If you’re bummed out for what might happen to the Atlanta Falcons tonight as they take on the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome, you’ve got Dan Quinn to thank for that.
No, no, not like that, at least this time. He’s the reason we’re all incredibly disappointed in why we’re here right now. Wait, please, I’m not one of those people.
As the season of Thanksgiving returns, we in the Falcons fan base need to be thankful for one man in particular. Yes, it’s Coach Quinn, the architect behind the resurgence for your favorite franchise.
While some folks aren’t too big on DQ right now, it’s a bit silly for us to have such short memories when thinking back on exactly how we got here in the first place.
It’s because of Quinn that the Falcons came out of the stupor that hung over the franchise like a plague in 2014, that the roster was revamped from something sordid to something substantial, that the team only spent one 8-8 bridge year before going to a Super Bowl berth, that, in a Super Bowl hangover year, the team managed to get a road playoff game and came within a play of making back-to-back NFC Championship appearances.
He’s the reason you have (and have had) Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Grady Jarrett, De’Vondre Campbell, Ricardo Allen playing safety, Deadrin Senat, the good years of Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe, that Bruce Irvin came here just a few weeks ago, the 2016 sack-leading year for Vic Beasley, Dwight Freeney, Brooks Reed, Damontae Kazee, Foye Oluokun, and all the other good that has come from this defense.
He’s the reason Kyle Shanahan and Steve Sarkisian came to Atlanta, and likely the assisting force that helped make those subtle-yet-substantial changes in the 2016 and 2018 offseason that helped fix those offenses into league-elite units.
He’s the reason the Brotherhood is a thing, a bond that, as far as we know, is still holding this locker room together. It’s helped it soar to an NFC Championship in 2016 and to three playoff wins in three seasons. It’s drawn people closer together and has created a team culture that might even withstand a losing season marred by injuries.
Quinn is the reason you’re disappointed right now. The expectations were so high, but the injuries were too hard to overcome. He’s not perfect, and his situational playcalling has got to take a step up. We all know that. But also remember, he’s only in his fourth season, and he’s never gotten to fully see his image of what he wants a defense to be take hold.
Let’s appreciate a bit of what he’s had to go through.
In 2015, mini-rebuild season that you still go 8-8 in and see as a stark disappointment after the 5-0 (!) start. 2016, your team blows a 28-3 lead in the third quarter in front of the entire world on the biggest stage possible, and you still manage to go 10-6 the year after and win a road playoff game. In 2018, the year people expected you to regain your elite status for good, the four most important pieces of your defense all get hurt (only Jarrett returns soon) right as your offense finally gets back to where it should be.
That is a lot for a young coach to have to deal with, but Quinn’s done so in stride. You can critique how the team responded to injuries if you wish, but they still took a league-worst unit just about and held it up as much as it could be held up against some good teams early in the season. They lost those games because of the missing personnel, plain and simple.
Quinn will only grow in the years to come, and you have to have faith that Arthur Blank’s general excellence as an owner will give him the confidence to keep this team in DQ’s hands for the years to come.
A coaching change after 2018 would be a catastrophic failure that could doom this franchise for the duration of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones’ tenures. It could see talent jettison to DQ’s next destination as a head coach and fracture the culture. The team could also whiff on a hire and send those hopes and dreams of a 28-3 rectification all the way into a new decade when the Falcons draft high for their next quarterback. That’s how bad it could be.
But it won’t be like that, because this team is smarter than that. You are, too. We all know what a great coach Quinn is. We know his faults, and those are ones he needs to consider addressing in the offseason. But we know he will. He always does.
He’s one of the best coaches in the NFL, a master motivator and talent scout/developer who fields winning teams. 2018 is a flop, but that’s not on him. Instead, be thankful for who the team has leading it for the future, and realize the envy others have of his fast and physical tenure here in Atlanta.
Here’s to you, DQ. We’re thankful for you.