It seems like not even a year ago the Atlanta Falcons had an easy path to the Super Bowl if not for one potential interception bouncing off of Keanu Neal’s leg and into the open arms of a receiver. And just a year before the Falcons had an almost insurmountable lead in the Super Bowl.
Now the coach who led the team there is on the receiving end of a lot of criticism, with some calling for his job. Christian D’Andrea of SB Nation’s main hub listed five “most fireable” head coaches after this week’s games: Vance Joseph, Marvin Lewis, Mike McCarthy, Dirk Koetter, and Dan Quinn.
The reasoning? Clock management issues, which has been a running problem with Quinn during his entire time with the Falcons.
The Cowboys were content to run the clock down and attempt a game-winning 46-yard field goal when Quinn burned his second timeout, hoping an Ezekiel Elliott fumble could force this game to overtime. That 1 in 171 gamble failed to pay off on second down, so Quinn dug in and called his final timeout on the ensuing play. Elliott didn’t fumble, and suddenly a 46-yard game winner for Brett Maher turned into a 42-yard attempt.
It’s not clear if Quinn’s decisions resulted in the Falcons losing the game, but game management has consistently been a weak spot for Quinn. When the team should go aggressive, they go conservative. When they should be saving clock, they hold onto their timeouts. Or here the Falcons gave Zeke another shot to improve field position for a shaky field goal kicker.
Winning does a whole lot to cover up problems with a team, and as expected, losing brings those issues to the forefront. Quinn is getting a lot of flack and it is most certainly earned criticism.
Such as this alarming stat.
Falcons have blown 12 4Q leads under Dan Quinn (2015-18).— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) November 19, 2018
Only team with more in that span is Chargers (14). https://t.co/hkrAdWFhI8
That stat can move even the most ardent Quinn supporter to question his long-term viability. Those blown leads can’t all be attributed to injuries, and suggest poor game management issues are a systemic issue with the coaching staff.
With that said, it is way too early to be calling for Quinn’s head. He’s one of the best at creating a positive culture, motivating his team, coaching up defensive players, and working with Thomas Dimitroff in identifying good scheme fits. Mike Smith had time management issues too, but you can’t say he comes even close to Quinn’s management style.
Quinn has done too much for the team to consider replacements, especially with the injury issues plaguing this season. Arthur Blank has shown patience with his head coaches and given them a chance to bounce back. A new coach may try running a new scheme, look for new players, and otherwise push the team into a mini-rebuild.
That’s not to say Blank might get the itch to look at firing Quinn if the season finishes out with some terrible games. I won’t say Quinn needs to finish out the season strong to keep his job, but repeating the Dallas and Cleveland games could find him looking for a new job in January. That’s right, we might be talking about the hot seat with a few more bad losses.