Falcons fans got a wake up call on Monday September 7th, when the team announced that they had cut presumed starting center Joe Hawley and signed Gino Gradkowski. Hawley had gained popularity with fans for his smash mouth style which had earned him the nickname of "Brawley" last year. Many had assumed that his roster spot was safe.
Clearly, it wasn't.
While this move was seen as a sign that Quinn would be reshaping the roster to his liking, this has really been going on since he arrived in Flowery Branch. Some key players were sent packing before camp even began, with the release of long-time veterans Justin Blalock and Harry Douglas. Many fans were eager to see what Jonathan Massaquoi could do under the new coaching staff, but were surprised when he was cut before camp even came around. These should have served as a clear sign that Quinn would be making some sweeping changes, but it's easy to forget about off-season moves that happen prior to camp.
Additionally, the Falcons disappointed some fans when they signed former Bucs player Adrian Clayborn, mostly because he wasn't preferred free agent Derrick Morgan, and was also seen as a bust in his time in Tampa. Those opinions are changing after Quinn surprisingly moved him to sub-package defensive tackle where he's thrived this preseason. Other free agent signings like O'Brien Schofield and Leonard Hankerson appear to be solid signings as well, while the entire draft class - from Beasley to Jarrett - looks to have tremendous potential.
It's not unheard of for new head coaches to come in and revamp the roster, so what Quinn is doing isn't necessarily unique. However, seeing as Falcons fans haven't had to go through this in nearly 7 years, it's somewhat jarring when the year to year roster has been mostly stable in recent years. The natural reaction is to panic or even question the moves, but the reality is that this was going to happen all along - though the timing of some of the cuts is a little puzzling.
Don't fret though. It wasn't that long ago that an unknown defensive coordinator with no head coaching experience inherited a team - revamped the roster - and took that team to the playoffs in his first year, with a rookie QB no less. I won't promise anyone a playoff berth, but I also don't think these moves are without vision or direction. It's clear that Quinn is reshaping this roster as he sees fit. Whether those moves pay off immediately, in the long run, or not at all is the bigger question. As fans of this team, let's hope that the collective outcome of these moves is a Dan Quinn team that exceeds the success of the previous regime.