January 17, 2003
(Flowery Branch--AP) -- Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks coach Jack Burns, who helped first-year starter Michael Vick earn a trip to the Pro Bowl, was fired today in a surprising move by Dan Reeves.
On the Atlanta staff since Reeves was hired as head coach six years ago, Burns worked with quarterbacks in 1997 and 1998 and 2001 and 2002. He coached receivers in 2000 and was in charge of the passing game and play-calling in 1999. Burns, contacted at his home, said he had very little comment. He said, quote: "It's one of those things that happened. Dan's decided to go in another direction."
Reeves, who was not available for comment, did not announce a replacement for Burns, but first-year receivers coach Mike Johnson could be a leading candidate. Johnson coached San Diego quarterbacks in 2000 and in 2001. In a statement, Reeves said he felt this was the right time to make a move and was sorry it didn't work out the way he would have liked.
The 53-year-old Burns disputed suggestions that he became a scapegoat for the team's offensive struggles after a 20-to-6 loss to Tampa Bay earlier in the season dropped Atlanta to 1-and-3. Reeves has essentially served as offensive coordinator throughout his tenure with the Falcons, but he relied on Burns to call in plays from the coaches' box above the field.
Reeves began phasing Burns out of that role entering a Week Six trip to Giants Stadium, where the Falcons began an eight-game unbeaten streak with a 20-to-17 victory over New York. With an injured right shoulder sidelining Vick, Reeves ran the offense as backup quarterback Doug Johnson played the best game of his career.