The Atlanta Falcons have second interviews lined up with Todd Bowles and Teryl Austin this week, and it seems likely the Falcons will hire one of those two candidates before the week is out. They're looking for a defensive-minded head coach, by all accounts, and those are two of the best left on the market.
There are a couple of potential twists here. The first would be if the Falcons preferred and were willing to wait for Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who may not be available until February if the Seahawks keep rolling. The second would appear to be John Fox.
Fox instantly becomes the most established candidate on the open market, with his four seasons in Denver and nine seasons in Carolina. He has a reputation as a steady coach with a defensive bent, and he's been to two Super Bowls. He only had three winning seasons in nine tries in Carolina and his Broncos teams have suffered some rather crushing defeats in the playoffs,but with a talented team, Fox usually does quite well. The Falcons are not reported to be interested in Fox at this point.
Still, there's plenty of gung-ho advocates out there. Let's take a look at the idea, to give Fox his proper due.
Why this makes sense
Fox is the marquee name still available, instantly familiar to the average NFL fan. He's taken part in two Super Bowls, he's a well-regarded coach and he has a defensive bent. If you're looking for a name and stability, Fox offers that in spades, and many would take his hiring as a sign that the Falcons were committed to winning.
From a public relations perspective, then, he's a sensible hire. It's worth remembering that Fox only presided under a team with a record under 7-9 when Jimmy Clausen was his quarterback, and no one alive is going to wring a winning season out of Jimmy Clausen. Fox is respected by his players at every stop, he's a rock solid coach who is generally unflappable, and if you give him talent, he can take you a long way, particularly on defense. It's worth remembering that he did his best work with Jake Delhomme and Tim Tebow, and that's pretty darn remarkable.
Why this doesn't make sense
Our own FalconsM5 more or less nailed this one yesterday.
Come on Falcons, interview the original Mike Smith. RT @AdamSchefter Broncos and John Fox parting ways.— Matt (@FalconsM5) January 12, 2015
Fox's worst attributes are straight out of Mike Smith central casting. His clock management is shaky, he's not known for maximizing the talent he has and that steady nature is welcome until your team is behind and he has no other tricks up his sleeve. His limitations are Mike Smith's limitations: He works with the roster he's given, and with a phenomenal offense and talented defense in Denver, he repeatedly fell short. That sounds harsh, of course, but we do judge our coaching candidates harshly here in Atlanta, and the same "can't win you the big game" criticism that dogged Smitty is a critique of Fox, even with his greater success.
There's no question his hiring would be welcomed by many and that John Fox is a good coach, but we've got well over a decade of NFL coaching to suggest that he's something short of a truly great one. Many will justifiably point out that there are no great, established candidates on the open market, but to me that's an argument for going with the coach on the rise as opposed to a known quantity. I know others will disagree, but sometimes you gotta embrace something new.