Dan Quinn

Falcons Owner Discusses Team’s Offseason

Earlier this week, veteran NFL reporter Peter King wrote in his “Football Morning in America” column that Falcons owner Arthur Blank “is getting restless.” However, in a statement to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Blank said that wasn’t the case, as the owner was happy with the organization’s offseason.

“I’m feeling very good about what (general manager) Thomas (Dimitroff) and (coach) Dan (Quinn) have done this offseason,” Blank said. “We have some key guys getting healthy again, the draft picks are getting up to speed, the new coordinators are meshing well and I’m confident we’re going to be ready to go for a very competitive training camp. I like where we’re going.”

The Falcons have been especially focused on improving their offensive line this offseason. The front office used a pair of first-rounders to select linemen Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, and they also added projected starter James Carpenter via free agency. The team’s other notable offseason moves include signing defensive linemen Adrian Clayborn and Tyeler Davison, and they also added backup tight end Luke Stocker. The Falcons even reshaped their coaching staff, hiring Dirk Koetter as their offensive coordinator and Ben Kotwica as their special teams coordinator.

However, it isn’t unfair to wonder if the Falcons are floundering. As King noted in his article, the team is 18-17 over their past 35 games (a string that starts with their devastating Super Bowl loss to the Patriots). Furthermore, the team is set to pay quarterback Matt Ryan $30MM over the next half-decade, and they’ll presumably be paying wideout Julio Jones a lucrative contract, as well.

The Falcons have head coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff under contract through 2022. Their deals would indicate that their fates are tied together, but Blank previously said the duo isn’t necessarily linked if the 2019 season goes poorly.

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Falcons’ Owner On Quinn, Dimitroff

The Falcons have head coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff under contract through 2022. Their deals would indicate that their fates are tied together, but he says they are not necessarily linked if the 2019 season goes poorly. 

[RELATED: Former Falcons Coach Mike Smith Retires]

I don’t know that. That’s a whole year away,” Blank said (via Jeff Schultz of The Athletic). “They’re two different people with two different roles. I understand the question, and I understand the answer you would like. But the answer I’m giving is the honest answer, which is that we have a year for things to play out.”

Blank went on to say that he has a “very high confidence level” in their ability to turn things around, but it sounds like any outcome is possible if the Falcons fail to make the playoffs yet again. Atlanta finished out 7-9 in 2018 despite a talented roster and high expectations heading into the season.

Of course, the duo has found success together. The Falcons reached, and nearly won, Super Bowl LI against the Patriots following the 2016 season. In 2017, they secured a Wild Card spot with a 10-6 record before falling to the Eagles in the divisional round.

They’re tied at the hip in a positive way in terms of their decision-making,” he said. “I’ve seen them disagree on things in a respectful way. They definitely have different views on some things, but we encourage that as part of our culture in all of our businesses. Usually, if they disagree on something, they move on and try to find an option they both feel better about.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Won’t Hire Defensive Coordinator

Marquand Manuel‘s dismissal as the Falcons’ defensive coordinator will result in a temporary elimination of that position on Atlanta’s staff.

Dan Quinn said Thursday he plans to serve in that role, the fifth-year coach adding defensive play-calling duties to his game-day docket. Quinn considered moving wide receivers coach Raheem Morris to defensive coordinator but decided he will take over the play-calling.

The former Seattle DC assumed Atlanta’s defensive play-calling responsibilities late in the 2016 season but allowed Manuel to run that area the past two years.

More than anything I just really wanted to make sure that the style and attitude that we want to play defensively. I really enjoy that part of it and want to be more involved in that way,” Quinn said, via Will McFadden of AtlantaFalcons.com. “I thought that was the appropriate to say, ‘Hey, if I’m going to be the one calling it, we certainly want to give you the right to do that.”

The Falcons ranked eighth in scoring defense in 2017, but a more depleted version allowed the fifth-most points this season. They were 27th in this area under Quinn and Richard Smith in 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Fire Steve Sarkisian

Dan Quinn’s job is safe, but the Falcons are firing almost everybody else. The team is letting go offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, and special teams coach Keith Armstrong, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

The Falcons have gone downhill since their Super Bowl run two seasons ago, sneaking into the playoffs as a six seed last year before falling apart this season. Injuries were partially to blame, but the team finished just 7-9 despite having a ton of talent, and regressed heavily on defense. The offense hasn’t been the same since Kyle Shanahan left to coach the 49ers, and Sarkisian had received a ton of criticism for his playcalling, especially in the red-zone. With the defense becoming one of the worst units in the NFL this season, it’s no surprise that Manuel was let go. The firing of Armstrong, who has been considered for head coaching jobs in the past, cements this as a total house cleaning.

