With Dan Quinn facing very, very long odds to return, we are taking a look ahead in case Arthur Blank decides to clear out the coaching staff. Blank is definitely handpicking the next head coach and is likely firing general manager Thomas Dimitroff, too.
It’s far earlier in the season than any team typically starts looking at new head coaches, so the top head coach candidates are not yet clear. There are a lot of potential options here, so it makes sense to cover as many potential candidates as possible.
Blank purchased the Falcons back in 2002. In 2003, he fired offensive head coach and plugged in Wade Phillips to finish out the season. Then he hired Jim Mora for three seasons, Bobby Petrino for a handful of games, Emmitt Thomas as interim head coach, then the Mike Smith and Dan Quinn era.
Blank seems to favor defensive head coaches, but the NFL now favors offensive coaches, and the team is heavy on offense. He last fired a coach in-season way back in 2003, suggesting he may give Quinn time to right the ship. Regardless, Quinn is not likely to return in 2020. We may see Blank bring in his second offensive head coach since he purchased the team, but we are including some defensive coordinators on the list. The new coach needs to get the most out of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones while they are still playing.
I give my uneducated, wild, ignorant prediction on each coach after each short description.
Mike McCarthy, Former Green Bay Packers Head Coach
I’m begging Arthur Blank not to do this. There’s no question that the new head coach is going to be a Blank move, for better or worse. The former Green Bay Packers head coach has loads of experience but plenty of issues, especially down the stretch. He’d be an offensive-minded coach who, at least, got some excellent seasons from Aaron Rodgers.
My uneducated guess: Blank brings in McCarthy for at least two interviews.
Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator
Hiring McDaniels would punish Falcons fans. However, pain is life for Falcons fans. McDaniels spectacularly flamed out with the Denver Broncos, with poor management skills and offensive performances ultimately dooming the one-time wunderkind. Now much older, it doesn’t look like he’s matured after flaking on the Indianapolis Colts and leaving the team out to dry until late in the offseason. His agent fired him after that move. Still, he has a long history of success despite different personnel and different schemes with the Patriots.
My uneducated guess: McDaniels has too many similarities to Bobby Petrino. No way Blank goes anywhere around him.
David Shaw, Stanford Head Coach
The Stanford coach has been on the NFL head coaching radar since the last time the Falcons were hiring. He doesn’t seem overly excited to hop to the NFL, but he continues to run a successful team with his offensive mindset.
My uneducated guess: Shaw sure likes his college job. I can’t imagine he shows any interest in leaving for a team with a 2-4 year window and no cap space. Whoever takes the position is playing primarily with the existing personnel.
Shane Waldron, Rams Passing Game Coordinator
Everyone still wants a piece of the Rams, right? I have no idea who Shane Waldron is, but teams have made worse moves. He has limited coaching experience.
My uneducated guess: If you showed me literally any photo of a guy with a buzzcut and maybe a stubbly beard, I would agree without hesitation it is Shane Waldron. Perhaps he gets consideration for a coordinator position, but it’s too early for Waldron.
Kellen Moore, Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator
Moore, too short to play in the NFL, turned from perennial backup quarterback to quarterback coach to offensive coordinator in only two years. He’s only 31 and helped produce some great Dallas games. The offense has cooled more recently, so it might be nuts to give a guy the head coach position based on a few good games.
My uneducated guess: Multiple interviews. Blank will almost certainly be targeting a big name to boost both wins and team interest. The losses and empty stadium are big problems for him, and Moore could help change that.
Lincoln Riley, Sooners Head Coach
Riley appears to be the easy favorite on Twitter, and it’s not tough to see why. At only 36, Riley has coached up both Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray into back-to-back Heisman winners, and the first-overall draft picks. He’s 29-4 in just over two seasons thanks to his creative, heavy passing attack. He’s from the Mike Leach coaching tree, which should give you an idea about his offensive tendencies.
My uneducated guess: Top choice. Riley is the biggest name out there and doesn’t have the apparent warning signs Petrino had in college. Blank has to be skeptical of taking another college coach, but who else has made two Heisman and first-round picks in back-to-back seasons? There’s something special there.
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame Head Coach
I don’t have a lot of opinions about Kelly. He’s old. Also very successful in multiple college stops, including Notre Dame. The Falcons have tried defensive coach after defensive coach, so this would be an underwhelming yet sensical hire.
My uneducated guess: No way.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Head Coach
Sure, he’s awful in college, but he kept the San Francisco 49ers outperforming year after year. The franchise cratered after he left and look to just now be pulling themselves up. He’s right up there among the most hatable possible Dan Quinn replacements.
My uneducated guess: Nah.
John DeFilippo, Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Coordinator
Defilippo was the Eagles quarterback coach during their Super Bowl run, then flamed out as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator. The Jaguars gave him another shot, and he’s been killing it with backup quarterback Gardner Minshew.
My uneducated guess: We’ve had enough former Jaguars coaches. No, thank you.
Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator
Andy Reid has produced some pretty good head coaches from his offensive coordinator position recently, including Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy most recently. A lot of this has to do with Patrick Mahomes, but in the same way teams were trying to grab Rams coaches last season, teams will be going hard at Eric Bieniemy.
My uneducated guess: Likely a top finalist hindered by his team’s playoff run.
I think Lincoln Riley and Eric Bieniemy will be top options across the NFL. Kellen Moore and Mike McCarthy should be fringe candidates who will get some attention from more desperate teams. Riley signed a hefty contract extension in the offseason, so he will be expensive. Bieniemy, at this point, appears to be the most likely top option for the Falcons and across the league.