One of the key things that sets Dan Quinn apart as a NFL head coach is his commitment to the team's "Plan D," a nickname for the focus on developing every player on the roster to their full potential, including guys on the practice squad.
This was most evident on Fridays throughout this season. As the media would gather on the patio bordering the practice fields awaiting Quinn's post-practice presser, we would watch as Quinn worked one-on-one with practice squad linebacker Tyler Starr.
Starr was selected by the Falcons in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and while his athletic ability and potential were impressive, he was raw. He wasn't regularly facing top-flight talent at the University of South Dakota. His technique was rough and needed refining if he would succeed at the pro level.
Fans watched on Hard Knocks as Starr received the call letting him know that he'd made Atlanta's active roster for the 2014 season, but Starr was inactive for every game. He was added to the practice squad after his first offseason under Quinn. His technique still wasn't where it needed to be.
But Quinn sees the Falcons' roster as consisting of 63 men, and if one of the guys they've stashed there gives the team a better chance to win, they're going to get a shot. When backup center James Stone tore his ACL and had to be placed on injured reserve, Starr was the next man up.
Andrew Hirsh of AtlantaFalcons.com sat down with Quinn to discuss his developmental philosophy in depth. Quinn is always focused on ways to get the very best out of his players, and the piece is definitely worth a read for more perspective on Quinn's approach to development.
I asked Starr about the experience of working one-on-one with Quinn and how that impacted his development this season.
"It's just great to have a head coach that's willing to take time out of his day to help get you better," Starr said. "I think that it has helped me in my pass rush and helped me develop as a player."