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02/07/2017 03:55 pm ET Updated Feb 07, 2017

Atlanta Falcons Strike Gold Hiring Steve Sarkisian As Offensive Coordinator

The hire is a stroke of genius.

Less than 48 hours after their stunning 34-28 overtime defeat to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, the Atlanta Falcons hired Alabama’s Steve Sarkisian as their new offensive coordinator.

Sarkisian served as the Crimson Tide’s OC during the national championship loss to Clemson. He replaces Kyle Shanahan, who on Monday was hired as the new head coach of the San Fransisco 49ers.

The Falcons’ move represents a stroke of genius. Sarkisian achieved tremendous success at USC, under Pete Carroll’s regime, and then as the head coach for the University of Washington. He also was quarterbacks coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2004.

The 42-year-old Sarkisian isn’t dissimilar from Shanahan. Both are young, swashbuckling play-callers well liked by quarterbacks for their ability to adjust to personnel and willingness to trust signal-callers.  

One thing that helped Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan earn MVP honors this year while amassing the fifth-best single-season quarterback rating in NFL history was his movement outside the pocket ― something he rarely did before his two seasons with Shanahan. We can expect Sarkisian ― who will be Ryan’s fourth OC in 10 years ― to deploy similar concepts, but with his own twist.

Steve Sarkisian is a very gifted play-caller, and will fit in well with the high octane Falcons.
Kevin C. Cox via Getty Images
Steve Sarkisian is a very gifted play-caller, and will fit in well with the high octane Falcons.

After assuming a winless Washington Huskies program in 2009, Sarkisian led UW to five wins during his first season. Then, in his second year, he became bowl eligible with seven wins. In his fourth year, he won nine games, the school’s best record in 14 seasons.

When USC hired then him as head coach, Sarkisian assembled one of the nation’s elite recruiting classes. 

Shortly thereafter, however, in October 2015, then-Trojans athletic director Pat Haden fired him after Sarkisian appeared intoxicated during a pep rally speech. Eventually, Sarkisian checked into rehab and sued the school for firing him. The case was settled privately in arbitration.

Positivity, culture and brotherhood reign supreme for the Falcons franchise ― traits that Sarkisian embraces. He’s a brilliant offensive mind ― one who appreciates the art of zone-blocking and creativity as a play-caller ― and a coach who endeared himself to former players despite his issues. 

Falcons Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant played for him at UW, and has nothing but good things to say.

“That’s my guy,” Trufant, 26, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “I went through a lot with Sark during my college days. I was in his first recruiting class.

“He came to my house and recruited. He’s a dope guy. A very strong guy. A leader. Very passionate about the game. He definitely could get the job done.”

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn (left) and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have to feel great about inking Sarkisian as th
Kevin C. Cox via Getty Images
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn (left) and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have to feel great about inking Sarkisian as the team's new offensive coordinator.

Sarkisian inherits one of the most dominating offenses in NFL history with a quarterback dead-smack in his prime. He also has superstar Julio Jones ― arguably the greatest wide receiver of his generation, an upper echelon offensive line, and an elite running back tandem DeVonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn anticipated for weeks that Shanahan was likely on his way out. 

“I know what he stands for as a coach,” Quinn said of Sarkisian at a press conference. “Through the years we had a good connection.”

Email me at jordan.schultz@huffingtonpost.com, ask me questions about anything sports-related on Twitter at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram at @Schultz_Report.

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