FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – For much of the past two months, Falcons coach Dan Quinn has maintained that he would evaluate his coaching staff based on the totality of the 2018 season. Now that the season has drawn to a close, so too has his evaluation.
The result: The Falcons parted ways with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong.
“The thing that became clear to me at the end of that evaluation was that, in some regards, the compass was off in terms of the identity and style we would like to play, and so we had to reset that,” Quinn said during the team’s end-of-year press conference. “In order to do that, at some places some new voices and some new direction is needed, and this is that time.”
After injuries derailed the early part of the season, the Falcons clawed their way back to .500 at the midpoint of their schedule. From there, Atlanta lost five of its remaining eight games and began to look inward at what went wrong.
“Of course, we missed the mark this year,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “We know that. We have, of course, a lot of work to do on a lot of levels, not only on the field but off the field looking at our organization in general at a lot of different levels.”
The Falcons announced Monday that they would part ways with all three coordinators, but the defensive coordinator role will be filled by Quinn, himself. Prior to becoming Atlanta’s head coach, Quinn presided over the NFL’s top defense while with the Seattle Seahawks from 2013-14.
Taking over the defensive play-calling duties was more about wanting to draw closer to the exact style Quinn wants to see from the unit than an indictment of Manuel’s abilities, Quinn explained, and he believes the Falcons’ former defensive coordinator will get an opportunity to call plays elsewhere.
“More than anything I just really wanted to make sure that the style and attitude that we want to play defensively I really enjoy that part of it and want to be more involved in that way,” Quinn said. “I thought that was the appropriate to say, ‘Hey, if I’m going to be the one calling it, we certainly want to give you the right to do that.’”
The decision regarding the other two coordinator roles was made a bit differently. Although Atlanta’s offense averaged the sixth-most yards per game and the 10th-most points per game in 2018, there was obvious inconsistency with the unit that played a large part in the five-game skid.
As the special teams coordinator often deals with every player on the roster, Quinn felt that was an area where change was needed as well.
“Offensively and on the special teams side, I thought some new voices and some new direction was what was required,” Quinn said. “Both Sark and Keith are excellent coaches. At times you just need some new change, some new voice and direction with that.”
With the evaluations of the coaching staff largely complete, Quinn and Dimitroff now turn their sights on filling the two coordinator roles that remain vacant. Quinn confirmed that they have met with two coordinator candidates already but did not give a timetable for when a decision could be made.
After back-to-back playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl berth in 2016, the Falcons fell short of expectations in 2018. Quinn said he doesn’t believe a reset means the Falcons are far off from their goals but that the team needs to learn the lessons of this down year to make sure it was not a “lost season.”
By bringing in new leadership at the coordinator spots, Quinn and Dimitroff are hoping to get the Falcons back where they believe they should be.
“We’re looking for us to play much more consistently to our vision and philosophy, because our vision doesn’t change,” Quinn says. “As coaches, we have to be the ones to make that come alive. We’re looking for great teachers, strong fits from a scheme standpoint, strong fits culturally, help us bring some new ideas to the table. But at the end of it every decision Thomas and I make is ‘How does this help us win?’”
Head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff recapped the 2018 season and answered questions from the media in an end-of-season press conference held in Flowery Branch.