The last time Greg Knapp was the offensive coordinator for a top 10 offense, I was in my senior year of high school. George W. Bush was president, Hey Ya! by Outkast topped the charts, and the final Lord of the Rings movie landed in theaters. It was a long, long time ago.
What I am unsubtly suggesting is that Greg Knapp has not been a good offensive coordinator, if he ever was, in well over a decade. It’s true that he presided over the #1 rushing attack in the NFL for three consecutive years whilst in Atlanta, but it’s also true that he had Warrick Dunn, T.J. Duckett and Michael Vick all three of those years. His only truly great offenses were in San Francisco in 2001, 2002 and 2003, which has in typical NFL fashion led to him getting job after job after job. He’s comfortable, experienced, and knows his way around a quarterback room, at the very least.
Those qualities make him a fine quarterbacks coach, the position he’s held since 2013. Knapp seems to be a solid dude, but solid dudedom is not the sole qualification to be an offensive coordinator, and D. Orlando Ledbetter’s guess/report that Knapp could be in the running if/whenSteve Sarkisian is fired inspired immediate alarm and disgust in Falcoholic HQ.
This is not to suggest that Sark is definitely gone, mind you, but it has appeared likely for weeks and the talk is not slowing down.
DLed on Darrell Bevell: "He’d likely be a quarterback coach candidate with Greg Knapp taking over as the offensive coordinator." pic.twitter.com/UvDHToakzu— Tankoholic Matt (@FalcoholicMatt) December 18, 2018
I can’t be emphatic enough here: Hiring Greg Knapp would prove that Dan Quinn is incapable of learning the right lessons. It would signal to me that after tasting Super Bowl success in large part due to Kyle Shanahan’s creativity as a playcaller, and seeing a relatively untested Steve Sarkisian largely fall flat with the same (or even, at the skill positions, better) players and a similar scheme. It’s not about the scheme so much as it is maximizing the talent of this offense’s best players and disguising the weaknesses of the rest, something Shanahan for all his arrogance and Super Bowl mistakes understood quite well. Under him, the offensive line looked brilliant, role players were top performers, and Ryan was an MVP.
Replacing Sarkisian with Knapp would signal that Quinn thought Sark’s issues and this offense’s failings were due more to a lack of experience than brilliance. In reality, Sark called some fine games along the way, and Ryan is having a quietly tremendous season despite a doomed offensive line. To hire Knapp—and to a slightly lesser extent, someone like Darrell Bevell—would be to bring aboard a housekeeper to a brilliant old mansion with no floorboards. Someone has to do the hard work, and if you’re going to go with an experienced candidate, you could at least push hard for someone with a long track record of success. Knapp, if we’re being blunt again, simply does not have that.
I’m hoping that this proves to just be a guess, not a prophecy. We know that Dan Quinn is going to survive, and none of us really want to see him fail, whatever we may think of him. If he’s content to sweep out his coordinators but not seek to make smart, well-reasoned hires to replace them, he’s putting all of his hopes into the Falcons being light years better with another draft class and better health. There’s enough talent in Atlanta to believe that might happen, but it’s not a bet I’d want to make if I was in his shoes.
Knapp could preside over a perfectly successful Falcons offense, due to the talent on hand, but he has always been and would remain incapable of elevating it the way your best offensive coordinators do. After falling just short of the team’s first championship two years ago and suffering a humbling season in 2018, it would a potentially fatal mistake for Atlanta.