According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link), the Falcons will conduct searches for new offensive and special teams coordinators, but Quinn is expected to take over the defense. Matt Ryan has put up big numbers over the last couple of years but it hasn’t translated to wins.

Interestingly, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets to “keep an eye on Gary Kubiak” for the offensive coordinator role, and James Palmer of NFL Network tweets that he’s heard the same. Kubiak, the former Texans and Broncos head coach who won a Super Bowl in Denver, has been rumored to be mulling a return to the sidelines as a coordinator. Owner Arthur Blank has expressed confidence in Quinn, but these moves clearly suggest that Quinn is feeling the heat. If he can’t get Atlanta back to the playoffs next year, he could be out of a job just a few years removed from an NFC Championship.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Coaching Rumors: Koetter, Quinn, Marrone, Rivera

It has been assumed that the Buccaneers and head coach Dirk Koetter would be parting ways at the end of the season, but Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) does not necessarily believe that assumption is a safe one. Rapoport says Koetter could certainly be fired — which would then make him a very appealing OC candidate for rival clubs — but the Glazer family has not ruled out keeping Koetter and the entire “upper structure” of the team. After all, Tampa Bay’s offense is the most prolific in franchise history, and the club’s defense has become a league-average unit since former DC Mike Smith was fired in October.

Now for more rumors on head coaches in the league’s south divisions:

  • Rapoport also says Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is expected to be back for 2019. There has not been much national chatter about Quinn’s job security anyway, so that does not come as much of a surprise. but Rapoport does expect “significant changes” at the coordinator spots. We already learned that offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is likely on his way out, and Rapoport confirms that Darrell Bevell will be on the short list to replace him. Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel also appears in danger of losing his job [SOURCE LINK].
  • At the end of November, Rapoport said that Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone is in no danger of losing his job, and he doubled down on that report today, saying that Jacksonville owner Shad Khan and executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin believe in Marrone. The team will seek a new QB and a new offensive coordinator, but it currently sounds as if Marrone will get another shot in 2019. Of course, there have been rumblings that Coughlin himself will consider taking over the head coaching reins, but Rapoport’s sources seem to refute to notion.
  • Despite rumors of a potential shakeup, Rapoport says the Panthers are expected to retain head coach Ron Rivera. New owner David Tepper reportedly believes in Rivera, who recently took over defensive play-calling duties and who would become one of the top head coaching candidates on the market if he were let go. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, though, suggests that Tepper could indeed go in another direction at season’s end, but if he does, it will be difficult to find someone who would represent a clear improvement over Rivera [SOURCE LINK].

Falcons Sign Dimitroff, Quinn To Extensions

The Falcons signed general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn to three-year contracts extensions, the team announced on Wednesday. Both men are now signed through the 2022 season. 

[RELATED: Julio Jones Won’t Report To Camp]

The partnership between Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff has proven to be as successful as we envisioned back in 2015,” said Falcons owner and chairman Arthur Blank. “I believe continuity in leadership is vital to achieving the highest levels of success in any organization and, with these extensions, we ensure these two leaders will be at the helm of our franchise for years to come. Their shared vision and long view plan has already delivered on a variety of levels and has positioned our team for success into the future. My expectations for our team to represent our city and fans well on and off the field remain very high and so does my confidence in Dan and Thomas to make that happen.”

Things have gone well in Atlanta, for the most part, since Dimitroff joined the team in 2008. The Falcons enjoyed five consecutive winning seasons and three consecutive playoff appearances from 2008-12. Clearly, Dimitroff’s emphasis on building through the draft has paid off. As the Falcons noted in their press release, the Falcons had 17 starters in last year’s playoffs – nine on defense and eight on offense – who were either drafted or signed by the team as college free agents.

Quinn, meanwhile, joined the Falcons in 2015. He has a 29-19 record in his three seasons at the helm, including two postseason appearances and a Super Bowl appearance.

