It didn’t take long for the Falcons to find Kyle Shanahan’s replacement.
The Falcons confirmed Tuesday they have hired Alabama play-caller Steve Sarkisian their next offensive coordinator.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport was told that Sarkisian and the Falcons spoke earlier this winter after Shanahan’s name bubbled up as a primary candidate for the 49ers head-coaching job, a role he accepted on Monday. Sarkisian and Falcons coach Dan Quinn share a common friend in Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Sarkisian’s role as the Crimson Tide play-caller was brief: He was named to the post last month — ahead of the BCS National Championship Game — after former Alabama coordinator Lane Kiffin accepted the head-coaching job at Florida Atlantic.
“As a play-caller I felt like, number one, what an aggressive play-caller he’s been through the years,” Quinn said of the reason behind the hire. “He has a real familiarity from the live zone scheme, the play action, the keepers. That’s such a big part of what we do. It’s him as a play-caller, two of the guys that I respect most in our profession, Pete (Caroll) and Nick (Saban) and being part of both of their programs, I know what he stands for as a coach.”
“We appreciate all Coach Sarkisian did for our program during his time here,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “He is an outstanding coach, and we wish him the best in his new role as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator. As always, when we have an opening on our staff, we will use it as an opportunity to go out and hire the best coach available.”
Sarkisian previously served as an analyst for Alabama after being fired as head coach at USC in 2015. He was let go by the Trojans after reportedly arriving late for team meetings while intoxicated. Sarkisian subsequently checked into rehab before filing a lawsuit against USC stating that he was discriminated against because of a disability.
In Atlanta, Sarkisian faces the challenge of keeping one of the NFL’s premier offenses operating at a Super Bowl level. Under Shanahan, MVP passer Matt Ryan led an attack that led the league in scoring and dominated defenses from wire-to-wire until falling just short in Super Bowl LI.
It’s an enviable role in Atlanta, though, where the offense will bring back Ryan, star wideout Julio Jones and versatile running back Devonta Freeman, among others.
Getting back to the big game is no easy task. Valuable coaches are lost and free agents vanish, while those left over are asked to duplicate the previous year’s success.
Sarkisian will face pressure to succeed right away.