440-0. Four hundred and forty victories with no losses. That was the NFL record for teams that scored at least 39 points with 0 turnovers in a single game. No matter how your team was built, no matter who your players were, no matter what time period the game was set in, it was a formula that was guaranteed for victory.
On paper, the Atlanta Falcons’ 39-40 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 will only cost them one single loss on their record column. In reality, it will and should cost them a lot more.
The Falcons have, to this day, been trying to recover from their 28-3 collapse in the Super Bowl back in 2017, a game where they had a 98% win probability late in the second half. On Sunday, though not with a Lombardi Trophy on the line, they somehow out-did themselves. With less than 10 minutes to go, the Falcons had a 99% win percentage. This was basically Dr. Strange in Avengers: Infinity War holding up one finger saying that, of all the realities, there was only one that existed where the Falcons could lose the game on Sunday.
That reality happened.
It was the kind of loss that you cannot talk your way out of. It was one where, no matter what you said at the podium following the game and in the days that followed, the words would be hollow. It was the kind of game that requires change after the fact. It was the kind of game that should end Dan Quinn’s tenure as head coach of the team.
As the three or four Falcons players all stared at the Cowboys’ whacky onside kick prayer as it slowly curved the 10 yards it was required to, it was as if they were staring into the final moments of their head coach’s time with the team. As Dallas fell on the ball, you just knew they were going to do what they needed to do to get in range and complete the improbable comeback. What followed was the final steps in what can be described as an illogical turn of events. Moving forward, the Falcons must react to it with the most logical move in return.
Following their 2016 season where they made it all the way to the Super Bowl, the Falcons made the playoffs the following year but were bounced in the divisional round. In the two years after that, there were back-to-back 7-9 seasons in which the Falcons started 1-4 in 2018 and 1-7 in 2019 before turning things around after the bye weeks. With his seat now hotter than ever, Quinn is once again 0-2. And not just any 0-2. That kind of 0-2, proving that, as much as he was the right man for the job at one point in time, he is not that anymore.
The Falcons’ next stretch of games are actually in their favor. They play the 2-0 Chicago Bears in Week 3, but the Bears haven’t been dominant in either of their wins. They face the Green Bay Packers the following week, likely a loss, but then go Panthers, Vikings, Lions, Panthers, Broncos before their late-season bye week. All of those games are winnable. But, they shouldn’t be for Quinn. They should be for their interim head coach.
Dirk Koetter is the offensive coordinator in Atlanta. He’s been a head coach before with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons offense has been humming in their two losses. Quarterback Matt Ryan is currently second in the NFL in passing yards with 723, tied for second in touchdown passes with six, has only thrown one interception, and has a top-11 QBR. Elevating Koetter to interim head coach would at least keep the strength of the team at the top.
Koetter likely isn’t the long-term guy, though. And if Atlanta does what should be done and moves on from Quinn, there are a handful of names Falcons fans should keep their eyes on for the next head coach.
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs Offensive Coordinator
Bieniemy is the hot coaching name right now—and has been for the past few years. Many say it’s crazy he has been passed up for other coaches who have gotten jobs instead of him. The reason it’s so hard to believe is because of his resume.
In his first season as offensive coordinator with the Chiefs in 2018, Bieniemy assisted head coach Andy Reid in orchestrating an offense that led Kansas City to the AFC Championship Game. That season, the Chiefs finished first in the league in total offense and scoring, and were also just 41 points shy of the 2013 Denver Broncos’ record for points scored in a single season (603). Bieniemy has been a big part of why the Chiefs offense has just gotten better and better since 2018, which has included a league MVP trophy for their franchise quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and a Super Bowl trophy last season.
Mahomes isn’t Bieniemy’s only success story, though. As running backs coach of the Minnesota Vikings from 2006-2010, Adrian Peterson led the conference in rushing yards with 1,341 in 2007, then led the NFL with 1,760 in 2008. He then coached Jamaal Charles in Kansas City when he rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2013 and 2014.
As for his professional references, the man who is his current boss couldn’t speak any higher of him.
“I’d say hire him, like right now,” Reid said. “That’s what I’d tell you. I don’t want to lose him, but if you’re asking me if he’s ready to be a head coach? Yeah, he’s ready. He was ready last year. Nobody is in more control than what he is within this game. He is a leader of men. He knows football, but he knows the offense like the back of his hand. He is in the quarterback room every day. I think if you talked to Patrick, I think Patrick would tell you how much of an influence he has had on him.”
For as good as Mahomes is, he wasn’t a sure thing. He was going to have to go to the right coach to get the most out of him. Bieniemy, as he has consistently throughout his career, was not only a good teacher but a good listener of Mahomes and his uniqueness, and the result was a championship.
Brian Daboll, Bills Offensive Coordinator
Bieniemy has played a big role in the ascension of Mahomes, which has gotten a lot of headlines. But there’s another coach who is currently transforming another quarterback before our very eyes who deserves to be recognized as well, and that is Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and his work with quarterback Josh Allen.
Two games into the 2020 NFL season and not only are the Bills 2-0, but Allen is leading the league in passing yards with 726. He has thrown six touchdowns, zero interceptions, and ranks in the top five in QBR.
Daboll has been the Bills’ offensive coordinator since 2018. Prior to that he worked one year with Nick Saban at Alabama Co-OC and QB coach in 2017 and worked under Bill Belichick’s staff in New England as an offensive assistant and tight ends coach from 2013-2016. He was also with the Patriots during their early Super Bowl runs as a wide receivers coach, and has five Super Bowl rings from his years in New England.
Daboll has the experience as an assistant, and now he might be crafting his mastering piece in what he’s been able to do with Allen. He will surely get some head coaching looks next season.
Arthur Smith, Titans Offensive Coordinator
Smith was the Titans’ tight end coach prior to 2019 when Vrabel promoted him to offensive coordinator. When quarterback Marcus Mariota struggled early on, the pitchforks were out for Smith as play-caller. But once Ryan Tannehill entered the picture, everything changed.
Under Smith’s leadership, Tannehill went on to have a career year and has continued that stellar play here into the 2020 season. Under Smith, once Tannehill came in, the Titans ranked sixth in DVOA, had the third-highest explosive run rate, and had the fourth-highest explosive pass rate, per Sharp Football Stats.
The jump from offensive coordinator in Tennessee to head coach elsewhere would be quite the move for Smith. He’s just 38 years old (would be 39 if hired as a head coach next season). He’s been part of the Titans organization since 2011, starting as an offensive quality control coach, then becoming the tight ends coach in 2016, and the offensive coordinator in 2019.
Smith being a viable head coaching candidate would depend on how he interviews. He would have to exude a ton of confidence in how he can turn things around in Atlanta for them to consider him with his resume matched up against some others, but his name is already on the radar—the Titans’ 2-0 start with Tannehill riding high is only going to strengthen his case to get an interview.
I didn’t specifically have any defensive-minded head coaches on here because I think, after Quinn, the Falcons will try to focus more on offense at the top (even though their offense is the best thing about their roster right now). If they wanted to go the defensive route again, Todd Bowles is potentially an option down in Tampa Bay. Raheem Morris is also already on staff, and he has head coaching experience, as well. Robert Saleh is another name who could emerge if his defense has another strong year in San Francisco.
- Jun 28, 2022
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