It seems like decades ago that Dan Quinn was one of the hottest coaches in football after leading the Atlanta Falcons to an 11-5 season in 2016, culminating in the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance since 1998.
In a few quick seasons, that hot start turned into a hot seat, which finally came to a boil on Sunday, as the Falcons fired Quinn after winning just over 50 percent of his games as a head coach in just over 5 seasons.
While the Falcons are clearly an imperfect team after falling to 0-5 this season, they are not a dumpster fire like most winless teams this season are. Atlanta still has an offense featuring a top-10 quarterback and talented former first-round picks all over the place.
If the Falcons can find a quality replacement for Quinn that can elevate the offense and at least make the defense competent, they can return to playoff contention in a short span.
3. Robert Saleh, Defensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
Ever since elevating the Niners into one of the best defenses in football, Saleh has been one of the most popular names on the head coaching market.
The Falcons could use some help on the defensive side of the ball, as despite Quinn coming from leading a historically dominant defense in Seattle, the Falcon’s defense finished 20th or worse in both points and yards allowed in three full seasons (2016, 2018-2019) and we’re on their way back to mediocre defensive finishes in 2020.
At just 41 years old, Saleh has the ideal combination of motivational skills, defensive knowledge and downright likeability to be a head coach in the NFL.
Saleh’s defensive schemes also have some of the same intangibles as Quinn’s did, which would make the coaching transition a bit smoother as the Falcons welcome in one of the hottest names in the potential head coaches pool.
2. Byron Leftwich, Offensive Coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has been consistently good over his lengthy career, but turned 35 this off-season and is heading into the twilight of his career.
Adding a head coach like Byron Leftwich, a former quarterback who has learned under offensive guru Bruce Arians, could reinvigorate Matt Ryan to help him post some solid passing numbers over his last few quality years.
Even if Falcons general management decides to part ways with the veteran passer, Leftwich could be a mentor to a new quarterback who would be dropped into a great situation with all the talented receivers in the Falcon’s offense.
Much like Saleh, Leftwich is a relatively young coach (40) who could get the most out of a Falcons offense that features one of the best wide receiving corps in the NFL with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage.
1. Eric Bieniemy, Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
Speaking of getting the most out of the offense, Eric Bieniemy has been the hottest name in the NFL head coaching pool thanks to leading the Chiefs to one of the best offenses in NFL history over the best two years.
Matt Ryan has nowhere near the level of passing talent that Patrick Mahomes has, but Bieniemy might be able to make the veteran quarterback look like he did in his MVP season in 2016.
Just thinking about Bieniemy with all those offensive weapons (Jones, Ridley, Gage, Todd Gurley, Hayden Hurst) should make defensive coordinators in the NFC tremble with fear.
At 51 years old, Eric Bieniemy has been more than patient in getting a head coaching role, and seems extremely qualified to be a head coach at this point. With his resume in Kansas City, Bieniemy has the potential to get the Falcon’s offense back to the elite level it was at during the 2016 Super Bowl run.