The Falcons are apparently not done shuffling things on their coaching staff. A day after announcing the firing of Dan Quinn and the same day as the team installed Raheem Morris as the interim head coach, they’ve announced the firing of special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica. The team has promoted running backs coach Bernie Parmalee, who spent time as an assistant special teams coach with the Falcons and Dolphins, to special teams coordinator, and have installed Jeff Ulbrich as the new defensive coordinator. Will Harriger is now the running backs coach.
The Kotwica move is a bit of a surprise, and pretty swift for Morris if he’s already making these kinds of decisions. Kotwica has presided over solid special teams units over the past two years, by and large, but his group was responsible for the humiliating failure to pick up the late game onside kick against the Cowboys, and Kotwica gave a thoroughly unsatisfying answer where he appeared to blame the players for the failure. One has to think that’s a major reason behind the move, given that special teams hasn’t been bad enough otherwise for that kind of snap firing.
Parmalee is a capable, well-regarded coach who was a Miami special teams coach from 2002-2009 and was an assistant to Kotwica during part of 2019. He’ll finish out the year in that role and has the experience necessary to push to stay on in the role under a new coaching staff, similar to what Keith Armstrong did when Dan Quinn first arrived in Atlanta. Harriger, his replacement, was a former quarterbacks coach with the Seahawks and was at least nominally in charge of clock and game management for the Falcons at the start of 2020. It’s not clear if anyone’s going to fill that role with Harriger shifting responsibilities.
Finally, Ulbrich as defensive coordinator is no great surprise, given that he and Raheem Morris were effectively co-defensive coordinators through a good chunk of 2019 and now 2020. The Falcons have had an abysmal defense through all five games of 2020, but perhaps Ulbrich will be able to do more with the group with full control of defensive play calling and presumably plenty of control over planning.
We wish Kotwica well and we’ll hope Parmalee and Ulbrich can do good things the rest of the way.