These past few weeks have been hard on the Falcons, but the team's focus hasn't shifted. Players and coaches alike have insisted that the team is still still treating each game like it's a championship game, refusing to look past the next opponent, and looking back only for the purpose of learning from mistakes.
First year head coach Dan Quinn has harped on the importance of routine since he took over in Flowery Branch. Quinn wants the team to prepare the same way each week, from the process they go through each week to preserving the same mindset, even through adversity. During preseason, when Tevin Coleman was sidelined with a hamstring injury, Quinn had Coleman go through pregame warmups despite the fact that he was unable to play. Quinn wanted Coleman to get the pre-game routine down prior to the regular season. Routine matters.
Quinn even has a specific focus for each day of the preparation week, from Tell the Truth Monday, in which the team gets in the film room and honestly assesses their performance from the previous game to glean improvements, to Competition Wednesday, something Quinn is fired up about on a weekly basis. Fridays almost always feature red zone and third down work. Quinn has this down to a science, and he's very consistent.
That's why it was a little surprising to see the team shake up their schedule for Friday's practice.
A typical Friday for the Falcons this season has started with practice at 11:30 a.m. Dan Quinn addresses the local media on the practice field immediately after practice, though sometimes he's delayed because he's putting in some one-on-one technique work with practice squad linebacker Tyler Starr. Immediately after that, the media heads in for open locker room.
Yesterday was different.
The team bumped practice to 10:25 a.m. We did speak to Quinn on the field immediately after practice, at which time he let us know the team was heading in for a meeting and would be in the locker room after that. It may not seem like groundbreaking news, but it is pretty remarkable for an organization that has remained so committed to routine to this point.
Quinn did not elaborate on what the team was going to be discussing during the team meeting, but it's been evident how frustrating it is for Quinn to see this team flounder in ways that are contrary to the traits he values on the field. During the 5-0 start, we saw the Falcons creating turnovers on defense and making plays and overcoming mistakes on offense. We saw the team, week after week, finish off opponents. This team hasn't been able to finish over the past several weeks.
This, of course, comes on the heels of the players-only meeting the team held earlier in the week; an endeavor Dan Quinn emphatically supported.
"This is a really close group already," Quinn said. "When you take that to a new spot, I think that's when it can be productive."
Quinn has also stressed repeatedly the importance of the team remaining close. Players have to remain committed to playing for the guy next to them. Quinn felt the players'-only meeting was something that could serve to bring the team closer together.
"It's kind of a pretty cool thing in a lot of ways because it's like: 'Hey, man, I'm all in for you. Whatever you need, you can count on me,'" Quinn said.
"Knowing the group that we have, I couldn't be more pleased that they got together; what they stand for -- how bad they want it."
I'm not sure what the coaching staff hoped to accomplish with the schedule change yesterday, but clearly the Falcons need some changes on the field. It's nice to see the coaching staff is willing to shake things up a little bit despite Quinn's stated commitment to routine. Here's hoping it yields positive results on Sunday.