Blank doesn’t have the added pressure of possibly being the first to fire a coach this season. The Houston Texans own that distinction after parting ways with head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien on Monday. Blank might not make his decision immediately, given that this a short week for the team, with Carolina on Sunday.
Blank certainly will hear and listen to the cries of a fan base that expected much better from a team coming off back-to-back 7-9 seasons. A handful of those fans will be welcomed back to a limited-capacity Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday for the first time this season, with little reason to believe that they’ll be watching a contender. Only one team in the Super Bowl Era — the 1992 San Diego Chargers — made the postseason following an 0-4 start.
Sure, this year’s expanded, 14-team playoff format gives the Falcons a chance to rally. But keep in mind that the second half of the Falcons’ season includes two matchups apiece with Tom Brady‘s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Drew Brees‘ New Orleans Saints, plus a road trip to Kansas City to face Patrick Mahomes and the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs.
When Blank said in December that he would retain both Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff for at least another year while having team president Rich McKay oversee them, he did so with the expectation of the playoffs. He made clear that mediocrity would not be tolerated.
Blank never figured that his team would be winless after four games for the first time since the 1999 season.
Calling the Falcons mediocre is too generous, especially after they became the first team in NFL history to blow 15-plus-point fourth-quarter leads twice in a season. That happened in consecutive losses to the Cowboys and Bears. The Falcons haven’t been able to finish games, as if they have a lingering hangover from Super Bowl LI after they blew that 28-3 lead over the Patriots.
On Monday, they couldn’t figure out how to start a game right, either, falling behind the Packers 20-3 at halftime and never recovering. Miscommunication on defense, missed throws on offense, injuries and curious coaching decisions all factored into the loss.
Quinn, now 43-41 as Falcons coach, is sure to take the same approach he has taken for weeks now: not wanting to speak specifically about his job status in an effort to keep the topic focused on team improvement. He needs to come up with some way to convince Blank that this can be turned around with a miraculous run, starting with a Week 5 matchup against Teddy Bridgewater and the surprising Carolina Panthers (2-2).
“In my heart and in my head and everything that I believe in, I know that we can,” Quinn said when asked about getting the team back on track. “And I know that the second quarter of our season will look a hell of a lot different than our first, that’s in fact what I told the team. Nothing has been decided yet, we do have our first division game coming up here this weekend, and we’re certainly looking forward to that.”
It’s difficult to say if an internal coaching change will inject more life into the listless Falcons. The interim candidates likely would be assistant head coach/linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and perhaps senior defensive assistant Bob Sutton. Koetter was the most recent to be an NFL head coach, in Tampa Bay, and Morris once was the head coach of the Buccaneers.
Whatever the case, the Falcons are running out of time, and Quinn is running out of answers.
Silver lining: Todd Gurley had touchdown runs of 5 and 3 yards, the latter coming after an outstanding block by Matt Ryan — yes, Matt Ryan — on Packers safety Darnell Savage. Gurley had 57 career red zone rushing TDs coming into the game, and he has four such scores this season.
Troubling trend: Injuries. Receiver Julio Jones didn’t play in the second half because of the nagging left hamstring injury that had him questionable coming into the game. Starting free safety Damontae Kazee was carted off with a left Achilles injury, and rookie safety Jaylinn Hawkins left the game because of a concussion.
The Falcons already were down starting safeties Keanu Neal (hamstring) and Ricardo Allen (elbow), and they were without starting first-round cornerback A.J. Terrell (COVID-19) and veteran corner Darqueze Dennard (IR/hamstring). The health of the safeties, with Kazee’s season possibly over, will be worth monitoring, especially with free-agent safety Earl Thomas having history with Quinn in Seattle.