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Thoughts about the Falcons

By Doug Gorman

It was baseball manager Leo Durocher who once said "nice guys finish last."

Wednesday morning we were reminded about that again as Atlanta Falcons' head coach Dan Reeves was fired by team owner Arthur Blank.

Reeves, who fits the definition of nice guy, ended his tenure with three games remaining in his seventh season with the `Dirty Birds.'

In just his second year with the Falcons, Reeves guided the team to its only appearance in the Super Bowl, but five of the coach's seven years will go down as losing campaigns.

Reeves had been asked to stay on for the final three games, but elected to step aside immediately, and who can blame him?

I like Dan Reeves the football coach. Who can argue with his knowledge of the game? With 201 victories, he is among just six NFL coaches to achieve the 200-win milestone.

Although I have never met him, I like Dan Reeves the person even more.

Reeves walked away from the Falcons' job with class and honor. High expectations that the Falcons were never able to live up to this season were partly responsible for Reeves' undoing.

With Michael Vick at quarterback, the team was expected to win the Super Bowl. When he got hurt in a preseason game, the whole season went down the drain.

Sunday night Vick returned and guided the team to an overtime victory over Carolina. For Reeves, it too little, too late.

Vick is the most exciting football player to enter the NFL in years, but no football team can rely on just one player. Whoever steps in as the Falcons' new coach needs a general manager (hopefully Rich McKay) to draft a quality back-up quarterback and other personnel capable of winning when Vick's out of the lineup.

One thing is for certain, Blank should be able to hire a high-profile coach to take over the Falcons.

Here are my top choices to get the job:

Dennis Green: The former Minnesota Vikings' head coach would bring NFL experience to the table. He also has a 97-62 record NFL record. In 1998, Minnesota was 15-1 in the regular season, but lost to the Falcons in the NFC title game.

Nick Saban: Has been a consistent winner at the college level. He already likes the Georgia Dome. His LSU Tigers beat Georgia last weekend in the Dome to win the SEC title. LSU plays Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in a game that will determine the national champion.

Ralph Friedgen: The current head coach at the University of Maryland knows a thing or two about high-powered offenses. Friedgen was a long-time offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech where he coached Yellow Jackets' quarterback Joe Hamiliton. Hamilton was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy his senior year. The Maryland coach also has NFL experience. He was an assistant coach with the San Diego Chargers the year they went to the Super Bowl.

Lovie Smith: The assistant head coach and defensive coordinator with the Rams. Might be the best choice because of his defensive background. That's where the Falcons need a lot of help.

Frank Beamer: A long shot. The Virginia Tech head coach has never worked in the NFL, but coached Vick in college.

Of course, Blank is not going to ask for my opinion when he decides on a new head coach. One thing is for certain, it will be exciting watching the process unfold.

(Doug Gorman is the sports editor of the Daily. He can be e-mailed at dgorman@news-daily.com.)