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Darrell Bevell, by the numbers

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A look at the coaching history of Atlanta’s next possible offensive coordinator.

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

Reports have surfaced that the Atlanta Falcons may fire offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel following the season’s end.

A name that’s already being linked to the Falcons, if they do indeed part ways with Sarkisian, is former Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell, who ran Seattle’s offense while Dan Quinn resided in the Pacific Northwest as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator.

One of the major reasons why Bevell is probably being looked at (other than Quinn’s familiarity with him), is because he has over a decade of NFL experience as an offensive coordinator.

With that experience comes a track record, and with that track record comes data that we can analyze to determine if this would be a smart hire or not.

Darrell Bevell, by the numbers

Year Total offense rank (out of 32) Scoring offense rank (out of 32)
Year Total offense rank (out of 32) Scoring offense rank (out of 32)
2006 - Minnesota Vikings 23 26
2007 - Minnesota Vikings 13 15
2008 - Minnesota Vikings 17 12
2009 - Minnesota Vikings 5 2
2010 - Minnesota Vikings 23 29
2011 - Seattle Seahawks 28 23
2012 - Seattle Seahawks 17 9
2013 - Seattle Seahawks 17 8
2014 - Seattle Seahawks 9 10
2015 - Seattle Seahawks 4 4
2016 - Seattle Seahawks 12 18
2017 - Seattle Seahawks 15 11

In 12 years of running an offense, Bevell’s units have finished on average 15th in total offense, which is almost as middle of the road as you can get. His two worst seasons have come in the first year on the job with each respective team — 23rd in 2006 as a first-year OC with Minnesota, and 28th in 2011 as a first-year OC with Seattle.

That makes sense considering the adjustment time it takes for a first-year OC to really implement his philosophies with his new team. We saw it with both Kyle Shanahan and Steve Sarkisian here in Atlanta in recent years.

However, it’s also important to look at the talent he had to work with (or lack thereof) with that 2006 Vikings team and the 2011 Seahawks. A 38-year-old Brad Johnson was his quarterback in his first two years with the Vikings, and Tarvaris Jackson was the signal caller in Seattle in 2011.

Matt Ryan is far and away a better quarterback than either of those two options, so a finish outside the top 20 in total offense likely won’t be accepted (or tolerated) next season, if Bevell took over the Falcons job.

His best years came in 2009, 2014 and 2015, when he presided over a top 10 offense in both yardage and scoring. It’s no coincidence that those were the years when he had very good QBs to work with in the form of MVP candidate Brett Favre and Russell Wilson in his early prime.

The four-year stretch between 2012 and 2015 where his offense was top 10 in scoring each year is promising. Those Seattle teams, however, were carried on the back of perennial Pro Bowl RB Marshawn Lynch, and they slowed down considerably in Lynch’s absence in 2016 and 2017, when they fell back to the middle of the pack.

A good run game seems to be essential to Bevell’s success, and while his quarterbacks haven’t always been the best, he has had the fortune of having the likes of Adrian Peterson and Lynch as his bell cow running backs.

Bevell’s offenses have finished in the top 10 in rushing percentage eight times in his 12 years as an OC. In that aforementioned four-year stretch of top 10 scoring offenses in between 2012 and 2015, Seattle’s rushing percentage rankings are as follows: 1st, 1st, 2nd, 4th. Between 2012 and 2014, Bevell dialed up the run at a greater percentage than he did the pass (a rarity in the modern NFL).

With Devonta Freeman providing a Pro Bowl presence in Atlanta’s backfield, we may see a greater uptick in run frequency dialed up for the Birds if Bevell is hired as the new OC. The Falcons haven’t had an offense in the top 10 in rushing percentage since Matt Ryan’s rookie season in 2008 (although they did finish 11th in both 2016 and 2017).

Of course, what Darrell Bevell is most known for is the moment when he didn’t dial up a run play — when he opted against handing the ball off to Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line in the closing moments of Super Bowl 49 in 2015.

That Russell Wilson pass attempt ended up getting intercepted by Malcolm Butler, as the New England Patriots snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. It was a freak play, and one can only hope that Bevell has learned from it, the same way we hope that Dan Quinn learned from the collapse in Super Bowl 51.

Bevell did preside over a Super Bowl-winning offense in 2013, but that Seahawks title was earned more off the back of the team’s No. 1 ranked defense than Bevell’s 18th ranked offense.

A legitimate argument could also be made that the 2009 Vikings (who were powered by Bevell’s offense) would have won their own title if not for an incredibly stupid and errant crossbody throw by Brett Favre while in Field Goal range in the late stages of the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints.

The tendencies and numbers are ever prevalent when it comes to Darrell Bevell, who has over a decade of experience as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. You can decide for yourself if this would be a good hire for the Falcons, if they do indeed part with Steve Sarkisian.