Dan Quinn had, on balance, a pretty successful first season. It wasn’t reflected in the final record, but he emphasized a tougher defense, appeared to genuinely get along with the players, front office, and fans, and started to shape this Falcons team in his image. He’s got a long way to go to be a successful head coach in the NFL, but it was a sound start.
With four days left until training camp, let’s pick out four things that Quinn can do to improve in his sophomore year with Atlanta.
- Decision-making. The infamous field goal versus San Francisco is the most glaring example of this, given that faith in Quinn was profoundly shaken in many quarters of the fanbase, but Quinn made a lot of rookie mistakes. I expect he’ll learn from them and improve.
- Clock management. Every NFL head coach struggles with this to some degree, but there was more than one occasion in 2015 where Quinn simply seemed to freeze or forget how much time was remaining. Given how precious a few seconds can be in an NFL game, getting Quinn to make better decisions with the clock will matter a great deal.
- Getting players in the right roles. Quinn is well on his way here, shuffling Vic Beasley to a part-time linebacker role, getting Courtney Upshaw closer to the line of scrimmage, and swapping Tyson Jackson and Ra’Shede Hageman to what I really believe are more natural roles. Not all of these moves will work out, but one of the things Quinn was lauded before pre-Atlanta was his ability to put players in the right position to succeed, and I don’t think he’s lost that touch.
- Communicating frustration to the fanbase. Mike Smith was insanely good at being even-keeled even in his worst moments as the Falcons’ coach, while Quinn excels at projecting positivity. That’s an asset for a head coach when the fanbase is fretting and with a new stadium is on the way, but Quinn will quickly learn that what Falcons fans want to hear more than anything else is an acknowledgement that the team is struggling, followed by the most specific answer the head coach can give with regards to how he’ll fix the problem. I expect Quinn will be one of the more fan-and-media savvy coaches we’ve seen in Atlanta, given enough time, so it’ll be interesting (if not hugely critical to the team’s success) to say how he handles them in 2016.