Seven years is a long time, and when you've gone seven years without experiencing something, you tend to forget the particulars. In this instance, I'm referring to the coaching search for the Falcons, and the particulars are just how muddled and annoying this process winds up being.
It seemed logical from the beginning to assume the Falcons would want a big name draw, and Josh McDaniels and Rex Ryan were the biggest names on the market. The Ryan situation ended up being a mess and we're still not sure what the team's actual level of interest was in his services, and now he's in Buffalo. McDaniels is staying in New England...unless he isn't. Todd Bowles seemed like the obvious candidate after that, he was reported by several to be the team's top target, and we'll never actually know because he just agreed to become the next head coach of the Jets last night. We legitimately do not know if the Falcons' top target is still out there or they've been left holding the bag, though my guess is either Ryan or Bowles was a legitimate candidate who got away, if not both.
Regardless, the Falcons still need to acquire a head coach. There are multiple avenues available to them at this point, but given their stated preferences for defensive-minded head coaches, I've identified two likely candidates. Given the way this offseason has gone, both will join the staff of the Los Angeles Rams by the end of the month.
The first candidate is obviously Teryl Austin. As reader Doomcryer70 repeatedly noted yesterday, Austin isn't actually all that far off from Bowles in terms of coaching experience, and he's just finished engineering one of the most impressive defensive turnarounds in recent memory. Multiple reports have talked about how impressive he was as a candidate, and with his defensive chops he'd seem to be a fit for what the Falcons are looking for. The lack of lengthy coordinating experience and the fact that he's not a big name might hurt him, sure, but the Falcons don't appear to be heavily weighing either of those factors at this juncture.
The second candidate is Dan Quinn, one I've repeatedly dismissed because I didn't think the Falcons would want to take the chance that he'd be gone by the time he's available for hiring. When you consider that Bowles now coaches the Jets and that the Bears, Broncos and 49ers all appear to have top candidates not named Dan Quinn, the question becomes whether the Falcons love him as a candidate or not, and I suspect they do given his work with the Seahawks. He inherited fantastic talent in Seattle, but has piloted the unit to even greater heights, and would again be a strong defensive-minded hire.
If this Tweet from last night is accurate, Quinn may have interest in the job as well, so maybe we've got ourselves something mutual.
Dan Quinn wants Falcons head coaching job per source. Now, can Atlanta wait?— Dianna Marie Russini (@NBCdianna) January 14, 2015
Beyond those two candidates, you get into John Fox (coveted by the Bears), Adam Gase (coveted by the 49ers), and McDaniels, who most of the fanbase despises. I'm not going to rule out any possibilities at this point, given the uncertainty surrounding the search, but I'm guessing your next Falcons head coach will be either Austin or Quinn. If you've got pliers on my nose, I'll go Quinn.
What say you?