As Jeff Schultz notes in his latest piece at The Athletic, Dan Quinn has a habit of being an upbeat person. At his best he’s a rock in stormy seas for a team that never seems to get too down on itself, and at his worst he can seem like he’s blowing sunshine up your butt when it’s not warranted. Either way, though, that positivity is consistent.
That’s why it’s noteworthy that when pressed by Schultz, DQ was non-committal in the extreme about Deion Jones’ return and the team making the playoffs. In particular, the playoff thing was amusing, with this exchange recorded in Schultz’s column.
Me: Most believe you need to go at least 6-3 the rest of the way to make the playoffs. Do you agree, and can you make the playoffs?
DQ: “I think we can be a really good team.”
Me: That wasn’t the question.
DQ: “This team can be an outstanding team.”
Quinn of course believes in his own team—chances are he wouldn’t have just casually picked up Zane Beadles and foregone any trades if he didn’t—but the hedging here just makes sense given how banged up the Falcons are. There’s ample reason to believe that this team, even if it stays “healthy” the rest of the way, simply won’t be good enough across the board to get there. But again, no great shade directed at Quinn for believing in his guys and not willing to be able to commit to something frankly unknowable.
The bigger issue is Debo’s return, which Quinn also hedges against. As we noted recently, the Falcons can activate Deion Jones for Week 11 against the Dallas Cowboys, and his return would portend good things for the team if they’re still in the playoff hunt. At the moment, though, Quinn sounded something less than certain that Debo would return.
Quinn said getting Jones back from a broken foot would be “big,” but he was quick to add, “I don’t know when that’s going to be yet.”
This hedge is also important. It tells us that Quinn is well aware that Jones might not return immediately when eligible, and it tells us that perhaps the team will consider not moving that process along quickly if they’re already out of contention at that point, as depressing as that would be. It’s also wise for any head coach, no matter how optimistic he might be, to set reasonable expectations for what lies ahead.
So don’t expect Quinn to promise a playoff spot or the triumphant return of Deion Jones three weeks from now. It seems like he’ll hope for the best, just like the rest of us.