It’s been a busy Monday for the Atlanta Falcons. Earlier in the day, the team interviewed Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who is now able to focus on his next job as the Titans are no longer in the playoffs.
Also on Monday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport announced that later in the day, the Falcons will interview Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. We knew last week that the team intended to interview Bowles, and we now know it’ll occur on Monday evening.
Before becoming head coach of the New York Jets for four years, Bowles made a name for himself as one of the brightest defensive minds in the league. He returned to focusing on the defensive side of the ball with the Buccaneers, who finished as the NFL’s 6th best defense in 2020. With there being several young head coaching candidates being interviewed, you can understand the draw of someone like Bowles who definitely would bring a strong defensive mind to the Falcons.
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While everyone in Falcondom seems sold on the idea of an offensive mind, the Atlanta Falcons continue to take a look at some of the top defensive coaches in the league for its head coaching job.
A former head coach of the New York Jets, Bowles is a well-regarded defensive coach that’s led one of the league’s most ferocious units down in Tampa since taking on that job in 2019.
Yes, it’s true. A large bulk of the fanbase want the team to finally embrace an offensive-minded coach to lead the franchise for the first time in a good while. Former Falcons coach Dan Quinn, after all, was the crown jewel of the 2015 coaching cycle after leading a historic Seattle Seahawks defense, only to enter a slow decline after the 2017 season.
It’s incredibly fair to wonder how life looks in Atlanta if it had kept its Kyle Shanahan offensive braintrust after 2016, and to want the team to find some sort of stability in the offensive play calling. Two years of inconsistent Steve Sarkisian and two years of outdated Dirk Koetter can do things to a person.
But give candidates like Bowles a chance. He went 10-6 in 2015 with a Jets team with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith under center, and his struggles after that inaugural season could be credited to any variety of things in one of the most disastrous franchises in the NFL. Former Jets GM Mike Maccagnan never did Bowles any favors with his draft and free agency classes, nor did any stability at the quarterback position.
His three-season, 24-40 record in New York may give some folks reasonable pause, but his success in Tampa Bay rebuilding the Bucs’ defense into one of the most formidable in the league. Just look at what it did to Atlanta at times this season.
Bowles’ defense has talent at every level, and you really could argue that secondary is largely a product of his scheming. Shaq Barrett saw a major resurgence under Bowles’ watch, and players like Devin White, Vita Vea and Jamel Dean blossom under his watch.
Bowles really is one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL; could he find more consistent success in a second stint in the head role? Would he bring anything to the table Quinn didn’t in terms of building culture and helping evaluate defensive talent?
This, though, is the true wary of hiring a defensive coach: can they nail the offensive coordinator role, and can they win games if that coordinator were to leave?
Don’t count out someone like Bowles being a good hire and being successful here in Atlanta. Guys like Eric Bieniemy, Arthur Smith and Brian Daboll are more attractive on paper for their offensive success alone, but with the right supporting cast, a defensive coach could be a great hire for the team. Also remember, a talented offensive coordinator can still have troubles translating that success at the next level. There are no guarantees.
If Bowles is the guy for the team, they could not hire him until the Bucs have been eliminated from the playoffs. We’ll see if he emerges from the list of candidates as Atlanta’s next head coach.