According to Pro Football Network Insider Ben Allbright, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will be among the Atlanta Falcons top head coach candidates this offseason if they decide to move on from head coach Dan Quinn at the end of the season.
In fact, many around the league believe that it is a matter of when, not if, Quinn will be fired. Since the bye week, when Quinn was seemingly out of a job, the Falcons have gone 3-2. Those three wins have seen them beat two divisional opponents – the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers – by a total of 63 points. However, as opposed to their late rally in the 2018 season, this time appears to be too-little-too-late for Quinn to remain in position as their head coach.
When it comes to replacing Quinn, the McDaniels connection makes sense, especially if Thomas Dimitroff remains the general manager in Atlanta. The two were previously together with the New England Patriots, and this may present an ideal situation for McDaniels to team up with someone who already understands the Patriots way of thinking.
Would McDaniels actually leave the Patriots this time?
The question of whether McDaniels will leave his comfortable surroundings of New England will be a hot topic after the u-turn he pulled on the Indianapolis Colts before the 2018 season. However, the situation in New England is somewhat different now to what it was then.
The Patriots offense has stuttered and stumbled their way through this season, and the future does not look quite as evergreen as it once did. As previously noted, the presence of a former Patriots executive in the front office in Atlanta will also help, something McDaniels wouldn’t have had the luxury of in Indianapolis.
There was also talk in Indianapolis about the concerns around the health of Andrew Luck at the time of the McDaniels’ u-turn. Unless something happens to quarterback Matt Ryan down the stretch, the Falcons will not have those same issues. In Ryan, McDaniels would have a talented QB to work with, and given his age, the team has to stay in a win-now mode. Having a former-MVP running your offense and a team who is hungry to right the wrongs of the crushing Super Bowl loss in Houston should make for an attractive situation for McDaniels.
While nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to the coaching carousel, the Falcons may be one team that can actually pry McDaniels away from New England.
Does the shadow of Kyle Shanahan loom large over the Falcons?
The fact that an offensive-minded head coach is near the top of the Falcons list of candidates is no surprise. Teams often seem to flip-flop the mentality of their head coaches, as often the previous head coach was fired due to the failings of the area of his team he did not specialize in. However, the struggles the Falcons have experienced this season has been more of a product of the defense – Quinn’s specialty – than the failings of the offense.
In this case, the reason for the switch from defensive-minded to offensive-minded head coach may be more about the coach who the Falcons allowed to leave three offseasons ago. After the Falcons Super Bowl run, Kyle Shanahan was the hottest head coaching name in the NFL, and the Falcons had little choice but to allow him to leave. Fast forward three seasons and the two franchises are heading in very different directions.
Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers are fighting for a first-round bye and homefield advantage in the NFC, while the Quinn-led Falcons are having to settle for simply playing spoiler for their divisional rivals. Those facts will not have escaped the eyes of the people leading the search for a new head coach in Atlanta, and it may be very much a primary reason they are looking at another offensive guru in McDaniels.