The bye week is New Year’s Day for the Atlanta Falcons, a chance to pause, reflect, and jettison the baggage that has turned this season into a Zombies-in-cleats nightmare that would do George Romero proud.
A foregone conclusion is the future of Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who seems destined to be the defensive line coach in another NFL city by the time the 2020 season rolls around.
Will it be this week, or will Arthur Blank, through either misplaced loyalty or sadistic impulse, keep Quinn twisting, enduring Sunday after lonely Sunday staring into space, wondering how his carefully nurtured Brotherhood could crumble so quickly?
While this week would be preferable, however, Arthur Blank is leaning toward keeping Dan Quinn through the end of the season.
Actually, four weeks ago would have been preferable. The season was still salvageable, and fans had yet to peddle their late-season seats to Saints and Panthers fans.
That’s all blood down the embalming room drain. The only thing left to see is which parts can be saved for later use, and which need to go to new bodies.
Thomas Dimitroff? He’s probably in the GM seat until the end of the season, when the “one GM-two head coach” cycle suggests he’ll be out the door, or, knowing Blank, kicked upstairs to tinker with the salary cap and monitor jersey sales. There’s a possibility he stays on in an advisory position to find the replacement for interim head coach Raheem Morris or Mike Mularkey, then allowed to pursue other career opportunities.
The coaching staff? They’ll shuffle around and try to look busy, then go home and dust off their resumes. The new guy will doubtless want his own staff, and hopefully, it will have a more centralized and disciplined structure than Quinn’s horde of beer buddies.
It’s hard to gauge which players need to go and who is a legitimate building block, especially on defense, where Quinn’s bland schemes and inability (or unwillingness) to adjust allowed other coaches to find the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. But with two days to wheel and deal, it’s time to cash in on some player equity.
Vic Beasley has already been shopped, and buyers are out there. Beasley seems a half-arm too short for a consistent sack machine in a traditional four-man rush, but the Colts or the Ravens might take a player like Beasley and turn him into a blitz package monster. Desmond Trufant could pick up a high round pick going to Houston or Kansas City.
Devonta Freeman has clearly lost some of the balance and elusiveness that made him an élite runner for one glorious season, but the Lions and maybe the Cardinals (if they think they have a legitimate playoff shot) might be willing to jump in with a third-rounder. Alex Mack is still a quality center, but it might be time to entertain offers before his value plummets.
Then the Falcons can accrue some draft picks for their new head coach, who should come from the offensive side of the ball. As both Quinn and Mike Smith showed us, defensive coaches tend to demand their offenses play to the defense they want to build with little regard for the offensive talent they have, and the Falcons offense is still top 10 caliber with the right tweaking and the right coach.
At the very least, the next head coach needs to learn from the mistakes of his two immediate predecessors: “The Process” doesn’t win ball games, and winning creates the brotherhood.
Not the other way around.