As a motivator and a talent evaluator, Dan Quinn has few equals in the NFL today. As an in-game coach, though, he still has some major warts. We’ve seen those warts again and again in 2017, most recently during the Falcons-Saints game.
This time, it was a declined penalty that would have made a Saints 4th and 1 into a Saints 3rd and 11. That decision didn’t wind up costing Quinn and the Falcons the game, but it very well could have, and it was a weird decision.
Per the New York Times 4th Down Bot, the Saints have routinely gone for it on fourth down when they are down late in games. They did so on 4th and 1 on their own 29 in Week 8 against the Jets, twice in Week 10 against Washington when they were down big, once on 4th and 10 in Week 13 down 3 against the Panthers, and then again in Week 14 against the Falcons. My point is not that Quinn should be familiar with every Sean Payton fourth down call, but he should know that the tendency is for Payton to go for it and be aggressive, particularly on fourth and that short.
This is sort of the crux of Quinn’s in-game struggles, I suspect: He is not great at making decisions on the fly, and he may not be thinking through his impulses. That describes a lot of quality NFL coaches, but it would still be good if Quinn could work on his in-game decision-making, as it’s the thing that is holding him back from being considered one of the NFL’s truly elite coaches.