FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons' standing in the final regular season power rankings and one columnist's belief that it's a bad idea for Dan Quinn to assume more responsibility.
NFL power rankings
"Nobody needs to worry about Dan Quinn this week. But all of his coordinators are gone, which feels like an overreaction. Losing key players like Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and Devonta Freeman early in the year is the worst, as the team planned for the involvement of those players all offseason and in training camp. At least when coaches lose personnel midseason, they benefit from having had guys like that contribute for half the year, while younger players get to know what the heck they are doing. OK. Let's move on to Sunday's season finale. You ever get scared when the guy dressed in chainmail at "Medieval Times" removes the black hood from over the falcon, like it's gonna nosedive on your date's chicken leg and ruin your Groupon night all in one fell swoop? Yep, that was the Bucs' secondary on Sunday. Matt Ryan ended the season in hardy fashion, ensuring his Falcons did, too, going 31-of-44 for 378 yards and two scores. Ryan threw 35 touchdowns versus a scant seven picks this season, despite the overall disappointing campaign in Atlanta. He'll be back, with a new OC, as well as a healthier nucleus next year."
"They should be back in the mix to win the division next year. They do need to sure up the offensive line and hire some new coordinators."
"New Year's resolution: Get back to the playoffs. The Falcons suffered their first losing season under Dan Quinn by finishing 7-9. Changes were made immediately, with Quinn parting ways with all three coordinators. Now the onus is on Quinn -- the new defensive coordinator -- and the rest of Quinn's staff to get the players back to playing at a Super Bowl-contending level. Postseason or bust."
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
AJC: It's a bad idea for Dan Quinn to add to his Falcons duties
After parting ways with former defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, head coach Dan Quinn will assume the role moving forward. One of the league's best defensive coordinators prior to becoming the Falcons' coach, Quinn is well-equipped to handle that responsibility.
But how will that additional responsibility impact everything that already comes with being a head coach? That's is a question many around Atlanta have asked in recent days, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Cunningham doesn't believe this may be a wise move.
"Game management is hard for NFL head coaches, who must process a lot of information in real time," Cunningham writes. "They are thinking about what's happened before, what's happening now and how it impacts what they will do next. It's crucial to get it right because margins are so thin in the NFL, which engineers parity in player talent among its teams.
"Quinn's history shows that his circuits can get fried by so much responsibility. Now, on top of those duties, he'll run the defense during games. This is a bad move for Quinn and the Falcons."
To read more of Cunningham's column on Quinn's added responsibilities, click here.
ESPN: Injuries early on cripple Falcons' hopes
With the 2018 season officially in the books, there are undoubtedly going to be times over the coming weeks and months to wonder what went wrong and what could have been differently.
It's easy to gloss over them at this point in the year, but ESPN's Vaughn McClure writes that it was the early injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball that hurt the Falcons' hopes for 2018.
"Season grade: Below-average -- The Falcons were picked as Super Bowl contenders entering the season yet finished with their first losing season in four years under coach Dan Quinn," McClure writes. "No one wanted to use it as an excuse, but injuries crippled the team, particularly on defense. Starting safeties Keanu Neal (ACL) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles) both suffered season-ending injuries, and Pro Bowl middle linebacker Deion Jones missed 10 games after foot surgery.
"And on offense, the loss of two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman (groin) significantly affected the run game, with the Falcons sorely missing Freeman's toughness and elusive ability. Most figured the Falcons still had enough offensive firepower with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, tight end Austin Hooper, and rookie Calvin Ridley. The offense, however, couldn't shoulder the load despite Ryan and Jones playing at a Pro Bowl level."
To read the rest of McClure's reaction to the Falcons' 2018 season, click here.
AJC: Julio Jones: 'We have the team. We have the coaches.'
Despite the down year in Atlanta, wide receiver Julio Jones has remained optimistic about the future of the franchise. When asked throughout the year about any possible changes, Jones has remained insistent that the group is in place to have success. He did not waver from that stance following Sunday's win against the Buccaneers.
"We have to get guys back healthy," Jones said. "We had a lot of injuries and things like that. That's about it... We have the team. We have the coaches. We just have to have our guys on the field out there playing for us. This is it."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote more about Jones' optimism, which you can read here.
AJC: Falcons show they have a lot to work on and a lot to work with
Entering the 2018 season, the Falcons were seen as having one of the NFL's most talented rosters and gearing up for a third-straight run at the postseason. Although that didn't happen and this fall highlighted some areas in need of attention, The AJC's Michael Cunningham believes the Falcons still have plenty to work with.
"The comeback in this game, and the dominate victory at Carolina, showed that the Falcons still have plenty of talent," Cunningham writes. "They have more good skill players than most. In a passing league, the Falcons can throw with the best of them."
To read the rest of Cunningham's column, click here.
ESPN: Dirk Koetter out as Bucs coach
As ESPN's Jenna Laine wrote late Sunday night, the Buccaneers announced that coach Dirk Koetter has been relieved of his duties following a 5-11 record in his third season as the team's head coach. The news came after Tampa Bay's 34-32 loss to the Falcons on Sunday. Koetter had a 19-29 record as the Buccaneer's head coach during his time there.
To read the rest of Laine's report, click here.