It was only a year ago that Marquand Manuel started drumming up head coach interest around the NFL. Now he’s out of a job. If you needed a reminder that NFL stands for Not For Long, here it is.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the news on Monday, along with the fact that offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong are both gone.
“All three of these men are excellent coaches that I have a lot of respect for,” Dan Quinn said Monday via the team’s media relations department. “While these are difficult decisions, we know we have a group of players here we are excited about and in order for us to consistently play true to our identity in all three phases we thought we needed some changes.”
On Manuel specifically, Quinn expressed confidence in him as a coordinator despite the team’s decision to move on.
“Marquand is a talented coach and excellent teacher that I have coached with for a number of years,” Quinn said. “I believe he should have the opportunity to call plays for a defense, so we have decided to allow his contract to expire so he can explore those opportunities.”
Manuel, a former NFL safety, quickly worked his way up the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff before Dan Quinn made him Atlanta’s secondary coach in 2015. He was a popular name for defensive coordinator before taking that spot with the Falcons in 2017. The Falcons were an improved unit that season, appearing to be well on their way to elite status.
That’s it for the highs.
Manuel embarrassed the team when asking pro prospect Eli Apple about his sexual orientation in pre-draft interviews. Also embarrassing was the 2018 Falcons defense. The Falcons had multiple key injuries early in the season, but the problems were more extensive than missing Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, and Ricardo Allen. The defense was plagued by poor tackling, penalties, disinterested players, and conservative play-calling.
Most alarming was no unit looked good. The defensive line, even at full strength, failed to rush the passer or plug the run. Impressive rookie Deadrin Senat was oddly benched against the New Orleans Saints, and frequently played fewer snaps than the invisible Terrell McClain. Duke Riley and Jordan Richards battled for the team’s most incompetent player who was miraculously starting. The defensive backs that didn’t end up on injured reserve had the worst seasons of their careers, and I’m looking at all three of Robert Alford, Desmond Trufant, and Brian Poole.
The injuries and incompetence turned Manuel into a conservative coordinator. The Falcons began dropping some of their best linemen into coverage and absolutely hemorrhaged yards and points in the process.
It was clear that Manuel was a gifted secondary coach. He never showed he’s a great defensive coordinator. He will likely join former conservative defensive coordinator Richard Smith back as a positions coach.
Quinn didn’t have much choice. Whether he wants to admit it or not he’s facing some serious pressure. 2018 is almost an exact snapshot of 2013. If the same standard is applied, Quinn needs to make the playoffs next year or else. He can’t risk his job on Manuel improving in Year 3.