It is impossible to consider Sunday night’s game without a surge of wholly justified anger. The Atlanta Falcons had too much at stake in this game to fail so spectacularly, and predictably, the blame game started before Tom Brady had even finished kneeling the game away.
That blame game has largely swept up Steve Sarkisian, but it’s also focused some of its swirling anger on Dan Quinn, Matt Ryan, and the larger roster itself. When something goes horribly wrong with your favorite football team, the immediate instinct is not toward waiting it out or focusing on specific fixes, but blowing up the problem in a drastic, satisfying way. The Falcons, who have become a more stable organization in recent years, have rarely indulged in that. No matter how satisfying it might be in the short term.
Here are three reasons a reset is not going to happen, particularly with Sark. At least, not yet.
Dan Quinn has ownership’s trust
Quinn hires his guys because he has faith in them, Richard Smith perhaps notwithstanding. In turn, the Falcons hired DQ with the understanding (and the hope) that he was going to be their coach for a long time. The 3-3 start kinda sucks, but after Quinn and company went to the Super Bowl for just the second time in franchise history in February, he’s in absolutely no danger of being fired.
So if Quinn has the trust of ownership, they’ll trust him with the decision he makes with offensive coordinator. Quinn has shown time and time again in his short time here that he doesn’t make quick, rash changes. He didn’t move on from Kyle Shanahan after an up-and-down first season, he waited until pretty far into the second season to take over play calling duties from Richard Smith, and he hasn’t done anything with Keith Armstrong, whom he inherited from Mike Smith’s regime. The roster was aggressively remade, sure, but that took time too. Quinn is about patience in most respects.
He hand-selected Steve Sarkisian, who had zero NFL play calling experience and struggled with alcoholism in the college ranks, because he believes in the guy. He thinks, to the best of my knowledge, that Sark has the right ability and intellect to lead this offense, and firing him in haste would be both a major acknowledgement that he was wrong and a move that would absolutely kill Sarkisian’s chances of being hired by another NFL team down the line. There may be a point at which keeping Sark is untenable, but Blank trusts Quinn and Quinn appears to trust Sark, so we are not at that point.
The NFC South is still wide open
It would be one thing if the Panthers had won some of their winnable games and were sitting at 6-1 right now. At that point, with a 3-3 record and back two full games in the division, the Falcons would have to take serious stock of how likely they were to claw their way back into it.
Instead, they’re a game behind the Saints and a half game behind the Panthers, and both of those teams are deeply flawed in their own ways. The Saints have done very well in recent weeks to stay in games thanks to a better defensive showing and their usual excellent offense, but that defense still has major, gaping holes, and the Saints are still reliant on a small handful of players on the other side of the ball. Throw an injury or two into the mix, or get them against a hot team on offense, and things may fall apart a bit. They’re not invulnerable, at the very least, even if they clearly look like the class of the division at the moment.
The Panthers need to fire their offensive coordinator, for sure, and they’ve now scored under ten points twice this year. Not even the Falcons have managed that!
The point here is that if Atlanta can get somewhat on track, they still have all six of their divisional games to go, and a good showing there would get them close to a playoff spot on its own. They’re fully aware of that.
There are no great alternatives
It is fair to argue that the way Steve Sarkisian is calling games at the moment suggests that hiring Chip Kelly out of wherever the hell he is, bringing aboard a soon-to-be-fired Hue Jackson, or even handing play calling duties over to I dunno, Raheem Morris would be a plausible and even welcome alternative. The Falcons are unlikely to see it that way.
The team already passed on making Kelly its offensive coordinator this offseason, and they bypassed other internal candidates already. Anyone else you have assuming control of the play calling at this point is unlikely to do anything special that Sark isn’t already doing, meaning it would be a move designed to calm the fanbase and buy some goodwill and time, rather than a move that’s likely to actually improve the output. Given that, the Falcons are going to stand pat until the end of the year, at the very least.