The clock landed on double zeros and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn yelled out to his franchise quarterback and the two embraced. A thrilling win over the top seed in the NFC left both at the highest emotional level that they have probably encountered this season. Both, along with the rest of the team, has observed more lows than highs in 2019.
However, it’s safe to say that Matt Ryan is the team’s starting quarterback in 2020. The same can’t be said for his head coach. Currently possessing a 5-9 record, Quinn is well on his way to a second consecutive season of watching the playoffs from the confines of his living room. That’s a state of affairs that has owner Arthur Blank seriously contemplating making a change at head coach and possibly general manager at the conclusion of the season. At this point of Quinn’s tenure, can you really blame him?
The ghostly past that is Super Bowl 51 still makes its appearance from time to time on the local and national airwaves. That along with the apparent regression of the team itself over the last three seasons has Quinn with his back to the wall and Blank possibly itching to make a move.
Allow me to play devil’s advocate—or at least balance the scales—for a moment regarding Quinn’s job status going forward.
On one hand, it’s difficult to ignore everything that has gone wrong under Quinn recently. The defense is currently 20th overall and 25th in scoring. This comes after a 2018 season in which the Falcons defense ranked 28th and and 25th in both categories, respectively. That prompted Quinn to part ways with former assistant Marquand Manuel and allow himself to personally take the control seat as the team’s defensive coordinator. He wound up handing over the responsibility to linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich after the team’s Week 9 bye and a 1-7 start to the season.
Turn your sights to the other side of the ball and you will see an underwhelming unit overall that has fallen short of expectations. Sure, they are 10th overall on offense but 15th in scoring, 27th in rushing, and 26th in sacks allowed will not win ball games. That’s especially true when you have spent millions in the offseason on upgrading the offensive line as well as drafting two hopeful mainstays on said offensive line in the first round of the 2019 draft. Oh, and the Falcons are on their third offensive coordinator since the beginning of the 2016 season.
So we’ve highlighted why Quinn can be fired. Let’s look at why he may deserve to stay.
Dating back to the 2016 season, the Falcons have shown to play better football after bye weeks thanks to Quinn and his ability to make proper adjustments. Since that season, the Falcons are 20-13 in games after bye weeks. That includes going 4-2 this season with wins over the Saints and 49ers, who have a combined win total of 21 games so far this season. Both victories also came on the road, which is hard to do.
You can make a case that two wins in a disappointing season is not enough to write the wrongs of Quinn’s tenure. But it’s hard to ignore the potential of this Falcons team, and do keep in mind, Blank is one of the more patient owners in the NFL.
It’s ironic that the improved play by the Falcons over the last six games coincides with the change made to Ulbrich’s title as well as moving Raheem Morris from wide receivers coach to co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach. In Quinn’s back pocket is the fact he hasn’t had a full season to let Ulbrich and Morris work their magic. Giving them time to develop and a little more healthier group of defenders may be enough to entice Blank and keep things in order.
Hypothetically, if the Falcons are to not win another game for the rest of the season, Blank will have plenty to filter through to make a decision for the franchise. Another 7-9 campaign or a 6-win season will no question leave a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth, and those are best case scenarios. The players have been vocal enough to fully support Quinn and you can clearly see it over the course of the last six games.
I’ll play it safe for now and say that Blank has a very complex decision to make at season’s end. It’ll be one that can either give Quinn one more chance ascend back to winning seasons or one that can place the Falcons in a completely different direction by Week 1 of the 2020 season. Whatever the move is, it has to be the right one.