Last year, the Falcons enjoyed a playoff win over the Rams, but fell to the Eagles in the divisional round. As they look to improve upon that, they’ll forge ahead with their current GM/Coach duo.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Cousins, Jets, Steelers, Bengals

The Jets’ decision to hire Todd Bowles as their head coach instead of Dan Quinn in 2015 may have cost them a chance to acquire then-backup quarterback Kirk Cousins from the Redskins, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Quinn’s offensive coordinator in Atlanta, Kyle Shanahan, would have come with him to New York but would not have wanted to work with Geno Smith, sources told Mehta. Shanahan would have pushed to acquire Cousins, whom he knew from their time together in Washington in 2012. A big Cousins fan, Shanahan was reportedly “integral” in the Redskins’ drafting of the ex-Michigan State signal-caller. Along with Shanahan, Quinn would have brought former Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik with him to work in the Jets’ front office. Dominik is close with Redskins president Bruce Allen, and their friendship could have further helped lead the way to a Cousins trade, writes Mehta.

As we ponder what could have been, here’s more from New York and a few other AFC cities:

  • While Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is considering retirement, it will be a surprise if the 13th-year man doesn’t return in 2017, sources told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). In the seemingly likely event Roethlisberger does come back for his age-35 season, the Steelers should still give serious thought to using a high-round pick on a potential successor, opines Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
  • The Jets’ previously reported interest in Saints wide receivers coach John Morton has already led to an interview. The two sides met Tuesday, and Morton remains in the running for the job, reports Mike Triplett of ESPN.com.
  • It appeared the NFL had lifted running back Karlos Williams‘ 10-game suspension when the Steelers brought him back on a reserve/futures deal Monday, but that’s not the case. Williams still has one game remaining on the substance abuse-related ban the league handed him in November, tweets Fowler. He’ll be eligible to take the field again in Week 2 of next season.
  • The belief is that the Bengals are talking to pending free agent kicker Randy Bullock about a new contract, writes Geoff Hobson of the team’s website. Re-signing Bullock wouldn’t stop the Bengals from searching for other options at the position, notes Hobson. The 27-year-old Bullock didn’t join the Bengals until mid-December, when they claimed him off waivers from division-rival Pittsburgh after releasing Mike Nugent. Bullock, who was a member of three teams in 2016 (the Giants were the other), connected on 5 of 6 field goal tries and all six extra points in three games with Cincinnati.
  • The Broncos made a minor change to their Vance Joseph-led staff Tuesday, promoting special teams quality control coach Chris Gould to assistant special teams coach. They’re also set to retain Klint Kubiak, the son of previous Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak, as their offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.

Coaching Notes: Quinn, Belichick, Bradley

Every team in the league could zero in on a specific position that needs an upgrade. However, most coaches, including Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, would prefer to roll with their own guys. With the Falcons sitting at 4-3, fans could surely find areas of the team to nitpick. Nonetheless, Quinn is content on moving forward with his current squad.

“I feel like we have a very competitive group,” Quinn told ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure. “So, for us, we love the guys we have. Fortunately for us, the thing that I’m excited [about] — you guys know this, but I don’t get a chance to talk about it enough — is our practice squad. I feel like this is a group in waiting that we’ve got some guys that are anxious to go. We’ve moved some of them up already… There’s a number of guys, if called upon, would be ready. That’s why maybe I feel like I love the depth that we have with some of the guys. We’re already developing some guys right through it. That’s the preferred way.”

Let’s take a look at some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • McClure wonders if the Falcons may be inclined to change their opinion if Dwight Freeney‘s injury proves to be more serious than originally thought. Meanwhile, the writer suggests the team could look to deal some of their players, including cornerback Jalen Collins, for future draft picks.
  • Patriots coach Bill Belichick is typically active on the trade front, and the team even managed to pull off a pair of deals earlier this week. However, the head coach acknowledged that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pull off these swaps. “I mean, you know, there are a lot of teams that don’t … they seem kind of reluctant to trade — this time of year, especially,” Belichick told Phil Perry of CSNNE.com.
  • Jaguars coach Gus Bradley provided an emphatic “no” when asked if his team’s 2-5 start could lead to changes on the coaching staff. However, Ryan O’Halloran of Jacksonville.com notes that the head coach didn’t necessarily endorse any of his fellow coaches, including offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
  • Some Jaguars players recognize that their coaches may be on the hot seat following a slow start to the season. “Gus will always take the blame as the coach,” wideout Allen Hurns told O’Halloran. “We’ve got to win. I’m worried [about him]. Everybody feels strongly about Gus. You try not to listen to it or let it get to you, but it is kind of impossible now. Hopefully, they’ll stick it out with him but we’ve got to find something to get this going.”

Pauline’s Latest: Falcons, Neal, Joseph, Titans

Cal quarterback Jared Goff and North Dakota State signal-caller Carson Wentz are widely expected to come off the board in that order with the top two picks on Thursday night, but there’s some uncertainty about how the next several picks will play out.

