Falcons fire coach Quinn, GM Dimitroff after 0-5 start
ATLANTA (AP) - Dan Quinn, who led Atlanta to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history but squandered a 28-3 lead over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, was down a few hours after the Falcons fell on Sunday night fired for the first time since 1997 at 0-5.
The falcons also dismissed long-time managing director Thomas Dimitroff.
Quinn and Dimitroff were sacked after a 23:16 loss to the Carolina Panthers, making for a dismal start. These included the Falcons, who became the first team in NFL history to squander their fourth-quarter lead with at least 15 points in consecutive games.
In the middle of his sixth year with the Falcons, 50-year-old Quinn became the second coach to be fired as owner during Arthur Blanks's 18-year season. Dan Reeves left the game with three games remaining in the 2003 season after Blank told him he would not be kept.
Quinn became the second NFL coach that season to lose his job after Houston-based Bill O’Brien was fired after a 4-0 start.
Quinn left with an overall record of 43-42, but he was only 14-23 since the start of the 2018 season. He was 3-2 in two postseason appearances.
"Decisions like these are very difficult, but the last two seasons and the start of this season have been particularly difficult for me as I and my family love, admire and respect Dan, Thomas and their families," Blank said a statement released by the team .
“For many years you have represented me, our team, our organization and Atlanta with class, commitment and all the passion that you expect from the team leaders. But as everyone knows, this is a profit-making business and I owe it to our fans to bring the best possible product to market. We have put all possible resources into winning and will continue to do so, but recent results have not been up to our standards or what I promised our fans. "
The Falcons planned to announce an interim coach on Monday, likely from a team of former NFL head coaches Raheem Morris and Dirk Koetter.
The team's president and CEO, Rich McKay, will meanwhile take control of football operations and help Blank find a new general manager and coach.
"We are moving forward and will do everything we can to help this year's team win as many games as possible while also putting in place a strong plan to carry out these important leadership searches to position the Hawks for success in the future." McKay said, "We owe that to our fans."
Quinn was hired by the Falcons in 2015 after a hugely successful run as defensive coordinator in Seattle, underscored by two direct trips to the Super Bowl.
In a disturbing hallmark of Quinn's career as head coach, the Falcons got off to a quick start to his debut season but failed to sustain it. Atlanta won its first five games and six of its first seven, but overtime to Tampa Bay triggered a six-game loss that excluded the Falcons from playoff competition. They finished 8-8.
Atlanta bounced back from that disappointment with one of the biggest seasons in team history. With a dynamic offensive led by Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, the Falcons built a locker room camaraderie that Quinn called "The Brotherhood" as they won NFC South by an 11-5 record.
With blowout wins against Seattle and Green Bay in the NFC playoffs, the Falcons were on a great wave of trust en route to their first Super Bowl since the 1998 season. That went straight into the game against Brady's Patriots, who fell 25 points late in the third quarter as championship fans prepared for a big celebration in Atlanta.
Not so fast.
With one of the greatest feats in postseason history - and the benefit of questionable Hawks rules - Brady led a comeback that forced overtime for the first time in a Super Bowl. The Patriots won the coin toss and marched straight across the field for a 34:28 victory.
"I will probably never forget that," said Ricardo Allen, Safety of the Hawks, afterwards. "It will always be haunting."
Indeed, it was for Quinn and the entire organization.
The Falcons contested the playoffs again the following year, losing to eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia, but never seemed to shake the stigma of their Super Bowl debacle.
Bad starts in the last two seasons resulted in 7-9 records that put Quinn's job at risk. Blank decided to bring back his coach for the 2020 season as well as Dimitroff. He said it was important to maintain continuity and pointed to the strong support from Quinn in the locker room.
After Russell Wilson surrendered four touchdown passes in an opening season 38-25 loss to the Seahawks, the next two games brought back memories of the Super Bowl collapse and essentially served as Quinn's epitaph.
In Dallas the Falcons were leading 20-0 and 29-10, and were still in the lead 5 minutes before the end with 39:24. But the Cowboys scored two touchdowns and recovered an onside kick that made Atlanta a subject of national ridicule. At least five players could not jump on a slowly spinning ball before Dallas recovered it once it was 10 meters. This resulted in a field goal for an unlikely 40-39 Cowboys win in the last game.
Not so unlikely that it wouldn't happen again for the next week, minus the need for an onside kick. The Falcons led the Bears 26-10 by less than 7 minutes, making three touchdown passes to backup quarterback Nick Foles to lose 30-26.
Though Quinn was hired for his defensive reputation, that side of the ball was a big reason for his fall. Only once did the Falcons rank above 16th in total allowed yards, and Atlanta gave up an average of 448.3 yards in four games that year, more than any other team.
Dimitrov, 54, was one of the longest-serving general managers in the NFL, hired by Atlanta in 2008. The franchise was in an uproar after Michael Vick won over dog fighting after just 13 games last year and Bobby Petrino was impressed.
One of Dimitrov's first decisions was perhaps his biggest: to get Ryan with the number 3 in the 2008 draft. After Matty Ice took over the quarterback starting job on day one, the Falcons under coach Mike Smith tore five seasons in a row, four playoff games and two division titles.
In 2011, Dimitroff pulled off perhaps his most famous trade, giving the Cleveland Browns a huge package for the rights to draw recipient Julio Jones, who joined Ryan as the cornerstone of the franchise.
Since then, Dimitrov's draft record and many of his hiring decisions have raised questions about his verdict despite keeping his job when Smith was fired at the end of the 2014 season after two consecutive losses.
Blank was killed in another defeat against 2020 and brought McKay - Dimitrov's predecessor as general manager - back to a more important role in football.
Blank hoped that the organizational changes would trigger a turnaround.
It did not work.
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