Atlanta's coordinators met with the media Tuesday afternoon at the team's headquarters in Flowery Branch to discuss their roles with the Falcons under Dan Quinn. For Keith Armstrong, who has been Atlanta's special teams coordinator since 2008, this isn't technically a new job. With so many new faces on staff, however, it is a big transition for Armstrong.
Armstrong has a history with Quinn, having worked with him under Nick Saban in Miami in 2005 and 2006 when Quinn was the Dolphins' defensive line coach and Armstrong was their special teams coordinator. Armstrong says that he and Quinn have stayed in touch ever since. "I think we have a pretty good relationship, so I'm excited and looking forward to working with him," Armstrong said. "I'm glad he retained me. I'm happy to be here and looking forward to working with him."
Armstrong described Quinn as very detailed, very good with players and always positive. "He was always more interested in looking for what the guy could do and actually adjusting what that guy could do individually," Armstrong said. "He was very detailed with his players individually and specifically with their technique."
Armstrong said he hasn't had much opportunity to get to know the new guys on staff, which is understandable based solely upon the sheer number of coaches the Falcons have hired over this interval. "We're trying to get to know each other," Armstrong said. "More than anybody else, I'll probably work with the younger coaches and I'll get those guys all introduced to special teams and they'll all share a part of the team with me and help me out," Armstrong said.
One new face, aside from Quinn, that Armstrong does know is defensive coordinator Richard Smith, who also coached with Armstrong at Miami in 2005. Armstrong described Smith as "a very intense coach - a good football coach." Armstrong also said that he's happy to be on staff with Bryan Cox. Armstrong didn't know offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan at all, and mentioned the dynamic of sharing personnel for special teams. "It'll be interesting," Armstrong said.
While this isn't a new role for Armstrong, things are clearly very different in Flowery Branch. "I didn't have to move, but it's a new job, and you have to take that approach," Armstrong said.
Armstrong said the coaching staff has spent the past couple of days talking about player personnel. Armstrong certainly has a great deal of institutional knowledge about the players currently on the roster. "Obviously, I've lived...with some of the guys, so I know their attitudes and the positives/negatives, if you want to go there, about that," Armstrong said. "You have to be open and up front about what guys can and can't do, and it'll be beneficial to them."
But Armstrong says that he's not sharing his perspective openly at this point as he wants the new coaches to have the opportunity to review tape and form their own opinions about each player. "To be quite honest, I'd rather a guy develop his own opinion about a guy first before I interject my opinion," Armstrong said.
There's a benefit to be gained from allowing new staff to evaluate players without bias. "I've kind of been reserved about what I feel about a particular guy," Armstrong said. "I want to hear what you think about him, because that way I get another perspective on him as well." Armstrong said that if he gives the new staff too much information about current players, they'll go into their evaluation looking for the traits he mentioned. "I don't want to taint a player one way or the other," Armstrong said.
Not surprisingly, Armstrong had plenty of praise for kicker Matt Bryant. "He's obviously a very confident, strong kicker, and he's a good man," Armstrong said, "and did a really nice job for us last year."
Armstrong said that he'll be open to speaking to players about what to expect from Quinn since he's coached with him in the past, though he expects them to want to come in and meet him themselves. "They're going to understand right off the bat that it's going to be about competition...and effort," Armstrong said. "And that's what he's about."
Armstrong said that he has talked to Quinn about his vision for special teams. "We talked about that yesterday, in fact," Armstrong said, "and we're going to meet more as we go to the Combine. But he wrote on a piece of paper and handed to to me today in a meeting, and he wrote, 'Speed.'" Clearly Quinn's affinity for playing fast applies to Armstrong's unit as well. "His philosophy is, hey, look, if you can run, whether you're a starter or a backup, if you can run you can play on special teams," Armstrong said.
Armstrong also provided some insight into his perspective on the best way to decide which players will play on special teams, though he has not yet had the opportunity to discuss this approach with Quinn. "If it's punt team, if you're a good player, you're going to be on it," regardless of whether the player is a starter or a backup, Armstrong said. "Kickoff coverage, we'll see. Punt return, kickoff return, probably more of a backup type role, which is typical of most coaches."
Armstrong said that special teams are important to Quinn, suggesting that he expects he'll be on board with this approach. "We're not going to lose a game on punts," Armstrong said. "You're going to punt the ball. Whether you win or lose, you're going to punt the ball six to eight times a game, and at the end of the game if you're winning, you're going to get a lot of pressures and you're out there to manage the game, so you've got to have good players on that, as you know."
You may assume that Armstrong would be upset about the way the Falcons' coaching search went, but he seems very pleased to be on staff and to be working with Quinn. He said he just tried to keep a level head over the course of the past couple of months, throughout the coaching search process. "Whatever's going to happen is going to happen," Armstrong said. "You're not in control of it, so it's a long waiting process. There's no question about it." But Armstrong felt confident that things would work out. "You just know that, hey, my body of work is good," Armstrong said. "It's been positive. Hopefully something will work out in my favor."
Armstrong was pleased to be retained by the Falcons. "It felt good. It's kind of a silent compliment," Armstrong said.
Your thoughts on Coach Armstrong and his role moving forward?