Atlanta Falcons best moves of the 2015 offseason – #2


Today, we move on in our “Falcons 50” series, looking at the best offseason moves the Atlanta Falcons have made this year. What ranks at number two?

You can find the full list of “Falcons 50″ posts here.

We are now under two weeks away from the Falcons’ regular season opener with the Philadelphia Eagles. Our “Falcons 50” countdown is into the final stretch, so from here on out we won’t be looking at history, but this upcoming season. It’s been a busy offseason for Atlanta, but there’s been plenty of positive change. What’s the second best move?

No. 2 – The new coaching staff

After seven years in Atlanta, the Mike Smith era came to an end. Smith had a good run with the Falcons, and it’s important not to forget the success he brought to the franchise. Joining in 2008, he led team coming off the back of a 4-12 season, and one that hadn’t been to the playoffs in four years, to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth.

Two years later, Smith helped the Falcons on their way to the NFC South crown. He replicated the feat in 2012, this time going all the way to the NFC Championship Game. I promise that’s the only time I will mention that game. It fell apart for Atlanta in 2013, and the team won just ten games in two seasons and ultimately cost Smith his job.

A fresh start was needed, and in comes a new head coach with plenty of energy. Dan Quinn is fired up every day he comes to work. He brings an identity he wants to stamp on this football team, with the mantra ‘fast and physical’ echoed throughout this offseason. We’ve seen this style from the team in preseason, particularly on defense. Of the available head coach candidates at the turn of the year, Quinn to me was the most exciting.

The Falcons need a man to help turn around a defensive unit that ranked dead last a year ago. In two seasons as defensive coordinator in Seattle, the Seahawks rode their defense to the Super Bowl twice. Of course, they also had Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor on the roster.

Another addition I love on the coaching staff is Kyle Shanahan, the new offensive coordinator. Shanahan brings his zone blocking scheme to Atlanta, and he aims to achieve balance between run and pass. Antone Smith referred to Shanahan’s scheme as a “running back heaven”.

Shanahan landed his first job as offensive coordinator with Washington in 2010. He took over an offense that had finished 22nd in 2009 and turned it into a top-10. From 2010-13, Shanahan’s Redskins offense finished: 18th, 16th, 5th, 9th. He then headed over to Cleveland last season, but even Shanahan couldn’t get Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel playing well enough.

But poor quarterback play won’t be a concern anymore. Shanahan inherits one of the league’s best passing offenses led by Matt Ryan and featuring Julio Jones, Roddy White and a man familiar with the new scheme, Leonard Hankerson. Hankerson played under Shanahan in Washington. Between second-year Devonta Freeman and rookie Tevin Coleman, he will be hoping to rejuvenate the run game. Of course, the offensive line needs to perform much better for that to work.

After winning just ten games in two years, the Falcons wanted change. With the new coaching staff in place, it looks like they have knocked it out of the park.

Next: Who makes the All-NFC South defense?

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