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The Falcons Are Toast And Dan Quinn Is Getting Crispy On Both Sides

Photo: Kevin C. Cox (Getty)

The Falcons are a bad football team. As such, head coach Dan Quinn is expected to not be the head coach for very much longer. But when will Quinn be fired? Now, with a depressing 1-7 record and entering the bye? After the near-inevitable loss to the rival Saints in two weeks? Painlessly and in his sleep on the morning after the regular season ends? It’s really the only drama left for this team this season, now that we’ve already been pleasantly shocked to learn that Matt Schaub is still in the league.

Sunday’s 27-20 home loss to the Seahawks in front of a mass of empty seats was a brutal way for the Falcons to drop their sixth in a row, but not a particularly new one. Atlanta was down 24-0 at the half, and has now been outscored in the first halves of games 144-50. That’s generally the sign of an unprepared team, which itself is generally a sign of a dead coach walking. And over the last week, the Falcons have run down the checklist of Things That Happen Right Before A Coach Is Axed. The HC revealing that he’s started giving up play-calling duties? Check. A tearful locker-room defense of the coach by one of the team’s veteran players? Check. An ominous and ambiguous message from the owner that, depending on how you read it, could either be a vote of confidence or a signal that the head coach should start boxing up his office? Whoo buddy, big ol’ check. 

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Falcons owner Arthur Blank waded into the press scrum with a promise that some sort of change will be made, he’s just not sure what it’s going to be.

“We are going to do something,” Blank said. “We’re going to continue to think really hard and evaluate everything that we can do as an owner and as a senior management team and figure out if there is anything we can do to make some decisions here earlier and here later that would help the process, but we have no plans of making any changes right now.”

That sounds to this ear like a token coordinator firing, and indeed it was reported yesterday morning that Blank was leaning toward not firing Quinn over the bye week. It’s unclear if Sunday’s poor first half changed Blank’s mind, or if an impressive second-half near-comeback might’ve changed it back. But considering how the Falcons are likely to get their doors blown off in Week 10 in New Orleans—Drew Brees will be healthy, Matt Ryan is still a question mark—Blank may want to spare an interim coach that debut.

At least, if we’re looking for silver linings here, the Falcons have a bunch of potential interim head coaches to choose from, with Quinn’s staff including Raheem Morris, Mike Mularkey, and Dirk Koetter.

“Whatever decision we have to make will be made for the right reasons for the long term,” Blank said. “We certainly have a lot of intelligence on this coaching staff here. We have three other head coaches, we’ve got three general managers in this building beyond Thomas [Dimitroff], actually four, including Rich McKay. The knowledge base is there, but the performance is not. And this is a performance-driven business, I understand that and they understand that as well. So, we’ll continue to look at everything we can and make the right decisions that we’re going to have to make. I’m not bashful about making those decisions.”

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Whatever and whenever the ultimate decision, this has been an extraordinary collapse: from leading in the Super Bowl three years ago, to coming five yards from a conference title game two years ago, to this. Players age and rosters turn over and opponents adjust, but for a franchise to crumble this quickly really is something special. Dan Quinn’s probably not going to survive it and oversee a quick turnaround, but, given how completely moribund the Falcons appear to be, neither are very many current players. This is a team that could truly use a rebuild, and that may as well start in earnest at the top.

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