The news of Bryan Cox’s firing was surprising in the extreme, given its timing. It also flew under the radar a bit, considering that the Falcons parted ways with defensive coordinator Richard Smith the same day, and we were also sort of still in a stage of deep mourning over the Super Bowl. You know, that stuff.
It also wasn’t immediately clear why he was fired. The impetus behind Smith was that Dan Quinn had begun calling plays and the team clearly wanted to put Marquand Manuel into the defensive coordinator role, least in hindsight. Cox, meanwhile, had been beat up by fans and analysts in prior seasons because the team wasn’t doing anything rushing the passer, but there was drastic improvement in 2016 for both Vic Beasley and the defensive line more generally.
Cox finally spoke up, and he has a theory.
I’m not sure I’d understand this reason. To be honest, I had assumed the Falcons were gearing up for this change from the moment they had turned the play calling reins over to Dan Quinn. The team seemed likely to can Cox when Quinn came aboard, and then again after an underwhelming 2015 season, but Quinn has shown a willingness to let things play out. If the Combine issue was the reason the team fired Cox, it’s odd in the extreme given that they’d do so many months later, after improvement for his unit, and when Manuel also ran into major trouble for asking Eli Apple if he liked men during the same Combine.
Ultimately, I have to think Quinn had Young on his list of coaches he badly wanted on his staff, and as part of taking the next leap, he felt Young would be an upgrade over Cox. We have no real evidence to suggest that’s true, but considering Quinn’s stated reasoning for getting rid of Smith, it wouldn’t surprise me.
We may never know the team’s motivation, but I certainly wish one of the NFL’s most colorful characters well, and hope that Bryant Young can be a great defensive line coach now that he’s in Atlanta.