he is still very much involved when it comes to approving the plays offered up by his assistants. He is still considered the team’s defensive coordinator as he is the primary person who puts together the weekly game plan.

“I think there’s a big deal being made about really nothing there,” Ulbrich said. “(Quinn’s) still a big part of meetings. He’s still a big part on game days with suggestions. He’s on the headpiece; he’s always talking. And ultimately, it’s not the plays in this defensive system that, in my opinion, make the difference. It’s the players, the communication and execution. That was on point. The players deserve the credit for what occurred last week.”

By passing on play-calling duties, and with moving Morris back to defensive backs, Quinn now can add extra focus on his area of expertise — the defensive line. During the offseason, Quinn worked a great deal with the defensive line. But as a head coach who was also a play-calling defensive coordinator, unforeseen issues began to pile up that required extra attention.

To start with, the secondary continued to deal with numerous communication issues through eight games. This season, teams have completed 88.9 percent of their throws and average 70 yards per game in two seconds or less against the Falcons, according to radar360. Both marks are worst in the NFL. If quarterbacks are able to get the ball out with that much success in two seconds or less, it will be extremely difficult for a pass rush to hit home.

And that aforementioned pass rush was only able to record seven sacks heading into last week’s game against the Saints. The hope obviously will be to continue marrying the coverage and pass rush so that the Falcons can continue playing complementary football Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

Moving Morris to the secondary should continue to free up areas for Quinn to address head-on, or at least that’s the hope. In a season like this, there isn’t any room for error. After Atlanta’s loss against Seattle, owner Arthur Blank spoke about the need to evaluate the coaching staff after a 1-7 start. Now at 2-7, stringing a lengthy winning streak during the second half of the season will be needed to ensure Blank keeps faith in Quinn to be his head coach.

And with that in mind, Quinn appears willing to do whatever it takes to rectify the hole his team dug itself in. If that involves relinquishing play-calling duties and shifting coaches’ responsibilities around, so be it.

“I don’t have an ego that’s anything bigger than our team,” Quinn said. “That’s the most important thing, how we can do the best job for the players. That’s what I felt was best at this time. That’s why I really leaned on Jeff and Raheem to take on a larger role. Like you expected them to, they answered the challenge very strongly.”

 

 

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32 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

Respect Quinn for what he mentioned in the last paragraph.

I agree.  I just hate that it took so long and ruined our season.  On a positive note, maybe it was a learning experience for DQ (not like he’s been doing this 20 years) so hopefully this is one mistake that’s never repeated.  

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23 minutes ago, BUBBASBEANS said:

I agree.  I just hate that it took so long and ruined our season.  On a positive note, maybe it was a learning experience for DQ (not like he’s been doing this 20 years) so hopefully this is one mistake that’s never repeated.  

It’s a shame his hearts in the right place but lord as good as those 2 wins were man there’s been some ****e in between.

Unless they storm home and some how streak through the division he’s still history.

capitan likes this

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7 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

It’s a shame his hearts in the right place but lord as good as those 2 wins were man there’s been some ****e in between.

Unless they storm home and some how steak the division he’s still history.

A man whose "heart is in the right place" accepts responsibility.

A man whose "heart is in the right place" shows some loyalty to subordinates.

A man whose "heart is in the right place" does not blame everyone around him, while clinging desperately onto his own job.

4 minutes ago, Roanoke Falcon said:

I respect nothing about the cowardly, scapegoating Quinn.

 

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Just now, Roanoke Falcon said:

A man whose "heart is in the right place" accepts responsibility.

A man whose "heart is in the right place" shows some loyalty to subordinates.

A man whose "heart is in the right place" does not blame everyone around him, while clinging desperately onto his own job.

 

No that’s you drawing conclusions from the outside.

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2 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

No that’s you drawing conclusions from the outside.

Fired all subordinates.

Kept his job.

Scapegoating is the only possible conclusion a non-moron can draw.

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6 minutes ago, Roanoke Falcon said:

Fired all subordinates.

Kept his job.

Scapegoating is the only possible conclusion a non-moron can draw.

Your second point, "Kept his job." is correct.

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19 minutes ago, Roanoke Falcon said:

Fired all subordinates.

Kept his job.

Scapegoating is the only possible conclusion a non-moron can draw.

Yeah you’re prolly right...but it was do it or go with em

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Just now, Atl Falcon said:

Yeah you’re prolly right...but it was do it or go with em

Better coaches than Quinn (which would be most of them) have refused to fire their staff.

