Dan Quinn

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. 

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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.

Falcons To Retain GM Thomas Dimitroff

Despite some December speculation that his grip on the Falcons’ general manager job was growing somewhat tenuous, Thomas Dimitroff will remain in his current role going forward, owner Arthur Blank announced today. Blank issued a statement expressing confidence in Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn going forward.Thomas Dimitroff

“Over the last week, we have conducted an exhaustive review of every area of our team,” Blank said. “Through this process it has become very clear to me that Coach Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff have built a productive working relationship over the last 11 months. There is very good alignment between Dan and Thomas on the direction we need to go to improve our team and I believe maintaining the continuity of that relationship, with Scott Pioli continuing to assist Thomas, is the right way forward.”

While Dimitroff and Pioli appear poised to remain in their current positions, that doesn’t mean there won’t be some changes made within the front office. In his statement, the Falcons owner went on to say that the team will likely make some moves in the next few weeks that will affect football operations.

“We are going to make a number of changes to our pro personnel and college scouting departments and that process began this week,” Blank said. “It will take some time, but we will be adding talent on the pro personnel side and re-organizing both of these groups to best align with the shared vision of Coach Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff. I expect these changes will produce positive results for our team.”

After making the playoffs in four of Dimitroff’s first five seasons as GM, the Falcons have struggled in recent years, going a combined 18-30 over the last three seasons, with no postseason berths. The team has had some trouble during that stretch adding offensive playmakers to complement Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, though Devonta Freeman‘s breakout season in 2015 was a positive sign. There has also been a lack of difference-making talent on defense in Atlanta lately, but the hiring of Quinn and this year’s selection of Vic Beasley represented steps in the right direction on that side of the ball.

AFC East Notes: Bills, Landry, Dolphins

Using his player-values metric, Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap writes that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has provided the most 2015 value through the season’s first five weeks, among QBs. While Tyrod Taylor of the Bills ranks just 10th for overall value, he has a cap hit below $1MM, making him even more valuable — no signal-caller has a wider gap so far between his cap charge and his actual value than the ex-Raven, according to Fitzgerald.

Here are a few more items from out of the AFC East:

  • There has been some speculation that, with Taylor hurting, the Bills may regret having traded Matt Cassel. However, head coach Rex Ryan said today that the decision to send the veteran quarterback to Dallas reflected the confidence Buffalo has in Taylor and EJ Manuel. For what it’s worth, Ryan added that there’s no official word yet on Taylor’s availability for Week 6 (Twitter links via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com).
  • General manager Doug Whaley has supported Manuel throughout his time with the Bills, and the GM also signed off on the Cassel trade, prompting Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link) to wonder if Whaley could be the “fall guy” if Manuel is forced into action and struggles.
  • The Dolphins are somewhat concerned with Jarvis Landry‘s repeated conduct issues this year, according to Cole (video link). New head coach Dan Campbell will be tasked with improving Landry’s focus, after the wideout got into a fight during practice with ex-Dolphin LaMichael James and was fined $23K+ for berating an official.
  • Appearing on 790 The Ticket on Tuesday, Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum denied that he wanted to fire Joe Philbin and hire Dan Quinn after he was hired last winter, as Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald details. “I knew Coach Philbin was on the precipice of being announced with a long-term extension,” Tannenbaum said. “I knew about it and supported it at the time. I was offered the job with one set of circumstances, which was to work with [GM] Dennis Hickey and Joe Philbin.”

East Notes: Hardy, Fins, D. Lewis

Greg Hardy is set to make his Cowboys debut today, though it will not come without some extra controversy. On Tuesday, in his first media session since he signed a one-year deal with Dallas this offseason, Hardy made some bizarre and ill-timed comments regarding Tom Brady‘s wife and returning to the field with “guns blazin,'” and a rap video heavy on strippers and guns–which Hardy made during his suspension–surfaced just yesterday. The NFL’s first vice president of social responsibility, Anna Isaacson, recently issued the following statement:

“I couldn’t disagree more with Greg Hardy’s comments, and they do not reflect the values of the league. We are working hard to bring attention to the positive role models many other players represent and also to continue our education with all members of the NFL family.”

