By Rudi Lopez, M.A. | firstname.lastname@example.org
“I enjoy options. Options are a good thing to have.” – Conor McGregor
Playa Vista, CA. – It’s not personal. It’s strictly business. That beautiful line by young Michael Corleone in Godfather II. Steve Sarkisian must have felt really good to have some great options. After only one game as offensive coordinator for the University of Alabama, the Atlanta Falcons announced today that they have hired Sarkisian as their new offensive coordinator.
The local standout who started his football career at West High School before beginning his collegiate career at El Camino College, a two-year community college in Torrance, CA. Sarkisian earned All-Mission Conference honors, and as a sophomore was named Junior College All-American after setting a national junior college record by completing 72.4 percent of his passes. As a junior he transferred to Brigham Young University (BYU) to play under legendary coach Norm Chow who helped the young prospect earn All Western Athletic Conference honors. He left school a year early to enter the 1995 NFL Draft, but was not drafted.
Sarkisian began his coaching career at El Camino College as the quarterbacks coach. He brings to the Falcons 17 years of coaching experience, and one year in the NFL. Previous coaching positions included at the University of Southern California, University of Washington, University of Alabama, and in the professional ranks with the Oakland Raiders as the quarterbacks coach.
Highly regarded and with a reputation as a great young offensive mind, let’s take a look at 5 reasons that may have led to Sarks decision to accept the offensive coordinator position with the Atlanta Falcons.
#1 – Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons just finished playing in Super Bowl LI and lost to a great team the New England Patriots in a memorable game. Sports analysts after the game during post game shows, recognized that the Falcons are team with a roster to compete for the Lombardi trophy in the future. An opportunity with a contender like the Falcons at this time, may not come again for Sark. When the NFL calls, you answer the call and listen. Just like young players hoping to play in the League, it is safe to say coaches also hope to one day coach in the League. Not everyone gets an NFL opportunity, and for Sark, this will be his second stint in the NFL after previously being the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders. Coach Quinn and Sarkisian know each from their time in Washington when Quinn was with the Seattle Seahawks and Sarkisian with the University of Washington. There is a relationship between the two, familiarity, and Quinn’s liking of Sarks offensive mindset.
#2 – Offensive Coordinator of #1 Scoring Offense
Over the summer, Sarkisian spent time with Falcons and coach Quinn. It is possible that Sark provided some ideas that were incorporated into the Falcons offensive playbook. Sarkisian inherits the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense, with plenty of both young and veteran talent. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to lead an offense that includes NFL MVP Matt Ryan, QB, Julio Jones, WR, Running Backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. This past season, Matt Ryan threw touchdown passes to 13 different receivers. The Atlanta Falcons have the pieces needed to WIN. The opportunity to be a part of a team that will compete for the division and Super Bowl titles is a temptation to powerful to ignore or pass up.
#3 – Winning a Super Bowl Trophy
In 2003, USC won the national championship while Sark was the quarterbacks coach under head coach Pete Carroll. But let’s keep it real: winning a national championship is nice, but it’s not the Lombardi Trophy! Winning a Super Bowl is a greater temptation than winning a national championship which Sarkisian already has a taste of. Especially with a hot roster like the Falcons, the upside and potential of winning a Super Bowl is well within reach for the Falcons and for Sarkisian as the offensive coordinator.
#4 – Money
“Show Me the Money.” – Jerry Maquire
While I am sure Sarkisian would say that he did not do it for the money, somehow I have to believe that the Benjamin’s coming from the NFL, must be sweeter than anything he was getting at Alabama. NFL dollars look really good in your bank account.
#5 – Future Coaching Opportunities
“I think Steve Sarkisian will actually be a very good coordinator in the NFL for several years & eventually get a HC job.” — Colin Cowherd
Coaching opportunities in the NFL and in the college ranks are great when you are a hot commodity. They also are hard to come by when you have multiple failures, or are considered a high risk. Ask Lane Kiffin about that. After being fired from USC for alcohol related issues, Sarkisian was humbled and humilated that he spent some time working on his issues before getting back into football. He is well aware that it is a blessing to be offered a coaching opportunity anywhere. Nick Saban and friend Lane Kiffin are credited for bringing Sark to Alabama as an offensive analyst before being hired as the offensive coordinator after Kiffin left to become head coach at Florida Atlantic University. Sarkisian was grateful for the trust and confidence from Saban, but in an interview with TMZ, Sark expressed his desire to one day become a head coach again, but understands he has a lot of work to do. Accepting the offensive job with the Falcons is part of this process. Do well in Atlanta, win championships and hopefully a Super Bowl and your impressive resume just got even sweeter and your coaching stock just got hotter.
As much as social media is having a field day with this announcement and Alabama fans feeling slighted or abandoned, you can’t blame Sarkisian for going to the Falcons. The temptation is too good to pass up. Certainly the greatest coach in college football history Nick Saban who hired him understands this, remember he left LSU to coach the Miami Dolphins in the NFL. Saban said this about Sark:
“We appreciate all Coach Sarkisian did for our program during his time here. He is an outstanding coach, and we wish him the best in his new role as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator.” – Nick Saban, University of Alabama Head Coach
What can you expect to see in the offense next season and in regards to the offensive scheme? The GM of the Falcons and coach Quinn had this to say about Sark and what he will bring to the organization:
While he won’t construct a new playbook, Sarkisian will, of course, bring unique qualities to the Falcons. General manager Thomas Dimitroff described the 42-year-old as smart, aggressive, creative and a good fit personality-wise.
“We’ve had a good connection,” Quinn said. “As a play caller, I felt like, No. 1, what an aggressive play caller he’s been through the years. He has a real familiarity, from the wide zone scheme, the play-action, the keepers, that’s such a big part of what we do. … I know what he stands for as a coach.”
The future seems bright for Sarkisian who has had his share of personal problems and adversity to over come. He seems genuine, and is definitely passionate about football, and a great competitor. How fitting that he is joining a team with the slogan: RISE UP!