Falcons reeling, Quinn’s job status muddied at bye
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons never thought they’d be 1-7 at the halfway point of the season.
But here they are at the bye, tied for the NFC’s worst record and looking even worse than last year’s disappointing team.
A six-game losing streak has caused Falcons owner Arthur Blank to spend this week evaluating coach Dan Quinn, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and the football operations.
Blank was noncommittal on the future of both men when asked after last week’s loss to Seattle. The Falcons are 4-12 since Week 9 last year, and attendance has never been worse in three seasons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“It’s very painful,” Blank said. “I understand that. I’ve always been here. I’m going to be in my seat. Hopefully, the great majority of our fans will as well. I think they understand our ownership has been committed for almost 20 years now in doing the right things for the franchise. I look at our record over that period of time compared to the prior 36 years, and it’s extraordinarily good.”
The Falcons have won more consistently under Blank’s ownership than they did with the Smith family from 1966-2001, but Blank kept holding out hope that the likable Quinn would engineer a big turnaround this year.
“The one key thing I think you need to keep in mind, it’s not a reason or another, but it is a fact — the players — they love Dan Quinn,” Blank said. “They’re playing hard for him. The results aren’t there, and I understand that, and they understand that as well.”
Quinn made big changes to his staff after last season, firing all three coordinators and naming himself defensive coordinator. The Falcons reinvested in Julio Jones, Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones. They drafted two offensive linemen in the first round to help protect quarterback Matt Ryan and generate a consistent running game.
But the season has been sideways from the start. The Falcons trailed 28-0 in the third quarter of the opener at Minnesota and probably would have lost to Philadelphia the following week if not for a dropped pass.
They haven’t won since. The defense ranks at or near the bottom in nearly every statistical category. The offense has been unable to score consistently, and the team has employed four kickers and three punters since August.
Last week’s trade of veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu was the first sign that changes are coming even though Blank hasn’t fired a head coach in midseason since Dan Reeves was let go in December 2003.
“We’ll continue to look at everything we can and make the right decisions when we have to make them,” Blank said. “I’m not bashful about making those decisions.”
Players and coaches have said all season that effort isn’t lacking, but the team begins most games looking poorly prepared. No number has been worse than the aggregate deficit in first halves, a differential of 94 points that’s given Atlanta little hope of rallying after intermission.
Quinn said he was more frustrated than ever as he watched his team fall behind 24-0 in the first half last week .
“What’s it been like? You really want to know that? It makes you mad as hell because we’re not hitting the mark that you want to that we’re capable of,” Quinn said. “That’s why you want to push like hell. As a coach, when there’s a problem, you want to solve the problem. Each week you’re trying to find the space to get yourself being more consistent. When you have that happen, yeah, you’re upset about it.”
Atlanta has issues at nearly every position.
Ryan missed his first game since 2009 when he was sacked for the fifth time two weeks ago and suffered a sprained ankle. Right guard Chris Lindstrom has been sidelined most of the season with an injury. Defensive ends Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley, both former first-round picks, lead a pass rush that ranks last in sacks. Strong safety Keanu Neal is injured for the second straight season, and Isaiah Oliver, a second-round pick last year, has struggled as a starting cornerback.
Quinn, though, still hopes for the best.
“For whatever reason, this is a good team that has a bad record,” he said, “and we have not had that kind of chemistry to play all complementary football together.”