After a deflating loss in Super Bowl 51, the polarizing and controversial Kyle Shanahan was hired as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, leaving a vacancy at offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. Also, it was announced that Richard Smith would not be returning defensive coordinator position for the 2017 season, meaning both the Falcons’ offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator in 2017 would be new faces.
Sarkisian was brought in almost immediately after the departure of Shanahan. He previously served as an offensive assistant for the Alabama Crimson Tide under legendary head coach Nick Saban, and served as offensive coordinator for the Tide in the College Football Playoff National Championship after Lane Kiffin departed for Florida Atlantic University.
Before working for Saban, Sarkisian was head coach of the University of Washington and the University of Southern California. As a college head coach, Sarkisian totalled a 46-35 record over five seasons and a partial sixth season. He was known for his offensive prowess and creativity, acting as his own offensive coordinator while head coach.
Also, before his head coaching ventures, Sarkisian served as quarterbacks coach for USC from 2001-2003, again in 2005-2006, and as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2007-2008. During this period at USC, he coached Heisman winning quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, helping the Trojans claim several Pac-10 Championships.
Unfortunately, Sarkisian is not without controversy. He was fired from his head coaching job at USC in October of 2015. Shortly after his termination, it was revealed that Sarkisian struggles with alcoholism and it negatively affected his ability to coach.
He remains in treatment today and is very open about his difficulties with drinking.
Overall, Sarkisian has a proven track record of offensive success, and the effect his personal issues will have on the Falcons remains to be seen. Hopefully, he can overcome the struggles he faces in his daily life and be the offensive genius he was known as before the stories of his alcoholism came out.
Further reading on Sarkisian can be found here.
Manuel is definitely a less heard of name than Sarkisian. In college, he played DB at the University of Florida, and then spent 8 years in the NFL as a safety. While a player, he was known for his fiery leadership and passion for the game.
After his playing days were over, he found a job as an assistant special teams coach in Seattle under Pete Carroll in 2012. He quickly worked his way up the defensive ladder, serving as a defensive assistant in 2013 and as a defensive assistant specifically for the secondary in 2014.
When Dan Quinn was hired as the Falcons head coach in 2015, Manuel followed him from Seattle to Atlanta. Since then, he has worked as a secondary coach and senior defensive assistant for the Falcons.
Manuel has experience coaching a young secondary, which will be beneficial in the coming years as the Atlanta defense will be one of the younger defenses in the league. He also has a long history of playing the game, so he understands what those young players are going through and how to help them take the next step. His passion and leadership from his playing days could be a great asset in bringing together a young and developing defense.
Further reading about Manuel can be found here.
The Falcons will have new faces in major roles next season. It’s time for them to help the team get better, and to make it back to the big game for a chance to right the mistakes of Super Bowl 51. Rise Up.