One of the most maddening things about being a fan is that players and coaches rarely seem to share your enduring disgust for their performances. Whether you’re a princely Patriots fan sitting on a hoard of rings like a Smaug who regularly drops the r’s from its sentences or a sad sack Browns or Falcons fan still hoping for that first championship, you’re going to spend quite a bit of your life as a fan angry about something. Even the most level-headed and wise among us regularly are pissed on gamedays, to say nothing of during drafts and heated free agent signing periods.
That’s how Mike Smith and Dan Quinn have found themselves in the crosshairs over the years. Smitty was infamous for his bland, execution-centric pronouncements after losses, and Quinn has become known for much the same. What 2018’s lackluster season did in ways both large and small was to make those pronouncements unsatisfying, and to Quinn’s and the team’s credit, they’ve taken the opportunity to do soul-searching in a more public way than we’re used to.
Jason Butt at The Athletic has been the primary beneficiary of this, enjoying access reporters haven’t had to the coaching staff in what feels like (and probably has been) years. That’s allowed him to put together two pieces of detailed, diligent reporting on a film session from OTAs and a DQ-centric series of interviews with coaches.
What do we learn from pieces like these? First of all, that as I always insisted about both Smitty and Quinn, that the even public-facing comments are not quite what happens behind closed doors.
For example, Dan Quinn is not going to tell us what he told his players about letting go of their coordinators, which had to be crushing for guys who have, say, only known Keith Armstrong as a special teams coordinator.
That forced Quinn to let go coordinators Steve Sarkisian, Marquand Manuel and Keith Armstrong, as well as tight ends coach Wade Harman. Other assistants were shifted to different roles. Quinn said he met with his players to explain the reasoning, considering many of them developed close relationships with the coaches who were let go.
“No, I don’t share everything (externally),” Quinn said. “But I did have to share the lessons with them why changes were made with the new coaches. I wanted them to know this is where I felt like we missed the mark. Obviously, I have the responsibility to make sure we don’t miss the mark. When we do, I don’t want to make a mistake happen again.”
It’s highly suggested that you read these pieces if you have a subscription at The Athletic, because even if they don’t exactly make you love Quinn’s methods, it will help to illuminate them.
Is this for the fans? In some way, yes, because the primary beneficiary of this kind of reporting tends to be readers like you and I who are eager to know more about the inner workings of the team, rather than...well, the team that already knows the inner workings of the team. But as Quinn and players have made abundantly clear again and again this offseason, ultimately all this self-reflection and reckoning is aimed at making a football team that struggled mightily in 2018 better.
We appreciate the insight, but at the end of the day I care much more about this approach yielding better results in 2019, and these articles do help us understand what those efforts look like behind the scenes.