The Atlanta Falcons fired their longest-tenured coach on Monday, moving on from their special teams coordinator since 2008. Armstrong has coached multiple Pro Bowl players, most notably Eric Weems in 2010 and Devin Hester in 2014. He came in second in quotables on Hard Knocks behind Bryan Cox, thanks to his off-color remarks to James Stone.
His swagger will be missed.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the firing on Monday, while also confirming that offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel have been fired as well.
“All three of these men are excellent coaches that I have a lot of respect for,” head coach Dan Quinn said 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 Armstrong specifically, Quinn wished him the best moving forward.
“Coach Armstrong helped develop some really good players on our kicking units over his time here,” Quinn said. “Special teams has to be the gateway to the identity of our football team. In order to see that, we felt we needed a new voice and design. We wish Keith nothing but the best in the future.”
Football Outsiders had Armstrong’s special teams typically ranking just inside the top 10 to just outside the top 20, with 2010’s 3rd place finish the team’s best. While he’s spent more than two decades coaching special teams in the NFL, his performances boil down into the average territory.
Falcons fans may be critical of Armstrong’s picks at kick returner and punt returner, frequently landing on physically limited players like Justin Hardy, or even starting his Falcons career with accident waiting to happen Adam Jennings. Yes, his time in Atlanta has been that long.
The team’s special teams has been consistent but unimpressive this season despite the addition of Pro Bowler Justin Bethel and the addition of multiple potential special teamers and returners. Atlanta has rarely had their special teams as a strength and that has undoubtably undone Armstrong’s time with the Falcons. Sometimes the message gets stale and teams need to try something new.
We wish Armstrong only the best and he certainly won’t be out of work for long. He’s occasionally been in head coaching discussions and is well respected around the league. Thanks to Armstrong for his long-time contributions to the team.