It was the Texans game, in Week 5, that convinced me.
The Falcons had fallen to 1-3 the previous week, after a lousy all-around performance against the Titans. Tennessee was up 24-7 going into halftime after Marcus Mariota eviscerated Atlanta’s pass defense and had his best game of the season. That performance alone probably bought Mariota two more weeks of starting—he was benched for Ryan Tannehill in Week 6, who looks like a pretty significant improvement.
The Texans game was always going to be a difficult one to pull off. Atlanta had to go on the road against a very good offense and a solid defense and come out with a win. In reality, it shouldn’t have been the “must-win” situation that it turned out to be—the Falcons had two far easier matchups in the previous weeks against the Colts and Titans. But since Atlanta lost those games, they simply had to find a way to win. 1-4, as many of you know, is basically a playoff death sentence.
Many fans still had hope for a turnaround then. We were wrong.
The game began as a competitive contest. Hell, the Falcons even took a 17-16 lead into halftime—only the second halftime lead of the entire season. Hopes were high for a strong second half in Houston. Those hopes were quickly doused as Atlanta was outscored 17-0 in the third quarter en route to a 53-32 rout by Deshaun Watson and the Texans. It was the most points given up by the Falcons since 2004, and by far the worst defensive performance of Dan Quinn’s career.
To me, this game told me everything I needed to know about Quinn’s future with the team. In a must-win scenario—with a trip to the playoffs and Quinn’s job likely on the line—the Falcons got blown off the turf. This game showcased so many of the schematic and personnel mistakes that Quinn has been making ever since Week 2, and it was really a microcosm of the Falcons 2019 season: enough offense to score 30+ points in a competitive game, but a defense that will always give up more.
It’s now Week 8, and the Falcons are 1-7. Quinn has continued to make the same mistakes on defense, week after week. Against the Seahawks on Sunday, Quinn’s defense surrendered 24 first half points. Despite the offense’s miscues, it would’ve been extremely difficult to dig out of that deficit—especially with Matt Schaub, who did put forth a heroic performance, at the helm.
Arthur Blank has indicated that changes are unlikely during the bye week. He has said that the team will “take the next few weeks to evaluate everything”. Blank is a very patient and thoughtful owner, for better or worse, which means that snap decisions are simply not his thing. But what his statement indicates to me is that it is a question of “when”, not “if”, for Dan Quinn’s firing.
There’s simply no way Dan Quinn survives as head coach. This is a team that had playoff aspirations, at minimum. Arthur Blank was willing to give Quinn a pass in 2018 due to injuries—and apparently, because all of the previous coordinators were scapegoated—but the general consensus among all of us at The Falcoholic was that it was “playoffs or bust” for Dan Quinn.
It’s safe to say that the playoffs went out the window in Week 5. At this point, the more interesting question is whether or not the Falcons will end up with the #1 overall pick (they’re currently at pick #4).
Quinn’s failure in 2019 is the culmination of an entire offseason’s worth of wrong decisions. One of the biggest seems to be the decision not to cut Vic Beasley, whose hefty $12.8M price tag prevented the Falcons from going after an actual starting EDGE in free agency. Another was the decision to fire Steve Sarkisian—who for all his flaws, still put forth a productive Shanahan-style offense and improved during his time in Atlanta—for the antiquated scheme of Dirk Koetter.
The biggest indictment of Quinn, however, is that he took total control of the defense in 2019. He’s had five years to bring in the ideal players for his scheme, and is calling the plays himself this season. The result is by far the worst defense in the Quinn era, and one of the worst in franchise history. The Falcons are allowing over 31 points a game, and a third down conversion rate of 53%. Atlanta is tied for the fewest sacks in the league with Miami—only 7 on the year—and went over a month without producing one.
This season has been a catastrophic failure on all levels for Quinn, who is probably only the coach right now because “the players love him”. Blank may not fire Quinn today, or tomorrow, or at any time over the remaining eight games. After all, it’s not like handing the reins to an interim HC is going to change anything in a lost season. But make no mistake: Quinn will be fired.
It’s a sad end to an era that could’ve been the best in Falcons history. But there are consequences for our decisions—and unfortunately for Quinn, he made far too many poor ones prior to and during the 2019 season.