Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Falcons' hiring of Sarkisian risky but solid if problems under control


FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Falcons' next offensive coordinator has never called a play in the NFL and, in a far more important issue, was fired from his last head coaching job at USC because of admitted alcohol issue.

But this Steve Sarkisian hire might just work.

The Falcons will hire Sarkisian as Kyle Shanahan's replacement. They will be handing him the keys to the NFL's highest scoring offense and a quarterback, Matt Ryan, who was just named the league's Most Valuable Player.

This will be the message from coach Dan Quinn and the organization: "Tell us what you know, show us how you think we can get better, but most of all don't screw it up."

Sarkisian has long had a great offensive mind. It is what enabled him to get head coaching jobs at Washington and USC. It's the reason Alabama coach Nick Saban brought him in as an "offensive analyst" this past season behind offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, and then gave Sarkisian the OC job with Kiffin left for Florida Atlantic. Sarkisian actually coached only one game, the national championship game against Clemson. He's also relatively young (42) and relates well to his players.

But almost every problem Sarkisian has had has stemmed from admitted alcoholism. It doesn't make him evil and it certainly doesn't mean this is a bad hire. It just means that if he is not strong in his recovery and lapses back into poor behavior because of the stresses of the job -- or anything -- his life and career will unravel again an the Falcons' offense and season obviously will be impacted.

I'll have more on this hire later. But my first thoughts are: It's a good hire. If ...

UPDATE: Here's a link to my full column on Steve Sarkisian

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.