Bowles’ Popularity Could Force Falcons’ Hand

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Todd Bowles

There are a lot of lingering questions surrounding the Atlanta Falcons’ search for their next head coach, but many of those could be answered by the end of this week.

The Falcons have scheduled a pair of second interviews with two of the seven candidates in Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin later this week. Bowles will interview on Wednesday, with Austin scheduled the following day. But Bowles is an extremely popular candidate for several teams since he has scheduled a second interview with the New York Jets this Thursday and is also a candidate for the vacancy with the Chicago Bears.

Should the Falcons desire Bowles to be their lead candidate, they may feel compelled to try and keep him from getting on that plane to New York Wednesday night. Their first interview lasted five hours, suggesting that things went favorably and it’s possible the Falcons made sure to schedule Bowles before the Jets to ensure they get first crack at him.

But where does that leave Austin, and potentially other candidates like Dan Quinn or Adam Gase that might also be on the Falcons radar? Is Josh McDaniels still in the race? John Fox is also no longer coaching the Denver Broncos, does that change things for the Falcons moving forward?

It’s hard to know what the answers are to these questions looking on the outside in as I am now. Ultimately, it will boil down to how owner Arthur Blank feels about each of these candidates. I’ve suggested all along that Bowles is the presumptive favorite, even well before Rex Ryan took the job in Buffalo. But that’s based off nothing more than an educated guess and gut feeling rather than any sort of insider information.

If Blank does feel that Bowles is the best candidate and too good to let walk, presumably he won’t let him get on that plane. But if Blank has strong(er) feelings for any of the other remaining candidates, then that’s a risk he might be willing to take.

In the past, I’ve questioned whether the bottom line is a higher priority in Blank’s eyes than winning games, but I’ve never really questioned the man’s integrity. And by that, I mean that I doubt he would schedule an interview with Austin unless he fully intended to conduct it. But things don’t always go the way they’re intended to go. Blank being a successful billionaire makes him well aware of striking while the iron is hot.

Is Austin is more of an insurance policy in case things don’t work out with Bowles? Could Austin really be Blank’s preferred choice? What if Blank really likes Quinn and is willing to wait at least another weekend to see if the Seattle Seahawks are eliminated from the playoffs? Are Gase, McDaniels, Fox or someone completely new on the radar?

And I’m not even considering the feelings of the candidates themselves. The presence of quarterback Matt Ryan would presumably make Atlanta a preferred destination for any head-coaching candidate, thus Blank could afford to be choosy. But that is by no means a guarantee, as who knows what other factors could spur any of these men to look at another team more favorably?

Again, a lot of unanswered questions but it would appear that in the next few days we might finally receive some answers and get ready to move forward into the 2015 season.

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Aaron Freeman
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