Some got fired.

Some didn't.

All were better men than Cowardly Quinn.

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4 minutes ago, Roanoke Falcon said:

Better coaches than Quinn (which would be most of them) have refused to fire their staff.

Some got fired.

Some didn't.

All were better men than Cowardly Quinn.

Idk about that man....don’t think I’m going that far. I think his *** was gone unless.....

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5 hours ago, kiwifalcon said:

Respect Quinn for what he mentioned in the last paragraph.

Kiwifalcon....Hi brother! Long time!!! I respect him yes! But I believe we gotta step up from him. Do you want to take that final year chance with him watching Beasley not care? I really don't brother. You and all of us deserve better! I believe he's stuck to mediocre ideas and an outdated philosophy. I can only hope we improve man! Anyway, love you brother Falcon.  Great to see you again!

Peteshweddy likes this

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3 minutes ago, *Old Pappy Falcon* said:

Kiwifalcon....Hi brother! Long time!!! I respect him yes! But I believe we gotta step up from him. Do you want to take that final year chance with him watching Beasley not care? I really don't brother. You and all of us deserve better! I believe he's stuck to mediocre ideas and an outdated philosophy. I can only hope we improve man! Anyway, love you brother Falcon.  Great to see you again!

I know his times probably up mate.

Thing I respect about him right now I think he understands he’s made a lot of mistakes but is fighting to the bitter end.

Hes put his ego and everything else aside and whatever it takes to get the team across the line he’s doing his best to get it done.

I don’t see any give up from him and I can respect that.

Heard you’ve been through some tough times good to see you back.

 

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5 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

I know his times probably up mate.

Thing I respect about him right now I think he understands he’s made a lot of mistakes but is fighting to the bitter end.

Hes put his ego and everything else aside and whatever it takes to get the team across the line he’s doing his best to get it done.

I don’t see any give up from him and I can respect that.

Heard you’ve been through some tough times good to see you back.

 

I understand kiwi on the opinion you have....I really do! Yes, I respect the volcano around his every move and how he handles it. But maybe it's just I and others , that want a change with hardcore consistency . A little, old school smash you in the mouth if you will. Time will tell unfortunately .

Yes brother, A long road of misery. Trying to be positive about the many things in life we don't ask for or see. It's soo good to see you my falcon brother kiwi! I can only hope for good things here on out. But I ain't leavin unless my spirit is token from me.....even then....I'll still be here:)

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10 hours ago, kiwifalcon said:

It’s a shame his hearts in the right place but lord as good as those 2 wins were man there’s been some ****e in between.

Unless they storm home and some how streak through the division he’s still history.

Yeah that’s exactly right.  I’ve been as vocal as any about it but if a man can correct a wrong and be successful I’m all for it and gladly admit my error in premature judgement.  I’d love to see 9-7, a deep playoff run and benefit of some hard lessons learned but even if we did pull off an improbable run of the table, I’m afraid we’ve lost too many tie breaker scenarios to even make it possible.  That said, I agree he’s likely done. Its a shame but thats NFL.  

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12 hours ago, BUBBASBEANS said:

I agree.  I just hate that it took so long and ruined our season.  On a positive note, maybe it was a learning experience for DQ (not like he’s been doing this 20 years) so hopefully this is one mistake that’s never repeated.  

Yup. Maybe he should take preseason seriously and not use the first half of the season to get prepared. 

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13 hours ago, kiwifalcon said:

Respect Quinn for what he mentioned in the last paragraph.

This is why I've said if they somehow go on a run, I am not sure DQ is a lock to be fired. If this decision proves effective, it may be a better late than never mentality than scrapping the whole thing. 

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1 hour ago, vel said:

This is why I've said if they somehow go on a run, I am not sure DQ is a lock to be fired. If this decision proves effective, it may be a better late than never mentality than scrapping the whole thing. 

Although I don't have much faith that things are going to permanently turn around, I can't disagree with this.  Honestly, if there is vast improvement over the remainder of the season, he deserves another season.  I just don't see it happening though.  Best case scenario, 6 & 10.

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It’s all window dressing for the bigger issue at hand...lack of ownership and accountability.  Nobody wants to fess up to doing good or doing bad.  Heck at this point I’m willing to give the water boy credit for the play against New Orleans.

Who’s running this ship?

Pacific_Falcon likes this

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