Atlanta Falcons dismiss DC Richard Smith, likely to promote from within

The Atlanta Falcons have dismissed defensive coordinator Richard Smith and defensive line coach Bryan Cox after their defense collapsed in Super Bowl 51.

Some one had to take the blame for the Atlanta Falcons blowing a 25-point lead in Super Bowl 51 on Sunday. The Atlanta defense was on the field for a ridiculous 93 snaps.

Late on Tuesday night, Atlanta decided to part ways with defensive coordinator Richard Smith and defensive line coach Bryan Cox. Smith had been with Atlanta the last two seasons as Dan Quinn’s defensive coordinator. Cox had been the Falcons’ defensive line coach since 2014.

Apparently Quinn had been calling the defense for most of the second half of the season. Atlanta is running his version of the 4-3 Under base with man-to-man and Cover 3 principles in the secondary. Given that Quinn specializes in the pass rush as a coach, this could mean Atlanta’s surge in the second half defensively larges hinges on him and not Smith or Cox.

Fortunately for Quinn, Atlanta does have a few capable position coaches it can promote from within. The two most likely candidates in-house to be the next defensive coordinator for the Falcons are defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel and linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich.

Atlanta could also explore moving assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Raheem Morris to that defensive coordinator vacancy. Morris is the former head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 2016 was his first year coaching offensive personnel, taking over for Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie.

Overall, Atlanta is making its second change at a coordinator position in as many days. Former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left for the San Francisco 49ers head coaching vacancy. He is likely to bring Falcons running backs coach Bobby Turner with him to the Bay Area, possibly as his offensive coordinator.

Atlanta lost its quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur to the offensive coordinator position with the Los Angeles Rams. The Falcons already tabbed Shanahan’s replacement by naming former Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to the same position with Atlanta.

While the Super Bowl loss has not been kind to the Falcons coaching staff, Atlanta is well-equipped to handle this kind of attrition thanks to having a strong up-and-coming head coach in Quinn. Expect either Manuel or Ulbrich to be promoted from within to defensive coordinator in Flowery Branch.

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