Quinn is not. Quinn’s team is 4-2 since the bye. With Jacksonville and Tampa Bay remaining, the Falcons could win twice more. That would make them Falcons 7-9 after starting 1-7. So which of the seasonal halves do we believe?
The answer is, or should be, both. The second half gives us an indication of what the Falcons coulda/shoulda been; the first, alas, was so awful that nothing afterward much mattered. It’s a lot easier to play when nothing’s on the line. (Technically, these coaches’ jobs are on the line, but most of the key players have signed long-term deals, which is why the Falcons’ salary-cap position is about to become a fright.) What’s one more loss?
Cold fact: These Falcons won 25 percent of their games that mattered. Should a team with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, Alex Mack, Jake Matthews, Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell – all participants in a Super Bowl that saw the Falcons lead by 25 points – have fallen so far? (To be fair, Sanu was traded at the bye week.)
We say again: This wasn’t a fluky fall. The Falcons have trailed by at least 17 points – this is hard to believe – in each of their nine losses. They were so bad in the first halves of games over the first half of the season that you questioned whether they’d practiced. Quinn fired three coordinators on New Year’s Eve, and it was clear none of the changes had yielded an upgrade. Depending on the down, Quinn wound up ceding defensive play-calling to Jeff Ulbrich or Raheem Morris, the latter of whom had spent the previous 3½ seasons working with the offense.
Should we credit the Falcons for figuring things out? I guess. Should it have taken half a season to start playing like a real team? The 1997 Falcons started 1-7 and finished 7-9, but that was a rebuilding team – Dan Reeves was in Year 1 of cleaning up after June Jones – and nobody expected much. These Falcons graced a Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2017. They played a Divisional Round game in Philadelphia on Jan. 13, 2018. They’ve spent as big as the NFL allows. This wasn’t a fixer-upper. This was a team that, after its coordinator shuffle, was supposed to be fixed.
Nor does this season mark a departure. Last year’s team started 1-4 and was 4-9 with three games against bad teams remaining. It won all three. It finished with no victory over an opponent that made the playoffs. This losing season will include at least two such wins. Is that progress enough? (No, that’s not a serious question.)
These Falcons were built to win big, but they performed so abominably they never gave themselves a chance. For half a season, they were the league’s worst-coached team. Since the Super Bowl, they’ve only occasionally appeared to know what they were doing. (The team that made the Super Bowl was superbly coached, but that was with Kyle Shanahan running the offense.) They’ve squandered yet another year of Ryan and Jones, the youngest of whom will be 31 when next this team plays a game of consequence.
If we credit Quinn & Co. for bleeding a few stirring wins from a season gone wrong, we must also ask: What took so long? Why will this again be the NFL’s most gifted sub-.500 team? And – the big question here – what’s to say that staying the course will yield anything different next time? How long can an organization live off a (lost) Super Bowl?”
As for the part about this team Not Quitting ... well, here’s where I roll my eyes. These guys are pros. This is their job. Had they really wanted Quinn to be their coach in 2020, they should have played better sooner.