Sunday’s 23-16 loss against the Carolina Panthers was the final straw: the 0-5 Atlanta Falcons have fired head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. The move did not come as a surprise given how putrid the Falcons looked like for virtually all of the 2020 season so far. And yet, it ends one of the longer head coaching tenures in the NFL — and one that certainly has had its positive moments.
All of them are overshadowed by another, though.
Quinn’s stint in Atlanta started off well. Coming over from the Seattle Seahawks, where he coordinated the team’s legendary “Legion of Boom” defense to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, he arrived in Atlanta in February 2015. In his first year at the job, Quinn led the club to an 8-8 record — a minor but noticeable improvement from the 6-10 record that got his predecessor, Mike Smith, fired after the previous season.
The 2015 season was a sign of things to come, because just one year later, Atlanta had one of the best teams in the NFL and made it to the Super Bowl. From that point on, however, one can say that the Quinn era went downhill.
The Falcons famously jumped to a 25-point third quarter lead over the New England Patriots and appeared to be well on their way to the franchise’s first ever championship. What followed was a collapse of epic proportions, that has earned its place in NFL lore and still stands as the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history — one that is synonymous with three numbers and a hyphen: 28-3.
With just over 17 minutes left in regulation, the Patriots stormed back to tie the game before eventually defeating Quinn’s team in overtime with a final score of 34-28. Atlanta came close to tasting victory — numerous plays had to go wrong (or right, depending on your perspective) to allow New England to come back — but eventually crumbled against the league’s greatest dynasty.
While the Falcons did produce another solid season immediately after their Super Bowl loss by going 10-6 and making the playoffs as a wild card team, they never returned to the game’s biggest stage before their disappointing start this year. That start, meanwhile, brought back some memories of the Super Bowl three-and-a-half years ago.
Take Atlanta’s Week 2 game against the Dallas Cowboys. Quinn’s squad jumped to a 20-0 lead and midway through the fourth quarter had a winning percentage of 97.1 percent while being up 36-24. It was still 95.8 percent with 2:25 left in the game. The Cowboys eventually came back to win 40-39, though, in part because of some infuriatingly bad situational football by the Falcons down the stretch.
One week later against the Chicago Bears, their winning percentage jumped to 99 percent early in the fourth period while up 26-10. The Bears, like the Cowboys the previous week, did come back to beat Quinn and company with a final score of 30-26 — outscoring the Falcons 20-0 in the final period.
The team’s winning percentage in Super Bowl 51 against the Patriots, for comparison, reached 99.5 points in the third quarter.
Due to some massive coaching and preparatory errors, however, the Falcons came up short in all three of those games. Now Quinn and the aforementioned Thomas Dimitroff were shown the door.
What does this have to do with the Patriots, though? Basically nothing, because the team does not play Atlanta this year nor are there any direct ties between the two organizations outside of the fact that Dimitroff used to work in New England’s college scouting department between 2002 and 2007.
However, given the recent developments in New England — the club had a fourth positive Covid-19 test on Sunday while seeing their game against the Denver Broncos pushed back to next week — we thought that Quinn’s firing might be a good opportunity to look back to one of the fondest memories Patriots fans across the globe will have: Super Bowl 51 goes down as the defining moment of the Dan Quinn era in Atlanta, even though it may not have been the same when it comes to the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick run in New England.
It was one of the most thrilling games in NFL history, and it ended with the Patriots winning their fifth Super Bowl — further establishing themselves as the most dominant team of the league’s salary cap era.
The Patriots played the biggest role in that happening, but Dan Quinn’s cannot be forgotten either. Be it his defense running out of gas in the end or his offense failing to run out the clock in the fourth quarter, Quinn’s fingerprints were all over the game and eventually allowed New England to come back and claim victory. While Georgia may have a different opinion of him, Patriots fans certainly will have some positive memories whenever they hear Quinn mentioned.
And for that, Coach, we salute you!