After speaking to several people around the league, Tony Pauline of WalterFootball.com takes a shot at forecasting how picks three through eight will go. In Pauline’s view, the most probable scenario would see DeForest Buckner land with the Chargers, Jalen Ramsey to the Cowboys, Myles Jack to the Jaguars, Laremy Tunsil to the Ravens, Ronnie Stanley to the 49ers, and Joey Bosa to the Browns.

Ezekiel Elliott is a wild card – if he’s still on the board at No. 8, the Browns could potentially trade down with a team like the Dolphins – but otherwise Pauline’s predictions for the top eight seem entirely plausible. According to the draft scribe, the Chargers feel like they “desperately” need to add a standout defensive lineman, while the 49ers also covet Buckner, so that’s a situation worth watching too.

Here’s more from Pauline:

  • While Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee has frequently been linked to the Falcons at No. 17, Pauline hears that Clemson linemen Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson are also in play. According to Pauline, head coach Dan Quinn has been pushing for the team to select safety Keanu Neal, though that’s probably only a possibility if Atlanta trades down.
  • Washington wouldn’t mind trading down and nabbing West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, says Pauline.
  • According to Pauline, there’s a decent chance that the Titans will use one of their second-round picks to grab Ohio State wideout Braxton Miller, assuming the team doesn’t use any of those selections in a trade. Tennessee will also likely consider Buckeyes linebacker Joshua Perry on day two.
  • The Broncos plan on drafting a running back on day three, and Pauline hears that they like Auburn’s Peyton Barber in the neighborhood of the sixth round.
  • Teams are already talking to prospects and their agents in an effort to sign those players as undrafted free agents after the draft, and some clubs are creating “bad blood” with their approach to this process. According to Pauline, a couple teams have called potential UDFA targets and told them that they’re unlikely to be drafted. Those players are still optimistic about being mid-round selections, so being told that they’re likely to go undrafted has soured those players (and their agents) on those teams, per Pauline.

NFC Notes: Cousins, White, Giants, Bucs

Washington and the Eagles lined up their 2016 quarterbacks within days of each other, with Kirk Cousins staying in D.C. on the franchise tag and Sam Bradford signing a two-year deal to remain in Philadelphia.

Washington, however, was concerned the Eagles were going to pursue Cousins if it didn’t apply the franchise tag or designated the fifth-year quarterback with the transition tag, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports.

Florio points out Cousins’ familiarity in an offense closer to the West Coast attack Doug Pederson runs would have made the Mike Shanahan-drafted signal-caller attractive to the Eagles.

Here’s more from some NFC destinations as the 2015 league year nears its conclusion.

  • Roddy White‘s release from the Falcons stemmed from the receiver’s relationship with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, White’s agent, Jonathan Feinsod, told D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There is one reason Roddy is no longer with the Falcons and it is Kyle Shanahan,” Feinsod told Ledbetter. “Kyle forced the Falcons to choose between him or Roddy.” White also contended Kyle Shanahan did not feature him much in the Falcons’ offense after he arrived from Cleveland in 2015, with the recently released wideout telling ESPN’s Vaughn McClureI expected to play a bigger role in the offense, and that’s what I wanted to do. But he didn’t have that in his desires. He had other people that he wanted to play my role, so he wanted me to be out of the [offense].” White’s 43 receptions in 16 games last season were 37 fewer than he caught in 2014 in 14 contests. Falcons coach Dan Quinn denied consulting with Shanahan prior to making the decision to release the 34-year-old White, according to Ledbetter.
  • A source close to Calvin Johnson tells Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press there’s “nothing to report” on Megatron’s potential retirement. Birkett notes the Lions are expected to pursue receiving help. Johnson is on Detroit’s books for $24.01MM as of now.
  • The Giants engaged in discussions with Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers but couldn’t come to terms, Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports. He expects both to enter unrestricted free agency and begin talking with teams Monday.
  • Vacchiano also notes the Cowboys are expected to have interest in former Buccaneers first-round pick Adrian Clayborn, whom the Giants are expected to pursue as well. The 27-year-old Clayborn started five games for the Falcons last season and 16 in both the 2011 and ’13 seasons with the Bucs, respectively. The Cowboys could lose Greg Hardy and will be without Randy Gregory for four games in 2016.
  • Georgia Southern outside linebacker Antoine Williams worked out for the Bucs, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The Bucs are expected to release Bruce Carter and did not tender RFA Danny Lansanah, so they’ll likely be in the market for outside-linebacking help.