The Seahawks’ miracle comeback on Sunday means the Falcons won’t be able to officially begin their honeymoon phase with Dan Quinn for a couple more weeks.
At this point, however, it’s little more than a formality that Arthur Blank will hire Seattle’s second-year defensive coordinator as his next head coach.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday night that former Redskins and Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will join the Falcons in the same role as part a package deal with Quinn.
The Falcons interviewed Quinn for a second time on Monday, a day after Seattle rallied against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game and punched its ticket to a second straight Super Bowl.
Barring something completely unexpected between now and then, Quinn should be introduced as Mike Smith’s replacement on Feb. 2 or 3, ushering in a fresh era of unbridled optimism in Flowery Branch.
Dan Quinn won’t call timeouts when the Falcons should be trying to run out the clock.
Dan Quinn will develop the pass rush the Falcons lacked throughout the entirety of the Smith era — John Abraham’s past contributions notwithstanding.
Dan Quinn will be an unstoppable force of nature who will mold the Falcons into the NFL’s next great dynasty.
Of course, that place where expectations meet reality is typically less glamorous.
After six months of reenergized marketing campaigns — those new stadium PSLs aren’t going to sell themselves — Quinn and the Falcons will have to, you know, actually play some other teams.
Then and only then will we start to get an idea how well Quinn will fare as a head coach.
Because here’s the sobering reality: Richard Sherman isn’t coming to Atlanta with Dan Quinn. Neither is Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas or, perhaps worst of all, anyone involved in drafting them.
Neither is ... you get the idea.
It’ll be Dan coming to fix the Falcons with nothing but his wits, some assistant coaches and maybe a roll of duct tape, MacGyver style.
Quinn is simultaneously about as good of a hire as the Falcons could have made this offseason, and yet, every bit as big of a gamble as the other candidates.
We can assume that he ranks a distant second to Blank somehow convincing Bill Belichick to force a trade out of New England, but well ahead of asking Bobby Petrino his thoughts on moving back into his old office at 4400 Falcon Parkway in Flowery Branch.
And that’s about as certain as it gets with most head coaching hires in the NFL. It’s a slightly more scientific version of pin the tail on the donkey.
For all the in-depth analysis offered by the media, all the misplaced excitement (or disappointment) that fans take away from a coordinator’s limited resume, how often does a team really know what it’s getting with a first-time NFL head coach?
After all, you only need someone to be an offensive or defensive genius — preferably both — with the ability to out-scheme 31 of the top football minds on the planet.
Oh, it also needs to be someone who’s able to motivate several dozen millionaires to play a violent sport with an appropriate mix of reckless abandon and smart, situational awareness.
He’ll likewise have to cater to the demands of a boss who is one of the world’s wealthiest individuals and, among other things, need to have thick enough skin to endure getting every professional decision he makes publicly scrutinized by millions of people.
Why is that so hard to find?
Most of what little we know about Quinn so far is that he presided over the best defense in the NFL during the past two seasons.
That’s all well and good until you consider that Seattle got similar results under former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who left to become head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars following the 2012 season.
Under Bradley, the Seahawks went from being the NFL’s 25th-best scoring defense in 2010 to seventh in 2011 and first in 2012.
Bradley proceeded to go 7-25 with the Jaguars over the past two seasons.
I know, I’m killing the buzz here.
The good news is, under Quinn, the Seahawks have improved upon what were already league-best numbers.
In 2013, Seattle led the NFL in fewest points allowed, fewest yards allowed and most takeaways, becoming the first unit to accomplish that feat since the Chicago Bears did it in 1985.
Though, the question remains: how much were those numbers a product of Quinn’s fingerprints on the defense, and how much were they a result of head coach Pete Carroll and his players simply taking the next step in their evolution?
Will Quinn be exposed as a byproduct of all the talent he worked with in Seattle?
Quinn will inherit a Falcons roster considerably more talented than what Bradley has fielded in Jacksonville and will undoubedly produce better results, but the Jaguars are hardly the bar.
Even serving as a general upgrade over Smith won’t be good enough.
For Arthur Blank, it’s championship or bust.
That makes this arguably the most important hire he will ever make.
Blank is 72 years old. Three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan will turn 30 in May. Their window to win a championship together isn’t getting any wider.
Two weeks from now, Blank will sign off on the idea that Quinn is the man to lead them to a title before that window slams shut.
Six months after that, we’ll finally start to get an idea whether Blank made the right choice.