In the wake of an early exit from the playoffs, many Falcons fans have joined sports commentators in criticizing head coach Dan Quinn. Many are pointing out this is the second time a questionable call by his offensive coordinator did him under while others recall his poor clock management at times during the season. Still others are critical of his decision to replace Shanahan with a coach who had never called plays in the NFL before.
To be fair, many of these criticisms are absolutely fair. Coach Quinn has had several games where his clock management was dreadful and deserved to be criticized. Additionally, his trust in his coordinators should only extend so far. If he hears a play call come in that he doesn’t like, he should absolutely intervene - though this is likely harder than it seems with little time available to hear a call, override it and demand another.
All of that said, I’ve been perplexed by some who are calling for his head or saying that Dan Quinn should be “on the hot seat” going into 2018. While Dan Quinn is not perfect by any stretch, I think it’s time to remind people that he’s a damned good coach and he is not going anywhere.
Complete roster rebuild
Let’s get this one out of the way first: when Dan Quinn inherited this roster, it was in pretty bad shape - particularly on the defensive side of the ball. At one point, the 2015 Falcons roster was deemed the “least talented” in the league. After 3 short years, the script has completely changed.
In those 3 years, Dan Quinn - along with GM Thomas Dimitroff - have worked together to rebuild this roster into one of the best in the NFL. Players like Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett and De’Vondre Campbell have been fantastic value picks in the draft. Guys like Alex Mack, Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn have been great free agent signings.
What was once a ridiculed roster is now envied around the league. The mantra of “fast and physical” has been realized and the young core of this team has unlimited potential. All of this came under the clear and concise vision that Dan Quinn brought into Atlanta.
Development of players
It’s one thing to sign good free agents and to draft well, it’s another to spend time developing the guys that you do have. In fact, one of the primary reasons Dan Quinn was hired was because of his passion for developing players. Former head coach Mike Smith was notoriously deficient in this area, which ultimately led to a roster that was top-heavy with little to no depth. The opposite has been true under Dan Quinn.
Guys like Ricardo Allen, Wes Schweitzer and Brian Poole would likely have been relegated to special teams only under our former coach. Under Quinn, he saw the potential in each and has turned them all into starters. Dan Quinn has assembled a large coaching staff that is constantly engaging with their players to try and get the most out of them.
Dan Quinn has built an organization dedicated to giving the best players a fair shot. It’s not only helped to rebuild the roster, it has established a precedent that will pay dividends down the road.
Multiple playoff wins and winning seasons
This one can’t be overstated. In his three seasons in Atlanta, Dan Quinn’s worst record has been 8-8. That record was in his first year when he was introducing a new offensive AND defensive scheme to a roster he mostly inherited. In hindsight, it’s pretty remarkable that the team finished with that record.
Since then, he’s taken this team to the Super Bowl on an 11-5 season and followed it up with a 10-6 season and wild-card win on the road.
If you described that very scenario to any owner in the league, they would do back-flips for that kind of turn-around. It’s easy to get caught up in the disappointment of losing and the micro-details of how it happened, but when you take a step back, the level of success that Dan Quinn has had in his first three years has been outstanding. While no one can tell the future, there’s good reason to believe the Falcons will be able to compete at a high level again in the 2018 season.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many things Dan Quinn can improve upon going into 2018. It’s easy to forget that he’s a first time head coach. He’s certainly going to learn some lessons along the way and fans should be patient as he learns to adapt. It’s also ok to be frustrated and want to see the team do better. However, when you take Dan Quinn’s faults into consideration with everything else he’s done, it’s hard to deny that he is a great coach and the Falcons are fortunate to have him.