As the early Week 5 games approach, let’s take a quick swing around the league’s east divisions, including more notes on Hardy:

  • Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett reportedly admonished Hardy for his comments, but on Friday, owner Jerry Jones took to the airwaves to defend his player. In so doing, says Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News, Jones undermined his head coach and further enabled the apparently oblivious Hardy.
  • In a bit of Twitter repartee this morning, ESPN’s Ed Werder and former Packers executive Andrew Brandt discussed the Hardy signing. Brandt points out that, in normal circumstances, Hardy would have generated interest from 12-15 clubs, but given his impending suspension, only one or two teams were interested. Werder says that, had teams known Hardy would have agreed to the team-friendly terms that the Cowboys offered him, there would have been at least 15 clubs in the running. The lack of interest, Werder says, was not based upon morality.
  • The Dolphins might have just fired Joe Philbin, but it was not that long ago that owner Stephen Ross was determined that Philbin would lead his club for the foreseeable future. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Miami vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum pushed Ross to at least pursue Dan Quinn, who was ultimately hired by the Falcons, but Ross would have none of it, and the Dolphins never even made an effort to contact Quinn.
  • Whether or not the Dolphins are able to land Sean Payton in the offseason–and all indications are that Payton will remain in New OrleansJames Walker of ESPN.com says the interest in Payton makes it clear that Miami will be seeking an experienced head coach at season’s end.
  • Ben Volin of The Boston Globe explores why the Patriots, who rarely invest in running backs, recently signed Dion Lewis to a contract extension through 2017 after just three games. As Volin points out, the Pats got tremendous value out of the deal, as Lewis has no guaranteed money for 2016 or 2017, and his cap number for 2017 will be the second-lowest among all starting running backs. New England is privately shocked that Lewis accepted a deal so far below market value.

Extra Points: Cousins, Jets, Hilton, Watkins

If Dan Quinn was hired by the Jets instead of Todd Bowles, the team likely would have dumped Geno Smith in favor of Kirk Cousins, Manish Mehta of the Daily News hears. Quinn’s plan for Gang Green included adding offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and his vision didn’t include Smith. Sources say the Washington play-caller wanted to instead trade for Cousins, who showed promise in two years under Shanahan While you ponder that what-if, here’s more from around the NFL..

  • After the Colts signed T.Y. Hilton to a $65MM deal, Stephen Holder of the Indy Star wonders if the team will still have enough room to get deals done with its other young stars. The Colts will have to cut a massive check to Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck, who will command far more than $20MM annually. Also, the team is negotiating with left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who is essential as one of Luck’s protectors. By the time the Colts get to the likes of tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, it’s fair to wonder if they’ll have enough cash to get deals done.
  • Jets guard Oday Aboushi has been suspended without pay for the first game of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Brian Costello of the New York Post tweets. In a statement issued by Aboushi’s reps (via Rand Getlin of NFL.com on Twitter), they explained that the lineman was stopped in his car back in January when cops found a small amount of pot in his car.
  • With the Bills and Browns facing off on Monday night, Chris Fedor of The Plain Dealer revisited last year’s Sammy Watkins deal. Cornerback Justin Gilbert, who the Browns took with the No. 8 pick, has been off to a rough start and some are question whether he’ll ever meet his rookie year expectations. Cleveland’s side of the deal will also hinge heavily on the future of offensive lineman Cameron Erving, who the Browns selected with the Bills’ pick this year.

NFC South Notes: Falcons, Quinn, Newton, Hill

The Falcons were told at this week’s owners meetings that they will face “severe” discipline for violating an NFL policy, according to ESPN. The Falcons were investigated for piping artificial crowd noise into the Georgia Dome over the last two seasons, which team owner Arthur Blank acknowledged in February, and the severity of their punishment will be announced next week. Per ESPN, the Falcons could face “a hefty fine, a loss of a draft pick or picks, or other penalties,” though Blank and the team have been fully cooperative in the league’s investigation.  

“We have great respect for the shield and the integrity of the game, the integrity of competition,” said Blank.

Here’s more on the Falcons and one of their NFC South rivals:

    • The Falcons are done free agency shopping after adding linebackers Brooks Reed and Justin Durant, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, and tight ends Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki, among others, this offseason. They will now turn their attention toward the upcoming draft, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’re always looking,” new head coach Dan Quinn said in regards to adding more free agents, but he also stated that “the focus has kind of shifted to the draft.”
    • Quinn shot down the notion that the Falcons recently discussed a trade with the Seahawks for defensive end Michael Bennett, reports Ledbetter.  “I don’t know where that story came from,” said Quinn. “It was just one of those random things that should have been mark down as ‘nothing.’ He’s a great player, but there have been no talks at all.” Quinn coordinated Seattle’s defense from 2013-14, during which time Bennett combined for 15.5 sacks.
    • Panthers head coach Ron Rivera told reporters he’s confident that the team and Cam Newton will work toward a new contract, adding that he’d like to see it get done prior to the season (Twitter links via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer and ESPN.com’s David Newton). Newton is entering the final year of his deal.
    • Rivera also said Wednesday that having Stephen Hill in the mix takes some pressure off the Panthers when it comes to drafting a wide receiver, per David Newton (via Twitter). Despite Rivera’s endorsement, Hill hasn’t shown himself to be much of a threat since entering the league in 2012. He caught a combined 45 passes between 2012-13 for the Jets and spent last season on the Panthers’ practice squad. It’s tough to imagine his presence will heavily influence the Panthers come draft time.