Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog - Our weekly list of nine things on Wednesday that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.
1. Noll got a bonus for going 1-13. Just one more time, before rushing to fire Falcons coach Dan Quinn, pump the brakes really hard.
In today’s football climate, with a revolving door on most coaching jobs, Chuck Noll would have been fired after going 1-13 in his first season with the Steelers.
There would be no Steel Curtain. No Immaculate Reception. No Terry Bradshaw. No win-one-for-the thumb. No Swann-Stallworth.
Noll took over the wayward Steelers in 1969.
He was blunt during his first team meeting.
“I’ve watched the game films,” Noll said, “and I can tell you why you’ve been losing. It’s not because you’re not trying hard enough. This isn’t a good football team, and most of you aren’t going to be here when this is a good football team.” The quote is in the book “Chuck Noll: His life’s work” by Michael MacCambridge.
The Steelers won Noll’s opener 16-13 over the Detroit Lions, the proceeded to lose 13 consecutive games in his first season.
Noll had played for the legendary Paul Brown and worked with Sid Gillman and Don Shula.
“We made progress, although it doesn’t reflect in the win-loss column,” Noll said at his end-of-the-season news conference. “It was progress in areas that are not convertible to win-loss. Our ultimate goal is the championship.”
He was tough. He traded players who didn’t buy into his championship vision. He sent receiver Roy Jefferson home for missing curfew before an exhibition game.
Noll’s vision and football acumen won out in Pittsburgh over the long haul. He rewarded the Rooney family for sticking with him.
He was their coach and they, along with legendary scout Bill Nunn, got him the players he needed to win.
Quinn won big here and took the Falcons to brink of a Super Bowl victory and back to the playoffs, before two down seasons. Maybe, Noll’s analysis applies to Quinn’s team. They play hard, but just aren’t as good as some had projected them to be?
Since 2000, a total of 10 NFL coaches have been fired during or after just one season with a team. Arizona coach Steve Wilks was the 10th last season.
In the current climate, Noll would have been fired after going 1-13. There wouldn’t have been a end of season press conference.
But the Steelers knew they had a potentially great coach and instead of firing Noll, they gave him a $10,000 bonus. (He and his wife didn’t immediately cash the check. They said, they’d wait until it was earned.)
He drafted “Mean” Joe Greene in 1969, won the coin toss with Bears in 1970 and earned the right to draft Bradshaw. After 23 years on the job, without a hint of spying on the other team, and four Super Bowl rings later, Noll retired as one of the greatest coaches of his era.
The Falcons have repeatedly talked about being a franchise that wants to sustain winning records and be in title contention every year. You can’t do that if you fire the coach every five years or so.
Look yourselves in the mirror Falcons’ fans and ask yourself, “Do we want to be Tampa Bay?”
Since Jon Gruden was fired, the Bucs have rushed through six head coaches over the past 10 seasons and sniffed the playoffs just once. That was after they rushed Tony Dungy out the door in 2001 and Gruden went on to win the Super Bowl with Dungy’s team that was built by Rich McKay and Tim Ruskell.
Repeatedly turning over the coaching position is a recipe for mediocrity. The Bucs haven’t been to the playoffs since 2007, Gruden’s next to last season.
It looked like the Bucs had turned the corner when they went 10-6 in 2010 under Raheem Morris, but they regressed and haven’t won 10 games in a season since.
Who are the Falcons going to get if Quinn is fired?
Lincoln Riley, Byron Leftwich, Eric Bieniemy, Mike McCarthy, Jason Garrett, Ron Rivera, Kevin Stefanski, Kris Richard, Shane Waldron or Matt Eberflus are some of the names for this head coaching cycle.
We’ll dig into their backgrounds later, but for now, just pump the brakes.
2. McGary has best outing. Last week, we chronicled rookie Kaleb McGary’s struggles in pass protection in the Cover 9@9 blog.
This week we are here to share some uplifting news about the tackle the Falcons traded up to get.
According to our pals over at Pro Football Focus (went to Law School with the owner Cris Collinsworth), “Kaleb McGary had, by far, the best game of his rookie season (on Sunday). On 69 snaps, McGary recorded an overall grade of 85.5 and was the highest graded offensive player on the field. (Minimum 25 snaps).”
3. Lindstrom snaps to increase. Falcons rookie right guard Chris Lindstrom played 36 of 72 offensive snaps (50%) against the Panthers on Sunday.
It was Lindstrom’s first game back after suffering a broken left foot in the season opener against the Vikings on Sept. 8. Matt Gono also played 50% of the snaps.
