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The final piece of the NFL head coaching carousel has fell into place as Monday Dan Quinn finally agreed to become the next head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
This hire was a formality, as the team settled on Quinn weeks ago but could not finalize a deal until after the Seahawks played in the Super Bowl Sunday night.
Now Quinn becomes the 16th coach in Falcons history. Here are five things to know about the hire:
1. A defensive overhaul in the cards
Last offseason, Falcons owner Arthur Blank promised a team that was tough, particularly in the trenches. But between injuries and personnel issues, that certainly was not the case in 2014.
Atlanta’s 22 sacks last season were second-fewest in the NFL, while the 10 defenses Quinn has coordinated have averaged 38.3 sacks per year.
The Falcons have some pieces in place. Kroy Biermann has been a solid pass-rusher at both defensive end and a stand-up linebacker. Desmond Trufant is one of the league’s top young cornerbacks. Last season the team drafted talented defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, and it should return linebacker Sean Witherspoon, who missed all of 2014 due to injury.
Still, both the front seven and secondary need reinforcements.
2. An All-Star staff
Expected to join Quinn in Atlanta are Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator Richard Smith as his defensive coordinator.
With Shanahan, expect the Falcons to embody that “toughness” Blank covets so badly with a dedicated rushing attack. This means more upgrades to the interior of the offensive line as well as finding a Marshawn Lynch-esque power back to replace veteran Steven Jackson.
Smith, who most recently served as the Broncos linebackers coach, got to tutor the likes of Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and Danny Trevathan. Though he’ll be the coordinator, expect Quinn to still have a big say, much like Rex Ryan did in New York.
In addition, the Falcons will hire former Vikings coach and Redskins assistant Raheem Morris to coach the secondary. Morris was initially pinpointed as the probable defensive coordinator, but instead will be the assistant head coach tasked with revamping the pass defense.
3. Quinn waited for the best opening
For the past two years, Quinn has been the prettiest girl at the dance when it came to being the hot coordinator once Black Monday rolled around. This year, he had the choice of the Falcons, Bears, Jets, Bills, 49ers, and Raiders.
If Quinn was going to move on from coaching the best defense in the NFL, he needed to find the best possible landing spot. For a defensive-minded coach, the offense will likely take care of it self, so he can narrow in on fixing the defense.
4. Right time to leave the Pacific Northwest?
Though Seattle is coming off its second Super Bowl appearance in as many years, there’s no guarantee the team can afford to retain 100 percent of its current roster, as some big names are due for big paychecks.
The team has to hand Russell Wilson a new deal, which doesn’t bode well for the team’s chances of re-signing No. 2 cornerback Byron Maxwell, who was a major catalyst in the defense’s second-half turnaround.
In addition, 2013 Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith is an impending free agent, as are Kevin Williams and O’Brien Schofield on the defensive side of the ball. A lot of contributors need new deals or need to be replaced, so there may not have been a better time to go.
5. The first test is already on the horizon
Before Quinn can get into meetings with the general manager and coaching staff, he’ll have to face Roger Goodell and the NFL first.
Sunday morning before the Super Bowl, a report surfaced suggesting Atlanta allegedly added extra crowd noise into the Georgia Dome for home games over the past two seasons.
If true, it’s as big — or potentially bigger — than Deflate-gate. Like deflated footballs, extra crowd noise provides the home Falcons with an unfair playing advantage, which could result in fines, docked draft picks, or potential suspensions, should any particular members of the organization be found to have played critical roles in this.
Quinn has never before been an NFL head coach, but with this investigation looming, he’ll have an opportunity to face the music right away.
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