The Dan Quinn coaching tenure with the Atlanta Falcons has proved to be one of the biggest NFL enigmas.
The players love him while the fans generally hate him.
He's produced a winning record for a franchise that in its entire history currently sitting 100 games below .500. Quinn also led the Falcons to just their second Super Bowl.
But blowing a 25-point lead in the big game far outweighs the importance of that NFC Championship crown. More importantly, he is 4-15 before Halloween since 2018.
Quinn's Atlanta resume can easily be compared to the former coach of the Falcons' Week 5 opponent -- Ron Rivera. With the Carolina Panthers, Rivera went 77-66-1 with three 10-win seasons and a Super Bowl appearance.
After starting 0-4 this year, Quinn is 43-41 with the Falcons. He has led Atlanta to two 10-win seasons and an NFC Championship as well.
Rivera's record was a bit misleading. In nine seasons under his leadership, the Panthers failed to finish .500 six times. During one of those seasons, Carolina won the NFC South with a 7-8-1 mark.
In Quinn's first five seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons haven't recorded a winning season three times, and unless the team finishes this year on a 9-3 run or better, that will happen again.
After losing Super Bowl 50, the Panthers went 29-31 in their next 60 regular season games. Quinn has posted a 24-28 record since blowing his Super Bowl lead, and yet only Rivera lost his job last December and not Quinn.
Too often in discussions of whether or not coaches should be fired, the default debate becomes whether or not the coach is a good or bad one. Let's try to introduce a little more nuance because a good coach can still deserve to be fired.
Whether Quinn is a good coach or not is not irrelevant, but it's also not the overall point here. The real question is two-fold -- is Quinn getting the most out of his players? Secondly, is the overall trajectory of the franchise heading in the right direction?
A third question specific to the Falcons could be -- is holding onto Quinn a move simply built on nostalgia? Is owner Arthur Blank placing his desire to give Quinn every opportunity to right his horrible wrong from February 2017 ahead of the team's best interest?
Admittedly, the Panthers didn't feel any nostalgia towards Rivera last winter because the new ownership group didn't run the team when Rivera led Carolina to a 15-1 record five years ago. But now that the organization has moved on to Matt Rhule, Atlanta's Week 5 opponent appears to be trending in the right direction.
Starting fresh at quarterback and conducting a major retooling on defense, the Panthers are 2-2 entering this weekend's showdown with the Falcons. They beat the Arizona Cardinals, who are considered to be a serious playoff contender, by two scores without Christian McCaffrey last Sunday.
Rhule still faces an uphill battle to the playoffs in 2020, but the Panthers aren't a doormat and appear in a better position now than a year ago.
While the Falcons wouldn't have to start fresh at quarterback like the Panthers, with only four wins before November in the last three years, there's little to suggest the Falcons are trending in the right direction. Looking ahead to Atlanta's tough slate to end the season, they seem to be trending towards the worse record under Quinn to date.
Of course, none of this answers the question in this story's headline -- how much longer can Dan Quinn last?
Given Blank's reluctance to make a coaching change, that's very difficult to say. One could easily argue Quinn should have been fired during last year's bye week, but Blank's willingness to be patient isn't necessarily a bad thing. Quinn isn't a bad coach, and all too often, owners pull the trigger too quickly on coaches. Blank can't be accused of that.
But again, good coaches can be fired when their message is stale or when a change is needed. Only someone in the locker room can truly say whether a coach's message is stale, but unless the Falcons show significant improvement quickly, Quinn cannot last much longer in Atlanta.