The Atlanta Falcons kept their playoff hopes alive yesterday with a thrilling victory. The game had a nostalgic feel to it, as the Falcons reminded us how talented they actually are. The road ahead is still a bumpy one. There is no margin for error. With any luck the Falcons finally hit their stride and somehow meander into the playoffs. For now let’s take a midseason look at the coaching staff.
Sark has endured a lot of criticism this season, a lot of it fair. He’s generated 3,312 yards of offense, 8th best in the league. Most of you expected a prolific offense this season, given how last year played out. With the weapons at his disposal, Sark should be like a kid in a candy store. But points are what matter. And when it comes to points, the numbers tell a different story: the Falcons have amassed only 197 points on offense, 16th best in the league. When your players are anonymously telling a reporter the offense is “disorganized,” that’s a problem. Dan Quinn has given Sark his vote of confidence, and yesterday’s win certainly helped. Whether the recent emphasis on third down and red zone situations will pay dividends long-term remains to be seen. For now Sark is on a short leash.
This defense is up and coming. The Falcons have given up the eighth fewest yards (2,807 or roughly 311 yards per game) and tenth fewest points (179) this season. Young stars like Keanu Neal, Brian Poole, Grady Jarrett, and De’Vondre Campbell are hitting their stride. Steady veterans like Adrian Clayborn, Vic Beasley, Dontari Poe, and Desmond Trufant are buying into Dan Quinn’s system. If there’s a knock on Manuel (Quinn), it’s the run defense, which has been inconsistent this season. Manuel continues to emphasize concepts like gap discipline and hopefully that pays off during the second half of the season.
What happens when your special teams play isn’t all that “special”? Simple: it’s harder to win. Armstrong is an established assistant with years of experience backing him up. For whatever reason, he’s not getting the most of out his guys this season. From penalties to a lack of disciplined play on punts and punt/kick returns, special teams play has been a real weakness for this team. As for the return game, Andre Roberts hasn’t lived up to his hype. Whether that’s all on him or a result of poor coaching or a poor supporting cast isn’t clear. If it’s fixable, I’m confident Armstrong can fix it, hopefully before it’s too late.
Quinn has endured a lot since February. I’m not certain how he’s coped with the Super Bowl loss and I’m not certain to what extent he feels in control of his team right now. The Steve Sarkisian hiring is something Quinn may secretly regret, but he’s not going to do anything about it in the middle of the season. He’s got to be pleased with the defense. That said, the regression on offense has far exceeded expectations, even when you factor in Kyle Shanahan’s departure. Quinn’s seat isn’t even remotely warm, but that could change within the next 12 months, depending on how this season plays out.
So what say you about this coaching staff, Falcoholics? Discuss!