Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank has decided to retain coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff for the 2020 season.
After a 1-7 start, the Falcons have shown dramatic improvement in the second half of the season with a 5-2 record. That includes road wins over San Francisco and New Orleans, two of the top teams in the NFC.
"It's easy to make changes," Blank said Friday at the team's training facility in suburban Flowery Branch. "It's almost easier in many ways to make changes than to not make changes."
He added: "It's about winning games, winning championships, winning rings. ... My belief is this group, this leadership group, this coaching group, can get us there more quickly than any other approach we could've taken."
There was much speculation about Quinn's future, specifically after Blank held an impromptu news conference after a home loss to Seattle on Oct. 27 and said every aspect would be reevaluated.
Quinn told reporters that the credit for the turnaround goes to the players for fighting for him and helping him save his job, adding that he's learned a lot about himself as a coach this season.
"I've made mistakes, and we get to fix them, and I think that's an important thing... use these lessons here," Quinn said. "Not everybody else always has the chance to do that. I certainly hate the results, but man, I learned a lot, and I'd say more than anything, I can't wait to apply the things that I've learned with this team and moving forward. That's what I'd say from (Blank's) visit today and what I discussed with the team."
Quinn made some changes during the season, including moving assistant head coach Raheem Morris from wide receivers coach to defense to work with the secondary. That move proved to be a shrewd decision that helped jump-start the defense. Morris inherited defensive playcalling duties, alongside linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, as Quinn surrendered those duties. The Falcons announced Friday that Morris will be the team's defensive coordinator starting next year.
"He probably should have made some of these changes sooner," Blank said, placing a large portion of blame for the team's struggles on the coaching staff. "I think the second half of the season is great and gives us a trail we can follow as we look into next year, but after you're 1-7, it's a little bit late. The music has kind of stopped playing."
In the end, however, he chose continuity over major changes.
"The question really is for me, were the improvements that were made, were they significant enough and did they show enough of a trend line that I feel that there's reason to believe we can carry that kind of record and that kind of performance over to the year 2020?," Blank said in a video posted by the team.
"And my answer is 'yes' because essentially the players, we didn't come up with Superman the second half of the year," he said. "Same number of players, same quality of players, same individuals who were playing just as hard in the first half as the second half. But we put them in better positions to win."
In a statement, the Falcons said Quinn and Dimitroff will report to team president and CEO Rich McKay. McKay will report directly to Blank, who retains oversight of the football operation.
"They will still make decisions," McKay said of Quinn and Dimitroff. "I'm charged with the job of making sure our processes work and make sure I give them the support they need."
Quinn has a career record of 42-37 through five seasons but is 23-24 since the Super Bowl LI loss to the New England Patriots. Quinn and Dimitroff signed contract extensions in July 2018 through 2022.
"I think for both of us, I don't want to speak for Thomas, he can comment on it for sure, but Rich is a good football guy, and he has been for a long time," Quinn said. "We lean on him already for a lot of things. So to have him here more, I think that's a good thing."
The players have been supportive of Quinn throughout the season. Star receiver Julio Jones even stepped up after one game and put the blame on the players, not on Quinn.
Captain Ricardo Allen voiced his support of Quinn earlier this week, then again Friday after the decision was made to retain him.
"We stuck together as a team and kept fighting," Allen said. "I'm grateful coach Quinn is coming back. That's what I've been fighting for. Even when you don't have very much to fight for in the season and you know you're not going to the playoffs, you don't want the head man gone."