You can’t dismiss that when Matt Bryant came to the falcons, he also had a somewhat underwhelming first few years and was brought in to replace a struggling Jason Elam.
Fingers crossed that GT or Walsh have their head on straight.
Wow, I gotta say ... those were some hard questions right there.
That's some good reporting.
I don't always want reporters asking negative questions and trying to stir up drama. But every now and then, like in this case right here, it's AMAZING to see a reporter get real like that with a player. Actually, I can't remember a time in recent years that has happened in a Falcons lockerroom.
It was toward the tail end of an hour-long interview in his office, at a round table next to a window overlooking the Falcons’ practice fields, when Dan Quinn offered a brief glimpse as to how he handles the turbulent times an NFL head coach can endure. Those who see Quinn in front of the cameras see an upbeat, positive and reaffirming head coach. They see someone who preaches the importance of the “ball,” the significance of the “battle” and the strength of the “brotherhood” — the three pillars he brought to the Falcons’ organization in 2015.
When times are great, these are the talking points fans expect — and want — out of their head coach. When losses accrue, this kind of positivity may grow stale from the public’s point of view. Oftentimes, what’s projected in front of a camera or through a soundbite can be interpreted as an accurate depiction of what’s happening inside the halls of the Falcons’ headquarters in Flowery Branch.
For Quinn, the goal is to keep what he describes as “family business” away from the public arena. Of course, losing five games in a row to fall to 4-9 in 2018 was an agonizing situation to handle. Of course, seeing the middle of his defense sidelined during a three-week span was tough to stomach. Of course, dismissing three coordinators was difficult but necessary. But having to deal with these circumstances and make these decisions comes with being one of only 32 NFL head coaches. In Quinn’s mind, it’s best to keep things upbeat when the cameras are rolling. No one needs to know what goes on behind closed doors.
“I think I want to make sure that the same conversations I have with you, I don’t have with (the players),” Quinn told The Athletic. “With them, I want to make sure I’m telling the truth.”
Does this mean he’ll lie to a reporter, including this one?
“Yes,” he said with a smile.
Quinn and his players have not shied away from the fact that the 2018 season was a disappointment. The year opened with Atlanta being considered a Super Bowl contender. It ended with a 7-9 record, which began with a 1-4 start and included the mid-year five-game losing streak.
That forced Quinn to let go coordinators Steve Sarkisian, Marquand Manuel and Keith Armstrong, as well as tight ends coach Wade Harman. Other assistants were shifted to different roles. Quinn said he met with his players to explain the reasoning, considering many of them developed close relationships with the coaches who were let go.
“No, I don’t share everything (externally),” Quinn said. “But I did have to share the lessons with them why changes were made with the new coaches. I wanted them to know this is where I felt like we missed the mark. Obviously, I have the responsibility to make sure we don’t miss the mark. When we do, I don’t want to make a mistake happen again.”
Quinn also had his players and assistant coaches evaluate him, so he can see how he can correct the things that went wrong that he’s responsible for.
In his mind, no stone will go unturned so that the 2018 season doesn’t replicate itself.
“It’s my way to check myself because the NFL will check you if you don’t,” Quinn said. “That part I know for sure. I’ve been checked. You don’t want to make sure you keep getting checked. You will, but you want to make sure you are able to bounce back with some toughness and some resiliency about you and say, ‘All right, that ****** me up, but that ain’t about to happen again.’”
He’s not mad; he’s disappointed
Much of Quinn’s public persona is a true depiction of who he is at all hours. He is super positive and upbeat — most of the time at least. He’s only sometimes a screamer. As long as the effort is there, he’s not going to berate an assistant or a player. As offensive line coach Chris Morgan said, Quinn’s style had him rethink his own approach.
“He’s not going to focus or dwell on a negative. And he’s not going to ignore it,” Morgan said. “You know what I mean? He’s going to look at it — a player, for example, it’s not like this guy is not very good at this, or this guy needs to work on this, etc. It’s, ‘What can this guy do? How far can we take him?’ That kind of stuff. I know that rubbed off on me. I’ve been around a certain way forever, and then you see a new way and start looking at it through a different lens. You can’t help but be more positive and not be as negative.”
