While considering whether or not to part ways from coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, Falcons owner Arthur Blank looked at a variety of factors, both positive and negative.
Ultimately, Blank believed enough in the system in place, especially after Quinn made some changes throughout the year that led to a 5-2 record following the bye week. While discussing his decision with the Atlanta media, Blank specifically highlighted five factors that led to his decision to opt for continuity regarding the Falcons' leadership.
Here are the five factors Blank listed and what he had to say about each:
Factor 1: Quinn's willingness to adjust coaching roles, including his own
"At the beginning of the year we had two new coordinators – and in some sense three, because Dan was coordinating as well – and I think that Dan probably didn't properly fully understand how much time it was going to take to coordinate with everybody else on the team and do his own job as well. So, I think halfway through the season I think that was a decision he made, actually somewhat earlier than that, that he needed to free himself up and have more ability to be all of the things that he needed to be as a head coach. So, I think that's been rectified."
Factor 2: Those adjustments included a simpler defensive scheme
"We made our defense in the second half of the year simpler. Our communication was better, I think that was a major factor in turning things around."
Factor 3: Identifying better roles for the players
"I think we moved some players around and put them in positions where they could win more easily. A lot of the role of the head coach, or from a business standpoint – any business – is what I often say is putting round pegs in round holes and square pegs in square holes, and I think we did a better job of that on defense in the second half of the year. We've seen some young talent emerge as a result of that, which I think will be very important.
"It's very clear that these players played hard for their coach and for the organization and for the franchise really throughout the year. They didn't play harder in the second half than the first half. They played just as hard in the first half as the second half, but they weren't always in the best positions, and they weren't always getting the best coaching. Some of the internal coaching changes I think that Dan made helped as well in terms of communication, in terms of coaching on the field, doing a variety of things that made a difference. Those are all sustainable going forward."
Factor 4: The players have bought into Quinn's leadership
"Dan's leadership as a head coach and creating a brotherhood. You've all heard the word 'brotherhood' and you understand the way Dan uses it and it's very meaningful to him and he believes in that strongly. But, beyond the belief, I think most importantly is that the players actually believe it, the players actually live it and the players have really supported the organization, the franchise, each other. Throughout the second half of the year you saw that. That's another reason to be optimistic moving forward."
Factor 5: Rich McKay's ability to assist Quinn and Dimitroff
"Rich McKay is president and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons. Rich has been sidetracked for probably five years or so, maybe longer, on getting our stadium built with the help of a number of other people. Steve Cannon and a variety of other folks, as well, have done a masterful job of producing a great home for us, a great stadium for us. That's behind us now. [Mercedes-Benz Stadium] opened up in 2017, and [was] voted No. 1 for fan experience, the experience inside the stadium, for the last three years.
"Rich has a storied background in football for 25 years. Tampa Bay 10 years, 15 years here, most of that time he's functioned as a general manager. Rich, I've asked him to spend his time up here next year. He'll be up here at least four days a week working very closely with Dan and Thomas, who by contract report directly to me, will be reporting directly to Rich going forward. My role is not going to change. I'll still be involved in all the major decisions, all the strategy that I need to be involved in to be aware of. What these gentlemen have forgotten I will never get to know, so I respect their knowledge. And I think that Rich will help be a sounding board, be a source of knowledge, be a source of wisdom, some guidance, etc., to both Thomas and coach going forward. I'm very happy that Rich has agreed to do that, and I think it'll make a major difference, as well."
And, although it wasn't one of his five stated factors, there was clearly something else that Blank and McKay did extensive research on before making this decision: The continuity of successful organizations. Blank explained that they did a thorough examination of which franchises have exhibited correct patience throughout the NFL's history, a topic he discussed further in an interview with Matt Tabeek of atlantafalcons.com.
Tabeek: "Teams that have stayed the course with their coaching staff have enjoyed success the past few decades. Did that influence your decision?"
Blank: "I think it does. If you go back and look at the history on this, and we've done studies on this, including recent history, those franchises that have been able to keep their general managers and head coaches in place for a long period of time are the teams that historically have been able to perform at a high level on an ongoing basis. So, the notion of the coach of the year, flavor of the month, whatever they may be, is very unhealthy for an organization, it truly is. If you have the abilities, the creativity, the leadership, you have the personnel making the right decisions, you have the coach providing the right leadership and you have other coaches on the field making a difference technique-wise, you can win in this league and you can win better than most teams can. We need the ability to do that, and I think the combination of Thomas and Dan, together with the supervision of Rich directly involved on a day-to-day basis, he's going to be pretty much living in Flowery Branch, and I think that triad will work very effectively for us going forward."