Sarkisian will replace Kyle Shanahan, who left after two seasons in the position to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
Atlanta led the NFL in scoring last season en route to their second Super Bowl berth in franchise history. They ultimately lost to the New England Patriots, 34–28, in overtime.
Sarkisian was named the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in December after spending time on the staff as an analyst.
He took over for Lane Kiffin, who left before the national championship loss to Clemson to assume his duties as head coach of Florida Atlantic.
Sarkisian was fired in the middle of his second season at USC after troubles with his alcoholism. He also coached for five seasons at Washington and compiled a 46–35 record as head coach.
|(Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)|
Steve Sarkisian, who was promoted to offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama before the championship game last month, is headed to the NFL.
The Atlanta Falcons announced Tuesday that Sarkisian is the team's new offensive coordinator, replacing Kyle Shanahan, who accepted the San Francisco 49ers' head coaching job Monday.
It's been a meteoric rebound for Sarkisian over the past six months. The 42-year-old began the season as an offensive analyst for Alabama. When offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin departed to accept a job as Florida Atlantic's head coach, Sarkisian was promoted to the post, and was behind the controls for the championship game defeat to Clemson.
“We appreciate all Coach Sarkisian did for our program during his time here," Alabama coach Nick Saban said in a statement issued by the school. "He is an outstanding coach, and we wish him the best in his new role as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator. As always, when we have an opening on our staff, we will use it as an opportunity to go out and hire the best coach available.”
Now, Sarkisian is back in the NFL. His lone pro experience is a one-year year stint as the Oakland Raiders' quarterbacks coach in 2004.
The California native was fired by USC in 2015 after he appeared at practice intoxicated. He subsequently entered an alcohol rehab facility, and later sued the university for $30 million in a wrongful termination claim.
Sarkisian will have plenty to work with, as he inherits the NFL's No. 2-ranked offense, led by reigning MVP Matt Ryan and perhaps the best receiver in the game, Julio Jones.
He also has big shoes to fill. Shanahan is revered for his innovative scheme that spreads the field.
Falcons hire Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator
It didn't take long for the Falcons to find Kyle Shanahan's replacement.
The Falcons confirmed Tuesday they have hired Alabama play-caller Steve Sarkisian their next offensive coordinator.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport was told that Sarkisian and the Falcons spoke earlier this winter after Shanahan's name bubbled up as a primary candidate for the 49ers head-coaching job, a role he accepted on Monday. Sarkisian and Falcons coach Dan Quinn share a common friend in Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Sarkisian's role as the Crimson Tide play-caller was brief: He was named to the post last month -- ahead of the BCS National Championship Game -- after former Alabama coordinator Lane Kiffin accepted the head-coaching job at Florida Atlantic.
"As a play-caller I felt like, number one, what an aggressive play-caller he's been through the years," Quinn said of the reason behind the hire. "He has a real familiarity from the live zone scheme, the play action, the keepers. That's such a big part of what we do. It's him as a play-caller, two of the guys that I respect most in our profession, Pete (Caroll) and Nick (Saban) and being part of both of their programs, I know what he stands for as a coach."
"We appreciate all Coach Sarkisian did for our program during his time here," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "He is an outstanding coach, and we wish him the best in his new role as Atlanta's offensive coordinator. As always, when we have an opening on our staff, we will use it as an opportunity to go out and hire the best coach available."
Sarkisian previously served as an analyst for Alabama after being fired as head coach at USC in 2015. He was let go by the Trojans after reportedly arriving late for team meetings while intoxicated. Sarkisian subsequently checked into rehab before filing a lawsuit against USC stating that he was discriminated against because of a disability.
In Atlanta, Sarkisian faces the challenge of keeping one of the NFL's premier offenses operating at a Super Bowl level. Under Shanahan, MVP passer Matt Ryan led an attack that led the league in scoring and dominated defenses from wire-to-wire until falling just short in Super Bowl LI.
It's an enviable role in Atlanta, though, where the offense will bring back Ryan, star wideout Julio Jones and versatile running back Devonta Freeman, among others.
Getting back to the big game is no easy task. Valuable coaches are lost and free agents vanish, while those left over are asked to duplicate the previous year's success.
Sarkisian will face pressure to succeed right away.