The introduction and the roll-out were nice. For a football team aching for identity and direction after Mike Smith’s head coaching tenure, the prospect of a Fast and Physical team had a pretty solid ring to it.
Dan Quinn looked aces at his initial press conference after he formally accepted Atlanta’s offer for a head coaching position — sporting a sharp red and black striped tie, his shoulders square and his confidence brimming at the podium when he assumed the helm as the sixteenth head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
Dan Quinn, like Mike Smith before him, is a defensive-minded coach. While Smith seemed somewhat aloof and uncertain in his final season with the Falcons, Quinn’s arrival came with a vision — a vision to mold the Atlanta Falcons into a perennial contender and the defense into a Southern version of what he accomplished in Seattle as a coordinator.
Yes, he brought the Falcons to the brink of a Super Bowl win in 2016. But he also brought the salve of vacuous slogans and taglines that have done more to move t-shirts and generate hashtags than produce meaningful wins.
Quinn, as honest and sincere as his intentions likely are, needs to move away from motivational marketing tools and lay it plain: This Falcons football team is missing something, and it’s not a tagline. When you commit 16 penalties for over 100 yards in a winnable game against the Indianapolis Colts, there’s either a massive fracture in The Brotherhood or the man overseeing it isn’t converting the slogans into solutions on the field.
Platitudes, clichés, and coach-speak might sound good in the media room, but they don’t quiet the growing criticism.
Dan Quinn is 37-30 in the regular season as the Atlanta Falcons head coach, a stretch that has included a 2015 loss against the reanimated corpse of Matt Hasselbeck and another against THE Blaine Gabbert and the San Francisco 49ers – the play calls in the latter earning Quinn the dubious honor of what SB Nation deemed as one of the worst coaching decisions in history.
And, yes, his Atlanta resume boldly features blowing a 25-point lead in Super Bowl LI against the New England Patriots.
No slogan or pat on the back or quip or over-shared inspirational quote meme can ease the feeling of having your heart ripped out of your chest the way it was on that February night in 2017, but Quinn would not be swayed.
“Embrace the Suck.”
That. That was the skipper’s rallying cry as the Falcons attempted to come to terms with blowing the largest lead in Super Bowl history. Yes, it’s a military phrase, and the Falcons have certainly taken to the military motifs since Dan Quinn came to town. They’ve trained with Navy SEALS, they’ve lifted and carried a bunch of logs in the offseason — none of it makes sucking any easier to embrace.
And yet, it continues. At this rate, FUBAR might be on tap for the next marketing campaign.
Atlanta stands at 1-2 in the NFC South, none of the first three games really inspiring confidence for the season ahead. They were mollywhopped by the Vikings in the first game of the year. They nearly coughed up a win in prime time against the Eagles in Week 2. In Week 3 they were manhandled for an entire half against the Colts — a game where Jacoby Brissett went 16/16 passing until he threw an incomplete pass in the red zone. He would throw a touchdown pass shortly thereafter.
The Falcons would claw their way back but eventually lose 27-24 in Indy. This team doesn’t need slogans, it needs competent coaching. When you’ve accumulated 35 penalties for 264 yards in three games, that doesn’t merit a new mantra of encouragement — it deserves a long look in the mirror.
Last week we were greeted with the Falcons adorning BDMTHRFCKR shirts post-practice, the omitted vowels a fitting allegory for a Falcons squad that was largely missing in action on Sunday. Dan Quinn excels as a motivator of men, but it doesn’t appear to translate into on-field production.
Fast and Physical.
They all check the marketing boxes. They don’t put notches in the win column.
The Falcons came out flat, undisciplined, and unprepared against a beatable team in Indianapolis. If this continues, they’ll be embracing the suck once again.
And nobody wants to wear that t-shirt.