Dan Quinn wants new Falcons assistants to revamp running game

Dan Quinn wants new Falcons assistants to revamp running game

January 10th, 2019 by Associated Press in Sports - Professional
Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn, right, speaks with Dirk Koetter — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' coach at the time — after their teams' game on Oct. 14 in Atlanta. The Bucs fired Koetter after the regular-season finale, and Quinn hired Koetter as Atlanta's offensive coordinator this week.

Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn, right, speaks with...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

ATLANTA — Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn is looking for a renewed commitment to the running game and offensive balance with new coordinator Dirk Koetter.

The Falcons' outside zone scheme won't change, though Quinn said Thursday that Koetter and the revamped offensive staff will bring new tweaks to the playbook.

Quinn has made a dramatic overhaul of his staff after a disappointing 7-9 finish last year. The day after the season ended, he fired each of his three coordinators and announced he will take over the defense.

On Tuesday, Quinn brought back two former Falcons offensive coordinators when he hired Koetter to direct the offense and made Mike Mularkey the team's tight ends coach.

Koetter was head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one of the Falcons' NFC South rivals, the past three seasons. He was fired soon after the Falcons beat the Bucs 34-32 in the regular-season finale.

Quinn said Koetter won't totally remake the offense.

"The systems will stay very similar," Quinn said. "The vision will certainly stay very similar in how we want to play ball. The way we go about executing that and find different ways to feature guys, that will have some change to it."

The Falcons lacked offensive balance this past season, relying too heavily on a passing game led by quarterback Matt Ryan, receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley and tight end Austin Hooper.

Atlanta ranked sixth in the NFL in total offense but only 27th in rushing. Those numbers were affected by season-ending injuries for running back Devonta Freeman and starting guards Brandon Fusco and Andy Levitre.

Quinn said he was impressed by Koetter's success featuring running backs Doug Martin in Tampa Bay and Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville, where Koetter was the Jaguars' offensive coordinator for four years (2007-11).

"Having that kind of balance, Dirk and I both agree, is the best way to attack and is the best way to feature the guys on our team," Quinn said.

Expect to see more carries for Atlanta running backs in 2019.

"The thing I think for us to get back from an identity standpoint is the amount of run attempts," Quinn said, adding he likes the way "we attack" through the air.

"What I'd like to make sure is we can feature the run game" to make play-action passes more effective.

"We're going to work really hard at that," he said, adding "That will be a big part of our identity, not just this year but for years to come."

Quinn also announced new roles for some assistants on Thursday. Kyle Flood, who had been assistant offensive line coach, will have a new senior assistant position. Quinn said "a big part of his role" will be assisting with clock management and replay decisions on the sideline.

Also, Dave Brock will coach running backs instead of wide receivers. Bernie Parmalee, who had been running backs coach, will assist new special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica, who was hired from the Washington Redskins on Wednesday.

Koetter and Mularkey will be renewing relationships with Ryan. Mularkey was the Falcons' offensive coordinator the first four seasons of Ryan's NFL career (2008-11) under former coach Mike Smith. Koetter directed the Falcons' offense for three seasons (2012-14).

Quinn said that familiarity will help the transition.

"I do believe a past relationship of working together can pay off," Quinn said, adding Koetter and Mularkey have talked with Ryan and other players.

Like Koetter, Mularkey has experience as an NFL head coach, having led the Buffalo Bills, the Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans.

Quinn said "more than two or three" candidates were interviewed before Koetter and Mularkey were hired. He said Ryan was not consulted during the interviews.

"I would say in no way was he involved in the process," Quinn said.