This is not a surprise, but it probably deserves a remark or two after the past few weeks of defensive ineptitude.
Dan Quinn took over the defense with the goal of revitalizing it. He fired Marquand Manuel, who presided over a solid-to-good defense in 2017 and an injured, crummy on in 2018, and bet on himself to get more of this unit. A coach that has always drawn praise from his players—particularly during his Seattle days—he promised to work closely with guys like Vic Beasley, Takk McKinley, and new starters like Isaiah Oliver to get the most out of them.
Five weeks into the season and days away from the sixth game, the Falcons are 1-4 and the defense is a joke. Beasley chose to work out away from the team, which wasn’t necessarily the wrong decision but did look weird given Quinn’s promise. McKinley is liking Tweets about the Cowboys and has, after generating a lot of pressure in the first weeks of the season, utterly disappeared in the last two; and Oliver, for all his evident natural ability, has looked lost and has gotten burnt to a crisp throughout. You don’t have to signal those three guys out, either, because everyone from De’Vondre Campbell to Desmond Trufant has “enjoyed” lapses that have hurt the team. Quinn’s scheme, which is supposed to be simple and maximize his players’ strengths, has seemed like a labyrinth to even his veterans this year. No one seems to know precisely what’s wrong, which makes the talk about accountability from everyone not named Grady Jarrett or Ricardo Allen kinda troubling.
With that disaster unfolding and the defense actually worsening with Quinn at the helm, it was fair to ask whether he might consider stepping away from defensive coordinator duties and focusing on trying to right the ship purely as the head coach. For many reasons, though, that was never going to happen, not given the optics of Quinn retreating from the role he thumped his chest about and given what will happen to DQ if the defense thrives in someone else’s hands. He’s probably getting fired if this team doesn’t start winning now and keep winning over the next 11 weeks, and he’d rather be in control of that destiny.
It’s hard to argue with that, simply because it’s not evident that anyone currently on staff is going to put a better defense on the field. Ultimately, though, Quinn’s legacy in Atlanta will likely be soured by a bet on himself and his players that looks, with 11 games left to go, to be a doomed one. At this point, while there’s every reason to want things to click miraculously into place, there’s not much reason to believe it will.