INDIANAPOLIS – Few have covered the NFL as thoroughly and eloquently as NBC Sports' Peter King. The former Sports Illustrated legend has relationships in every NFL organization and has dedicated his life to telling stories on and off the gridiron.
After a week in Indianapolis covering the NFL combine, King took some time out to answer a few Falcons-related questions before catching a flight out of town to share his thoughts on the team's recent decisions and how they can move forward for the 2020 season.
What do you put more credence into, the start or end of the Falcons' season?
King: "I think they're both valuable. I think it says a lot of good things about the organization and the head coach that they're still playing hard when they're totally out of it on Nov. 10, or whatever it was. I think that Arthur Blank may not have made this move five years ago, he might have blown it up five years ago, and I think it's a good thing. Dan Quinn is a good football coach. Thomas Dimitroff is a good personnel guy, and I think he's done a very good job as general manager.
"So, to me, I don't think they should have blown it up. Now, on Halloween, I do think they should have blown it up. But, in my mind, I think one of the things I like about what happened is this team did not shut out Dan Quinn, didn't shut out their position coaches. I would go forward confidently in the future with what I had, and I wouldn't have blown it up. Now, it's one thing if you have the ability to get Bill Belichick to coach your team. But in this climate, in this environment, I would have done exactly what Arthur Blank did."
Why do you think it took so long for the Falcons to have success in 2019?
King: "I was at the game against the Rams in Atlanta, and they were awful. They couldn't protect [Matt Ryan]. I don't know if the guys they chose on their offensive line are, long term, going to make it, we'll see. They didn't play great last year, that's for sure. I can't answer that, I'm not around them enough to know. It would bother me how they played early in the season, because a team with Atlanta's talent should not have played like that for the first two months of the season. But you have to judge a team, and you have to judge a season in its entirety. If you judge it in its entirety, I would have brought [Quinn] back."
What do you think of Raheem Morris becoming defensive coordinator?
King: "He's really interesting. He's kind of remade himself on the other side of the ball, which I like. I like a guy who is a complete coach. A lot of really good coaches in the NFL have coached on both sides of the ball. Belichick has coached everything. The year that the Patriots' quarterback coach died, Dick Rehbein in 2001, maybe, Belichick was the quarterbacks coach that year. He's coached special teams; he's done all of that. That provides a coach the ability to be well rounded and good for him. I think it's good for his future if he wants to be a head coach."
What do the Falcons have to do to get back in the hunt next season?
King: "I think they have to have a really good offseason. I think in the draft one of the things that they really need to do is they need to make sure that they enter 2020 with the ability to rush the passer. I just don't know who is going to rush the passer for them this year, I don't know. It's such a valuable thing to have, in order to be able to do that. When you have an offensive line that there are questions about, you don't want to enter a season knowing that you've got to score 25 or 30 [points] a week to win. They've got to pressure the quarterback. They've got to cover better. And, I just think, again, I don't mean to sound an alarm about the offensive line, but I think the offensive line is a worry. I think that really has to be better.
"This is a team with tremendous talent, but you've got to do something with that talent. A great example is Alex Mack. If I'm guessing, this is Alex Mack's last year, and if it's his last year, that's a huge hole to fill at center. So, I don't know, this is probably with a lot of those guys the last year that they can really rely on and depend on their veterans to get them over the top."