This kind of positivity doesn’t mean the coaching staff sits by the campfire singing “Kumbaya” every night after practice. Quinn just has his own methods of ensuring he’s communicating when he doesn’t feel something is up to par.
Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich noted that Quinn’s method of expressing displeasure can still cut someone’s core.
“He doesn’t ever think he’s got all the answers. He’s constantly trying to evolve and grow,” Ulbrich said. “But don’t get it twisted. I think sometimes the perception is that it’s all butterflies and rainbows. It’s not that at all. There’s a deep level of transparency and honesty in the building, too. When **** isn’t right, it is absolutely addressed. It is not swept under the rug.”
So how exactly does Quinn express the need to improve while still fostering this kind of work environment?
Part of it has to do with what his assistants describe as a work ethic that’s almost impossible to match. Assistant to the head coach Steven Scarnecchia said Quinn will “go on vacation and will read 30 books about how to be better.” There’s also a level of sincerity that Quinn repeatedly has displayed, including to employees outside of the football staff.
Quinn recently had a chat with one of the Falcons’ digital media team members, who happened to bring up his affinity for table tennis. A week later Quinn had a table tennis board delivered to his office.
“It’s something that’s refreshing in this line of work,” Scarnecchia said. “The thing I’ve taken from working for him for four seasons is that in my past experiences before this, working in this league can be really hard. It can also be really miserable if you allow it to be. This is one of the first places where I opened my eyes where this is really hard, but we also have a really good time. We enjoy being around each other, and that’s OK.”
Said receivers coach Raheem Morris: “I think I work harder for him because of what I see him do for other people. Like he genuinely cares about other people, whether it’s a coach or whoever it is in the building. When you see him reach out, you just don’t want to disappoint him. I almost have that feeling every day to where I have to be a better person so I don’t disappoint Q. I think that’s what makes our work environment better.”
Therefore, when Quinn is angry, it’s easy to communicate. In just a few words, in a stern tone, Quinn can show how unhappy he is if something isn’t right. Morris recalled a moment in practice when he felt he was doing the right thing by offering extra instruction to his receivers. Atlanta’s practices move quickly, however, and the previous period was over. Morris continued his teaching, which held up a few of his players who needed to participate in a special teams drill.
Upset, Quinn stared at Morris, a longtime friend he actually coached at Hofstra and delivered two words that felt like daggers to the midsection.
“Not cool,” Quinn told Morris.
“It took him days to come out of that one,” Scarnecchia said. “It cut him deep.”
Coaches get both sides of it from Quinn. He’ll heap praise upon them, such as when Quinn told reporters that Ulbrich was “the best linebackers coach on the planet” during rookie minicamp. Ulbrich later said that Quinn has also told him, “You’ve absolutely let me down.”
“He doesn’t do it like he’s shaming,” Ulbrich said. “It’s like, ‘You left me drowning.’”
Said Morris: “That is the worst feeling you can ever get!”
Essentially, it’s this: Quinn isn’t mad. He’s disappointed.
One tactic Quinn uses to help build a better team rapport is to have the position coaches meet with players on the other side of the ball. It was something he did himself back as a defensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks. In addition to becoming close with players like Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, he reached across to foster relationships with Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson.
Morgan, who was an assistant offensive line coach with the Seahawks when Quinn was with Seattle in 2014, said he never saw a coach connect with players and staffers he wasn’t directly involved with as deeply as he did. Quinn also would ask Morgan for his take on certain items, which struck him as a significant gesture considering the two coaches’ roles. Quinn, Morgan said, would create time to seek other opinions from offensive players and coaches who potentially could help.
“You still gotta win, and you still gotta grind, and you’re still going to do it all,” Morgan said. “There’s just a different mindset with him. The toughness part of it, and the grind and grit part of it, he’s as good as there is. But there’s also this positivity, and it goes deeper. He cares about the guys he works with at a different level that I don’t know if I’ve seen, for everybody.”
‘Yeah, he’s like that’
There’s a story Todd Wofford likes to tell about Quinn.
