With the season over, the Falcons will hit the ground running with general manager and head coaching candidate interviews. The team had interviewed their own Anthony Robinson and former Texans GM Rick Smith for their biggest front office vacancy and Raheem Morris for the head coaching job, but had otherwise held off on interviews, which pointed to Atlanta being invested in candidates who currently hold positions with other teams.
Those interviews may come in bunches, but we have our first confirmed head coach interview for the team lined up for tomorrow. Per no less an authority than Kyle Shanahan, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will have a video interview with the Falcons tomorrow.
Shanahan confirmed @JayGlazer's report that Robert Saleh will have an interview with the Falcons tomorrow via Zoom.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) January 4, 2021
Saleh figures to be a hot candidates this go around due to his excellent work with the San Francisco defense. The team has had two consecutive top ten finishes in yards allowed and two top five pass defenses over the past two years as the team has built up their base of talent, and Saleh is extremely well-respected by his team and in NFL circles. The work he did with an extremely depleted defense this year was arguably as impressive as the elite production he got out of that group in 2019 when they were in the Super Bowl, and the praise he gets for motivating and drawing better performances out of the players he’s responsible for would likely be welcome for this in-transition Falcons defense.
I would be willing to bet that most Falcons fans are gunshy about the hire because the Falcons went with the first-time head coach with a strong defensive background last time, which landed them Dan Quinn and exactly one magical year, one playoff year, and a slow three year self-immolation. Saleh is not necessarily DQ 2.0—Sean McDermott is proof that defensive coordinators can make damn good head coaches in the right situation, as are dozens of other coaches stretching back decades—but that fear and the team’s ugly offensive fortunes throughout much of 2020 might conspire to nudge Atlanta toward a different candidate.
The fact that Saleh is interviewing without a GM in the building tells me he may not be the strongest candidate for the job, but everything’s pretty fluid at the moment and we have no idea what the Falcons are thinking. We’ll see if he can impressive team brass enough to become the third straight defensive coordinator to land a head coaching gig in Atlanta. If he does, I hope he’s by far the most successful.