Goober Pyle Posted July 29, 2020 Share Posted July 29, 2020 https://theathletic.com/1958630/2020/07/28/schultz-dan-quinn-needs-a-turnaround-but-its-a-tough-time-to-pull-it-off/ Dan Quinn is all about positivity. This might not seem possible for someone who works in the presumed most dangerous sport during a pandemic and for a team that has failed to make the playoffs the past two years and has had declining win totals in the past three and for an owner who came this close to firing him last season. But Quinn is different. The man could be standing alone on a dusty plain, in the path of stampeding rhinos, and scream to the beasts, “I love your passion! I love your brotherhood! What a great opportunity for me to …”* (* Lost transmission.) So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that as the Falcons trickle into Flowery Branch for testing and, eventually, training camp, and, hopefully, eventually, an NFL season, Quinn is oozing with confidence. He likes the NFL’s testing protocols. He likes his team. He likes what he thinks his players have accomplished in personal workouts and virtual meetings. At some point, if there’s a season, we’ll learn how much substance there is to this confidence, but in the past two seasons, against the backdrop of a similarly cheery outlook, the Falcons were playoff dead before the Thanksgiving turkey reached the table. I asked Quinn on Tuesday about being in the midst of so much uncertainty, from the pandemic to his own coaching tenure, as camp opened. His response was 100 percent pure DQ. “It’s a fair question, and I definitely get it,” he said. “Having two difficult years, it just crushes you emotionally. I just kind of make it, I’m going to have the best week here. I try to make the big things small. I’m definitely optimistic, but it’s not rose-colored glasses, either. I know where we’re at. I know what we’re doing. I know the difficult challenge ahead of us. But I guess my optimism also fires me up, thinking, I know this is something we can do after being here a while. That’s a good feeling. You’re excited because you want to prove it.” Where some see sunshine on the horizon, others see dust being kicked up by an approaching herd. It’s difficult not to like Quinn. He is as good and genuine a person as you’re going to find in professional sports, especially the NFL. It’s the reason players love him, even if last season affirmed there are limits to his personal connectivity with those players. That likability is, in part, what bought him an extra week or two with owner Arthur Blank last season. But Quinn has made mistakes, and he needs to do better or he’s going to lose his job. The Falcons started the 2018 season 1-4, then went 4-9. They started the 2019 season 1-7. There were late-season winning streaks, but, whatever. Players deserve some level of credit for not mailing it in when both seasons were lost, but there were no real stakes for the team in either second half. The victories carry little weight. All that mattered is they finished 7-9. All that mattered was how they started. That falls on Quinn. Regardless of whatever personnel shortcomings the team had — and, in the case of the 2018 season, some significant player injuries that occurred — nobody can deny that those on the field underachieved. There also were coaching mistakes, some stemming from Quinn’s staffing decisions. It’s important to bring this up now because after backsliding for the past three years — from 11 wins to 10 to 7 and 7 — Quinn and his players will face a difficult start in 2020. The first four opponents: Seattle, Dallas (road), Chicago, Green Bay (road). Quinn’s task: In the midst of COVID-19 protocols, without a normal training camp atmosphere, without an NFL preseason, without even scrimmages against other teams to use as a measuring stick, the coach needs to cultivate a strong bond with the players and correct team flaws to prevent the early-season faceplants of 2018 and 2019. How difficult will it be to build improvement in this environment? He said “a lot of” the success will stem from the individual offseason work by the players in their individualized programs, and there is some truth to that. But there were players last season who, despite their previous offseason’s work, despite singing Quinn’s praises, often came out absent in games. The Falcons are banking on the impact of second-half staff changes, including the shift of Raheem Morris to defensive coordinator, carrying over. But it’s never that simple. There’s also the pandemic factor. More than a dozen NFL players have opted out of the season, none from the Falcons, yet. Quinn’s interestingly worded statement on that: “I haven’t had those conversations (with any players) at this time.” The team is already down one player. One rookie, fourth-round pick and safety Jaylinn Hawkins, has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Teams aren’t permitted to disclose a player’s medical status, so the Falcons did not announce whether Hawkins tested positive or is merely in quarantine after being exposed to somebody with the virus. But it is known that Hawkins passed previous tests, so the exposure had to come in the previous one to two days. Either way, disruptions are possible in the coming weeks, and the core of last year’s team often did not play like a tight group. Many logically would look at the high-contact sport of football and in a non-bubble setup and think: The NFL can’t possibly get this done. But Quinn said, “I feel like their time here is the safest time in the day because they know the population here, and there’s lots of guidelines. I’m not saying it’s perfect by any means. But (the concern is more about) the time away from it.” These are not optimum conditions for a turnaround, but in Quinn’s world it just makes for a better comeback. Tribal Chief, PokerSteve, vafalconfan and 8 others 11 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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