Just three years after winning the NFC Championship, an Atlanta Falcons team with nine-digit wide receiver Julio Jones and former MVP Matt Ryan started the 2019 season with a 1-7 record, their worst start in 17 years. When a team with so much talent falls apart in such a short time, the blame has to start at the top, and the top is head coach Dan Quinn.
At first, the question of whether Quinn would lose his job at the end of the season seemed less like an "if" rather than a "when". From out of nowhere, the Falcons stormed back to win four of their next six, including road wins over two of the league's top teams (New Orleans and San Francisco), making the first half of the season seem even more like a bizarre aberration.
Falcons fans may look upon the situation with concealed horror, as their recent success may actually have saved Quinn's job. According to Ian Rapoport, the Falcons are "undecided" on his fate.
In fact, the Falcons' win streak puts Quinn's coaching into perspective and further illustrates why the team must let him go as quickly as possible to preserve their dimming chances of winning a Super Bowl before their window shuts.
This Atlanta Falcons season has been characterized by the frantic reshuffling of assistant coach positions and play-calling responsibilities, especially on the defensive side of the ball - where Quinn is (supposedly) a specialist. The Falcons' 25th overall ranking in points allowed speaks to this; with so many different leaders in such a short time, there's no room for players to get settled in the current system.
Defenders of Quinn (all six or so that are left) may point out that the Falcons would not have made it to Super Bowl LII were it not for Quinn's leadership. While that may be true, even that slight accomplishment has a stain on it. After all, with a different coach, the Falcons may well have won Super Bowl LII. 28-3 isn't disappearing.
The Falcons players should shoulder their share of the blame for one of sports history's worst choke-jobs, but Quinn did not put them in the best position to hold on to their 25-point advantage. Quinn, along with then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, seemed determined to call the most inappropriate plays imaginable for the situation, including a pass play, which led to a strip-sack with the Falcons leading by 16 in the fourth.
Sure, the Falcons are playing some good football now. But will they play good football in 2020 under the same regime? Falcons fans may not be patient enough to find out.