Back when Quinn was the defensive coordinator at Florida, he and former Gators head coach Will Muschamp traveled to Central Gwinnett High School near Atlanta for a recruiting visit. Wofford, Central Gwinnett’s head coach, invited the coaches into his office, which is located next to the school’s weight room.
Muschamp sat down to chat. Quinn ventured into the weight room. At some point during Wofford and Muschamp’s conversation, Wofford peered into the weight room to see what was going on.
“I look around and Coach Quinn is in the middle of the guys doing crunches and planks and everything else,” Wofford said.
He turned to Muschamp with a surprised look.
“Yeah, he’s like that,” Wofford recalled Muschamp saying.
Only a few years later, after his stint as Seattle’s defensive coordinator, the Falcons hired Quinn to be their head coach. Wofford thought back to that moment in his office and how the Falcons’ players would respond to him.
“When they hired him I thought, ‘Oh man, they’re going to love him because that dude gets in the mix with them,’” Wofford said.
Quinn certainly has come across as a players coach during his first four-and-a-half years with the Falcons. His reputation as a straight-shooter has been a tremendous asset. Cornerback Isaiah Oliver said Quinn is able to navigate the fine line of critiquing a player without coming across as disrespectful.
“What I think Coach Q does really well is he challenges guys,” Oliver said. “He talks to you straight up. He tells you what you’ve been doing that isn’t good enough. He challenges you to do better. As athletes, as competitors — I think definitely on this team, from everyone I’ve seen — that’s a level we’re going to respond to, regardless. A lot of guys may or may not respond to screaming and yelling. But I think every professional athlete who gets challenged wants to respond to that challenge.”
Ulbrich and Morris agreed that a great example of this level of respect came last year when the team was 4-9 and on the brink of being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Not only did the team not quit during the final three weeks of the season — which Morris admitted is easy to do in that situation — but there wasn’t any internal drama leaking out of the building.
“In those times, 4-9 or whatever, in the current landscape of the NFL, how much **** comes out of those locker rooms?” Ulbrich said. “I’d be hard-pressed to find one here. Even at 4-9, because of the connection and because of what he’s created, guys still believed.”
Ulbrich acknowledged how someone might consider grown men speaking about a “brotherhood” as hokey. But somehow, Quinn, as Ulbrich sees it, has created an atmosphere akin to a high school team, where the game itself takes precedence over the business side of things.
“He’s created an environment that we’re searching for success. We’re not avoiding failure,” Ulbrich said. “That’s a different way to think about things. We’re grinding our *** off to go kick ***, not to not **** it up.”
In the end, Quinn’s power of positivity doesn’t mean everything is hunky-dory all the time inside the building. Sandwiched around a Super Bowl trip and a divisional round playoff appearance were 8-8 and 7-9 seasons. When those kinds of seasons occur, tough decisions to the coaching staff and roster will occur. The Falcons are no different.
But everything Quinn does, and says, has a purpose. From morning until nightfall, there is generally one thought on his mind.
“I always come back to the team,” he said. “As hard as it is, I say, ‘What’s best for the team?’”
Why do so many people act like Crawford isn't on the team?
Crawford: 16 games 1 int 1 PD 6 sacks 35 tackles 7 TFL 9 QB hits
Jarrett: 14 games 6 sacks 52 tackles 8 TFL 16 QB hits
That's a pretty good interior line. One makes 15 million the other makes 2.5.
McGary gonna need as many reps as possible working against speed on the edge. Take your lumps now and learn
Nobody should bother formulating opinions on our two 1st rounders this year. They will make lots of mistakes. OL is possibly the toughest transition from college to NFL. But they will be so much better come December.
From The Athletic:
I'm hoping Hageman can make the roster. I liked him coming out and always thought he had sky high potential. It seems like he's learned a LOT of valuable lessons from his time away from the game. That it's a privilege, first and foremost, and can be taken away at a moments notice for not being in good standing as a citizen and player of the team. At the end of the day, if he has learned from his mistake and done everything to atone for it, you can't continue to shun him. He's earned his chance. But that's all it is: a chance. If he makes the most of it, we saw the last time he was on the field just how vicious he can be and that would be a major boon for this team.