Once the 2020 NFL regular season concluded, the Atlanta Falcons wasted no time beginning their search for a new head coach and general manager. The team has interviewed six people for its coaching vacancy, including interim coach Raheem Morris.
Here’s a look at all six candidates the Falcons have interviewed thus far, highlighting one pro and one con of each potential hire.
Eric Bieniemy - Chiefs offensive coordinator
(AP Photo/Doug Murray)
The biggest pro for Bieniemy is coaching under Andy Reid, the NFL's brightest offensive mind. With Patrick Mahomes under center, the Chiefs have taken the league to new heights. Since taking over as offensive coordinator, Bieniemy has been heavily involved in developing the game plan while learning from the best in the business.
Bieniemy's pro is also his con. Coaching under Andy Reid, it's truly impossible to know how much of an impact he's making in Kansas City. Much like assistants of Bill Belichick in New England, you're taking a certain risk any time you hire one. So it's unfair to assume Bieniemy would easily turn Atlanta into the powerhouse Kansas City has built over years.
Arthur Smith - Titans offensive coordinator
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Arthur Smith has done wonders with the Titans' offense since taking over in 2019. The team acquired QB Ryan Tannehill through a trade with Miami and has averaged 6.5 yards per play since, best in the league over that span. His ability to run a dominant play-action offense could do wonders for the Falcons and veteran QB Matt Ryan.
The one con I have for Smith isn't really a knock on Smith himself. Tennessee's offense is built around the run and the physicality of RB Derrick Henry. Atlanta does not have a running back on roster that can be as effective as Henry. This could be where Najee Harris comes into the picture, but who knows if he falls to Atlanta in the second round.
Joe Brady - Panthers offensive coordinator
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Joe Brady is credited with being the brains behind a successful offense at LSU during the team's championship run in 2019. In addition to his collegiate success, Brady has spent two seasons as an offensive assistant under Sean Payton in 2017 and 2018. Similar to Andy Reid, Payton is regarded as one of the NFL's best play callers. Under Brady, both Robby Anderson and Mike Davis of the Panthers posted over 1,000 total yards at their respective positions in 2020.
With only three years of NFL experience, it Brady may be too big of a risk. At 31 years old, he would become the youngest active head coach in the league. The Rams took a shot with Sean McVay in 2017 and went to the Super Bowl his second season. However, prior to joining the Rams, McVay had eight seasons of NFL experience.
Todd Bowles - Bucs defensive coordinator
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Todd Bowles isn't the guy that will excite the Falcons fan-base. However, he did give the Buccaneers their first top-10 defense since the 2009. Tampa Bay allowed just 3.3 yards per carry and 80 rushing yards per game, which were both No. 1 in the league this season.
In his four seasons as head coach of the New York Jets, Bowles had a record of 24-40. Granted, the Jets were -- and still are -- a complete mess, and the organization doesn't exactly set coaches up for success. Atlanta had the chance to hire Bowles but went with Dan Quinn instead in 2015. As bad as New York has been, though, I don't see Bowles as a top contender for Falcons coaching vacancy.
Robert Saleh - 49ers defensive coordinator
(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear, File)
Despite having one of the better rushing attacks in the league in 2019, the 49ers' Super Bowl run came largely at the hands of their defense. This year, the defense was decimated by injuries. Still, Saleh still managed to coach an undermanned unit into a top-five defense. He's a great motivator and San Francisco CB Richard Sherman has suggested Saleh would be a great coach. .
As much as I would enjoy Saleh, I can't get on board with a defensive hire. Excluding the one year Bobby Petrino was in charge, Saleh would make for the fourth-straight defensive head-coaching hire. While Falcons team president Rich McKay has stated he isn't pigeon-holing Atlanta to hiring a coach from one side of the ball, I doubt the team will continue this trend considering the offense in need of serious work this offseason.
Nathaniel Hackett - Packers offensive coordinator
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It's hard to look past an endorsement from one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers went to bat for his offensive coordinator for the Falcons vacancy. Even former Falcons assistant Matt LaFleur endorsed Hackett and credited him for the Packers' red-zone success in 2020. Red-zone efficiency has been one of Atlanta's biggest weaknesses over the past two years.
Prior to being the offensive coordinator in Green Bay, Hackett spent time with Buffalo and then Jacksonville, where he saw minimal success. During the Jaguars' AFC Championship run in 2017, their strength was an elite defense that made up for the team's offensive inefficiencies. He wasn't quite as highly regarded until being associated with Aaron Rodgers.