Dan Quinn's ready for his first regular season NFL game as a head coach, and he's done all he can to prepare his players, also.
The entire culture in Flowery Branch is different. Players and staff talk about it regularly, the level at which everyone has bought in to Quinn and his philosophies. We've seen it on the field in preseason, with a defense that plays fast, brings pressure and attacks the ball. We hear it when defensive players talk about their brotherhood, a bond that wasn't necessarily there at the same level last season, or in the way players talk about playing fast and physical and finishing.
It's in the locker room, on monitors that display the team's schedule for the day as well as some inspirational quotes to keep players in the right frame of mind. On Thursday, it was some wisdom from Michael Jordan. "I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. I won't let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win." This was followed by an image of Muhammed Ali with the words "I WILL NOT LOSE" in all capital letters.
On Friday, the words "Losers quit when they're tired. Winners quit when they've won," displayed on the monitors. On Saturday, which the team treated as a Friday in terms of their game preparation routine, the schedule for the day was labeled "Finish Friday...on a Saturday."
I asked Quinn what the biggest adjustment has been for him in preparing for a regular season game as a head coach as compared to game prep as a coordinator. He said that there are a couple of different challenges, but the main one is practice management of both sides of the ball.
"From the practice standpoint, working on both sides of the ball and being a factor in that," Quinn said. "That would probably be the biggest one in terms of the practice management."
And Quinn's very engaged with players on both sides of the ball, regardless of their status on the team. Yesterday as the media waited to speak with Quinn after practice, we watched him work one-on-one with practice squad player Tyler Starr on technique. That's a big departure from what I've witnessed from the Falcons over the previous several seasons.
It remains to be seen how, or if, this culture change and Quinn's approach will translate to the field, but the emphasis on finishing and winning certainly can't hurt.
What are your expectations for Quinn's first game as a head coach?