How Will Dan Quinn Revitalize the Atlanta Falcons?
Dan Quinn was hired as the Atlanta Falcons head coach to not only fix the defense, but fix what is wrong with a team that is two seasons removed from playing in the NFC Title game before falling to the San Francisco 49ers.
It’s quite possible the team is not as bad off as it is perceived. The offense for sure needs some minor tweaking, especially at running back and on the offensive line, but other key components of the offense appear to be in fine working order.
Quinn must revitalize this team from the defense first, and let everything else fall into place.
These may take baby steps to accomplish, but with an excitement level created by hiring a man that has been a coach in the last two Super Bowls with the Seattle Seahawks, those small steps might turn into giant leaps.
Quinn takes over for the departed Mike Smith, who went 66-46 (.589) across seven seasons in Atlanta. CBSSpsorts.com’s Jared Durbin points out that Smith's Falcons made the playoffs in four of his first five seasons, never finishing worse than 9-7 in that time. They won only one playoff game in that span, though, and regressed badly over the last two seasons. They compiled a record of just 10-22 amid various injuries and mismanagement, which led to Smith's being fired by owner Arthur Blank at the end of the 2014 campaign.
All of that is about to change.
Here are a few things to know about Quinn and how he will change things in Atlanta.
1. The buck stops with Quinn
During Quinn's introductory press conference, owner Arthur Blank let on that Quinn will have final say over the 53-man roster. I tend to think that is a good thing where Quinn will put his own seal of approval on players and positions that need the most attention. Look for him to potentially bring in former Seahawks players who are free agents this offseason.
2. Offense is ready to go
As a defensive coach, there's no better situation to walk into than one where there's already a ton of offensive talent on hand and you just need to fix up your side of the ball.
Armed with a stud quarterback in Matt Ryan and a top-flight passing game target in Julio Jones, Quinn is on the right track in that department.
Throw in Roddy White, Harry Douglas and even Devin Hester as additional passing game options, and it's not hard to see the Falcons having continued offensive success. Atlanta ranked 11th in Football Outsiders' offensive DVOA this past season despite sustaining a torrent of injuries along the offensive line and seeing the running game deteriorate as Steven Jackson aged in front of our eyes.
3. Defensive philosophy
Quinn spent the last two years coordinating the best defense in football. Along with Pete Carroll and defensive backs coach Kris Richard, Quinn helped mold the Legion of Boom and a powerful, versatile front seven into the most terrifying unit in the league.
Seattle played a 4-3 defense with heavy doses of Cover-3 under Quinn and his predecessor, current Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley.
Atlanta was a 4-3 team for years, but made a switch over to the 3-4 last season, though they did vacillate back to some four-man fronts as well. They were, in NFL parlance, "multiple." It will be interesting to see if that philosophical change sticks or if Quinn, defensive coordinator Richard Smith and assistant head coach Raheem Morris take the team back to more of a pure 4-3 alignment.
4. Path to the playoffs
Luckily for Quinn, he steps into a team in the easiest division in football to win. The NFC South was an abomination last year, easily the worst division in the NFL and possibly one of the worst ever. The Carolina Panthers won the division with a 7-8-1 record thanks to a Week 17 victory over these same Falcons.
The Panthers have holes all over their offense -- especially