The speculation about Steve Sarkisian getting the axe this offseason has been ongoing for many weeks now, and that’s if you don’t count all the talk of him getting fired in like the third week of the 2017 season. Marquand Manuel’s impending doom has been a more recent subject, but all the indications we’re receiving here before the final game of the season is that both men are going to be looking for other opportunities soon.
The latest report came from Ian Rapoport at NFL.com, who essentially confirms what we’ve all been thinking about and hearing over the last month. To wit:
Coach Dan Quinn is safe, but there will be change. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is seriously at risk, but so is defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel. The Falcons dealt with injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball but the issues went deeper. While owner Arthur Blank is moving forward with Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff, with a strong belief in both, Quinn should have several new staff members for 2019. Darrell Bevell, who spent some time with Atlanta in the preseason, could be a candidate, but there will be other strong ones.
Sark had a shaky start in 2017 but presided over a pretty efbefective offense in 2018, all things considered. If the Falcons can him, he was doomed by his worst efforts—and we all remember too many jet sweeps and 2nd and 10 runs up the middle, to be sure—and Atlanta going slack on offense for five consecutive games to essentially ruin their season. Given that he was a controversial hire when he was added and both Falcons offenses he has run have been disappointing, it’s little surprise he’s likely on the outs and headed back to the college ranks in 2019. The names we’ve seen connected to the Falcons’ vacancy, including Bevell, are not exactly thrilling ones.
On defense, Manuel is on the hot seat because of a lack of progress. The 2017 Falcons defense was much better than the 2015 and 2016 versions, certainly, but it still fell short of one of the league’s best units. The fact that the pass rush was non-existent for weeks and key players failed to take a step forward in 2018 will hurt a once-hot head coach prospect a lot, and he’s very likely to be heading out the door as well. There’s been zero talk of who might take over for him, though you could certainly comb through Quinn’s coaching history to find some candidates, especially if Kris Richard might be willing to hop over from Dallas.
It’s worth noting, as some of you have, that it’s not a great look for Dan Quinn that he’s had one coordinator hired away (Kyle Shanahan) and has fired three others (Richard Smith, Sark and Manuel) if it comes to this. That’s why I’d expect Quinn to have a relatively short leash going forward, and he and the reportedly safe Thomas Dimitroff front office will have a lot of work to do in a short time to get this football team back on track.