Falcons owner Arthur Blank announced Friday that coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff will return for the 2020 season and will report to president Rich McKay.
Also, Raheem Morris has been named the team’s defensive coordinator, effective at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
This will mark the first time in Blank’s ownership that he has not fired a coach after consecutive seasons with .500 or losing records.
Mike Smith, the coach with the most wins in franchise history (66), was fired after a 4-12 and 6-10 seasons in 2013 and 2014.
Jim Mora was fired after going 8-8 and 7-9 in 2005 and 2006.
Bobby Petrino, who was hired to coach quarterback Michael Vick, left 13 games into the 2007 season after Vick was sent to federal prison in a federal dogfighting case.
Dan Reeves, whom Blank inherited when he purchased the team in 2002, was fired after 13 games in 2003 even though a young Michael Vick was injured.
Smith and Mora took the Falcons to one NFC title game. Reeves was the first coach to take the Falcons to the Super Bowl, after the 1998 season.
Quinn took the Falcons to the Super Bowl after the 2016 season, but his team blew a 28-3 lead, and the Falcons have posted a 24-23 regular-season record since by going 11-5 in 2017, 7-9 in 2018 and 6-9 with one game to play in 2019.
The move is shocking in some quarters because over the past two seasons the fans have stopped attending the home games. Mercedes-Benz Stadium was half-full for the regular-season finale against Jacksonville on Sunday.
“Over the last two seasons our results on the field have not met our standard or the expectations of our fans,” said Blank in a statement released by the team. “I understand our fans’ disappointment and frustration because I’ve felt every bit of it as well.”
Blank has long stated that he wanted the Falcons to be able to sustain a winning culture and has pointed to the Patriots, Steelers and Green Bay Packers. He thinks that staying the course is the quickest way back to success for the Falcons.
“I have long believed that continuity in leadership is very important across all our businesses and the football team is no different in that regard,” Blank said. “After weighing several factors, including our team’s statistical turnaround and our players’ focus and effort the second half of the season, I feel the decision to retain Thomas and Dan, with Rich providing close day-to-day oversight of the football operation, will provide the timeliest route for the Atlanta Falcons to return to contention in 2020 and beyond.”
Dimitroff has been with the Falcons since 2008. He orchestrated the signing of running back Michael Turner and the drafting of quarterback Matt Ryan that allowed Smith to quickly move on from the Petrino era.
The Falcons went to the playoffs in four of Smith’s first five seasons and were 11-5 in his first season. But the failed rebuilding of the offensive line and injuries led to team’s losing seasons in 2013 and 2014.
Quinn, who was the defensive coordinator in Seattle, was named the head coach in 2015. He was given control of the final roster and was considered the co-team builder with Dimitroff for the current team.
Quinn’s teams have been streaky.
In 2015, they started 6-1, but finished 8-8. In the magical 2016 season, after a 4-3 start, the Falcons went 7-2 and landed the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and went on to Super Bowl LI with a thrilling 44-21 victory over the Packers in the NFC Championship game.
In 2018, the Falcons’ injuries led to a 7-9 season and a firing of all of the coordinators. In 2019, the $80.3 million rebuilding of the offensive line didn’t work, in part because of injuries. The line has given up 44 sacks and 121 quarterback hits.
Blank made it clear that McKay, who helped build a Super Bowl winner in Tampa Bay and parts of the Reeves-Mora-Smith teams, will be in charge of the reboot.
“Every year we evaluate all our football operations, and this year I have asked Rich to work closely with Thomas and Dan over the next couple of weeks to conduct a top-to-bottom review, inclusive of structure, processes, resourcing and personnel to identify whatever changes are necessary to enable us to compete consistently at the highest level,” Blank said.
Quinn will take a 42-37 career record into the regular-season finale against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The Falcons started the season 1-7, but have gone 5-2 since their bye week.
Quinn signed a three-year contract extension in July 2018. He and Dimitroff are under contract through the 2022 season.
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