ATLANTA — Two and a half years ago, the Atlanta Falcons and head coach Dan Quinn stood on the field of Houston's NRG Stadium, with a commanding 28-3 lead over the New England Patriots by the middle of the third quarter of Super Bowl LI.
Their eyes and the eyes of the Atlanta faithful were squarely on the team's first world championship.
Then, they fell off the cliff.
And they are still falling.
According to ESPN's Vaughn McClure, despite Sunday's disappointing 53-32 loss to the Houston Texans on that same NRG Stadium field, Falcons owner Arthur Blank says he does not see a need for a coaching replacement at the present time.
"This staff has performed before. And my hope is they can fix what needs to be fixed and start winning some games," Blank told ESPN.
Other columnists are much less forgiving.
"The problem with that is that literally everything needs to be fixed, and that became clear after the loss in Houston," said CBSSports.com's John Breech. "One of the reasons the Falcons hired Dan Quinn is because of his ability to design a strong defense, but he clearly couldn't come up with anything to stop Deshaun Watson, who threw for 426 yards and five touchdowns."
"Just three years ago, the Falcons at this point in the season were 4-1 and on their way to Super Bowl 51," said Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer. "Blank admitted he is not yet ready to make a move, but the Falcons play the Cardinals next week; if they can't beat that fellow one-win team before a gauntlet schedule that includes the Rams, Seahawks, Saints and Panthers on the horizon, then all thoughts of a midseason turnaround will fly out the window."
Iyer became even more blunt about the situation as he continued.
"Blank is more patient than most team owners, but the past successes of Quinn's predecessor, Mike Smith, gave the former coach only a short two-year stay after his last playoff team," Iyer said.
Falcons fans are beginning to demand a complete revamp of the team from the top-down, from the coaching staff to key players down the line.
Sitting in a sports bar watching the closing minutes of Sunday's game, one fan remarked to this writer, "Just blow the whole thing up. Get rid of the coaches, dump Matt (Ryan), Julio (Jones), everybody! Just start over! Sure, it'll take a couple of years to rebuild, but hey! It'll be worth it in the end!"
The Falcons face the one-win Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday before coming back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for two weeks against the NFC West juggernaut offenses of the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks.
Both of those teams promise a high-flying offense and bruising defensive strike against a faltering Falcons line and questionable secondary.
Arthur Blank says he is sticking with Dan Quinn as Atlanta's head coach today, but by the time we hit the Bye Week in Week 9, don't be surprised if these quiet questions about his status with the Falcons become a much louder roar.
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