The team that came within an eyelash of winning the Super Bowl will start 2017 with new offensive and defensive coordinators. The offensive part I get: Kyle Shanahan is now the 49ers’ head coach. The defensive part …
Well, I get that, too.
Richard Smith was the Falcons’ defensive coordinator until this morning. His defense ranked 25th in yards against, 27th in points yielded. There was a better defensive coordinator on the staff. His name: Dan Quinn. Only three months ago, this correspondent suggested that DQ needed to be calling defensive signals during games.
Update: According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Quinn actually did that. If so, score one for ol’ MB.
There’s thought that the Falcons will bump up Marquand Manuel or Jerome Henderson. They like both a lot. As for Smith: He always seemed something of a journeyman. (He’d previously been DC in Miami and Houston.) Here, from a preview of the October Falcons-Packers game by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, is this recap of Smith’s five seasons before this one: “Smith’s defenses ranked 18th, 24th, 24th, 22nd and 16th in yards allowed, and 15th, tied for 25th, tied for 22nd, 27th and 14th in points allowed.”
That’s not Buddy Ryan stuff, is it? And, whoever was calling the defenses, it wasn’t quite championship stuff, was it? We can’t yet know if this firing was the result of the Falcons’ Epic Collapse in the Super Bowl, but the reality is this: The Falcons seemed to have a handle on the Patriots for much of the game and were surely worn down by having to defend 93 snaps, but they wound up yielding 546 yards and 37 first downs.
No, the defense had nothing to do with Shanahan’s two fourth-quarter whiffs — the pass on third-and-1 that became a sack/fumble and the pass on second-and-11 while in field goal range that became a sack — but these were the Patriots’ final five possessions: Touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. After taking a 28-3 lead, the Falcons were outpointed 31-nil.
It’s always risky to tamper with success, but I’d suggest the Falcons’ defense wasn’t exactly successful over the course of this season. It got better as it went. It made plays down the stretch and in the playoffs. But this would, from a statistical standpoint, have been among the worst defenses ever to become a Super Bowl champ. Which it didn’t quite.
I have no issue with this move. Actually, I applaud it.
Sorrowful Super stuff: