The Falcons are bringing everyone back, as expected, ensuring that we will head into the New Year wondering if this team can actually turn signs of life in the second half into a winning season in 2020. Momentum isn’t real, so let’s just say I’m not optimistic as of this moment.
Raheem Morris will indeed take over as the defensive coordinator with Jeff Ulbrich retaining a major role, per Quinn’s presser this afternoon. That’s the good news, and the return of Ben Kotwica is perfectly acceptable as well, given that special teams weathered quite a few storms effectively in 2019. I’m less sanguine about the return of Dirk Koetter, to no one’s surprise.
Dan Quinn says Dirk Koetter will indeed be back next year. Says Koetter, Raheem Morris, Jeff Ulbrich and Ben Kotwica will continue to have big roles. #Falcons— William McFadden (@willmcfadden) December 30, 2019
The Falcons are championing not making a change for the sake of making a change, but it’s an open question whether they’re confusing continuity for complacency. Something that Arthur Blank knows well but won’t say is that if the Falcons had gone 6-2 in the first half of the season and finished 1-7, Dan Quinn would be packing his duffel bags for parts unknown by now. This team is fond of its head coach and general manager, and he in turn does not want to make major changes after shuffling coordinators so frequently in recent years. So what we get, from a team coming off its second straight 7-9 season, is the wholesale return of general manager, head coach, and coordinators, with one welcome addition at defensive coordinator and a tweak to the power structure in the form of Rich McKay sliding in.
Morris, of course, presided over a big defensive improvement in the second half along with Ulbrich. Kotwica got quality special teams play out of his unit despite switching punters a million times, switching kickers twice, and losing some expected contributors to injury. Koetter...presided over a worse offense than the Falcons had a year ago, one that somehow allowed more sacks than the offense that got Arthur Blank very angry a year ago. Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff have been the primary architects of the Falcons for years now, but Blank apparently trusts them to coax something out of the team that they couldn’t in 2018 and 2019, likely with dreams of 2016 dancing in his head.
Look, there’s no way I can put a happy spin on this. I’m not a fan of keeping the existing regime in place and I’m really not a fan of watching the Falcons bring back an offensive coordinator who presided over an ultimately disappointing offense that tried to get Matt Ryan killed. The Falcons are betting on the absolute best coming out of everyone from McKay down to the players, and while that bet could pay off, there’s no indication it will other than that bedrock belief in the last eight games.
The Falcons spent a swagger-y 2019 offseason assuring us they had a plan and that plan would work. I’ll certainly give it free agency and the draft, but I’m struggling to find any reasons in the here and now to believe that.