4. Series record. This will be the 78th regular-season meeting between the Falcons at the 49ers, mostly from those old NFC West meetings. The 49ers lead the series 46-30-1. The teams are tied 1-1 in the playoffs. The Falcons beat the 49ers 20-18 on Jan. 1, 1999 on their way to the franchise’s first Super Bowl. On Jan. 20, 2013, Colin Kaeperknick and the 49ers rallied from a 17-0 deficit to beat the Falcons 28-24 in the NFC title game at the Georgia Dome.
5. Historical moment. On Dec. 7, 1969, at old Atlanta Stadium, running back Harmon Wages became just one of a rare handful of players to record a rushing, receiving and passing touchdown in the same game. Among those who have done likewise include Walter Payton, LaDainian Tomlinson and former Falcons coach Dan Reeves.
6. Falcons underdogs. The Falcons (4-9), who have been eliminated from the playoffs, are set to face the San Francisco 49ers (11-2) at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
The 49ers, who have the best record in the NFC and are fighting for the No. 1 seed for the playoffs, have been installed as 11.5-point favorites by betonline.ag. The 49ers, coached by former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, defeated the Saints 48-46 Sunday in New Orleans while the Falcons are coming off their best outing of the season in their 40-20 victory over the Panthers.
NFL Week 15 Lines
- New York Jets @ Baltimore Ravens (-14½)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4) @ Detroit Lions
- Philadelphia Eagles (-6) @ Washington Redskins
- Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers (-5)
- New England Patriots (-9½) @ Cincinnati Bengals
- Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans (-3)
- Seattle Seahawks (-4½) @ Carolina Panthers
- Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs (-12½)
- Miami Dolphins @ New York Giants (-2½)
- Jacksonville Jaguars @ Oakland Raiders (-5½)
- Cleveland Browns (-2½) @ Arizona Cardinals
- Minnesota Vikings (-3) @ Los Angeles Chargers
- Atlanta Falcons @ San Francisco 49ers (-11½)
- Los Angeles Rams @ Dallas Cowboys (-3)
- Buffalo Bills (-1) @ Pittsburgh Steelers
- Indianapolis Colts @ New Orleans Saints (-8½)
7. Draft watch. The Falcons won as all of the teams in front of them in the NFL draft order lost over the weekend, except the Giants (2-10), who play the Eagles tonight.
The Bengals (1-12), Redskins (3-10), Lions (3-10), Dolphins (3-10) and Cardinals (3-9-1) all lost and have a worse record than the Falcons (4-9), who beat the Panthers 40-20 and dropped to eighth from fifth place in the draft order.
The Falcons are tied with the Jaguars at 4-9, but the Falcons would draft eighth based on the strength of schedule tiebreaker, according to Tankathon.
The Falcons should be favored to go 2-1 down the stretch, which would give them a 6-10 mark and likely drop them out of the top 10.
The Falcons are 11.5 underdogs to the 49ers but will likely be favored over the Jaguars and Buccaneers.
9. Depth chart. The Falcons signed cornerback Jamar Taylor and linebacker Ahmad Thomas to the 53-man roster to replace Desmond Trufant and Calvin Ridley, who were placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.
Also, tight end Carson Meier and linebacker Quentin Poling were signed to the practice squad.
In seven seasons in the NFL, Taylor, 29, has played in 87 NFL games and made 41 start. Taylor was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Dolphins out of Boise State.
He has also played with Cleveland, Arizona, Denver and Seattle.
Thomas, 24, has spent time with Packers and Colts. He played in college at Oklahoma.
Here’s the full depth chart for the 49ers’ game that was released on Tuesday (Taylor and Thomas were not on the official release and were slotted accordingly):
WR 11 Julio Jones, 83 Russell Gage, 13 Christian Blake
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 73 Matt Gono
LG 71 Wes Schweitzer, 77 James Carpenter, 75 John Wetzel
C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer
RG 63 Chris Lindstrom, 73 Matt Gono, 68 Jamon Brown
RT 76 Kaleb McGary, 74 Ty Sambrailo
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Luke Stocker, 87 Jaeden Graham
WR 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 23 Brian Hill, 38 Kenjon Barner, 32 Qadree Ollison
FB 40 Keith Smith
DE 98 Takk McKinley, 99 Adrian Clayborn
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford
DT 96 Tyeler Davison, 94 Deadrin Senat
DE 93 Allen Bailey, 50 John Cominsky
DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 54 Foyesade Oluokun
LB 45 Deion Jones, Ahmad Thomas
CB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson
CB 20 Kendall Sheffield. 28 Jordan Miller, Jamar Taylor
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman
S 27 Damontae Kazee, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 35 Jamal Carter
K 7 Younghoe Koo
KO 7 Younghoe Koo
P 9 Ryan Allen
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 9 Ryan Allen
KOR 38 Kenjon Barner
PR 38 Kenjon Barner
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