Full transcript: Falcons coach Dan Quinn meets the press

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Here's the full transcript of today's press conference, courtesy of the Falcons public relations department:

Falcons Owner & Chairman Arthur M. Blank

Opening statement:

“Good morning. Thank you all for being here. Thank you to Atlanta to have a nice sunny day for our guest from Seattle. They don’t always see the sun there, so we are thankful for that. It has been five weeks since we last got together and we’ve been obviously very active in interviewing head coach candidates and I will tell you there was a very deep talent pool this year of head coach candidates. The process was both very educational and very challenging as we went through it. I want to thank our internal search team for their work, Rich [McKay], Thomas [Dimitroff], Scott [Pioli], and Kim [Shreckengost], Jed Hughes from Korn Ferry, Joe Banner, who volunteered his time and his experience as needed. All of these people were diligent and committed to a very thoughtful process and a final decision, and I thank them for their views and their support. Our search was focused and thorough. We considered former head coaches, college coaches, coordinators, had lengthy interviews with our top seven candidates discussing a very wide variety of topics as you might expect. We appreciate their time and the preparation that each candidate invested in the meetings. They did an outstanding job in their own regard. I would say that based on the quality of these candidates, I believe many of the new head coaches this year will be very successful in their new roles. We entered the search with no bias in terms of an

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

offense or defense experience base. We wanted a coach who would provide the leadership in all three phases of the game and add additional leadership to our building and our franchise. We told you from the outset we were looking for a leader with a clear vision for success, someone who had great skills in terms of being a motivator, someone who was bright and decisive, someone who was innovative and flexible, and someone who would be a great cultural fit for the franchise and really all of our businesses. We found that in Dan Quinn. For that reason he became our top choice. We felt so strongly that he was the best coach that we stayed patient, very patient, through the playoffs and Super Bowl rather than feel compelled to make a quick decision in a different direction. With 21 years of coaching experience, 12 in the NFL, Dan has a deep and a diverse history in football having worked with some of football’s best, including Steve Mariucci, Bill Walsh, Nick Saban, and Pete Carroll. In our two meetings with Dan, he displayed a definitive plan for our football team and his description of what it would take to win. He was confident yet had a strong sense of humility as well and a desire to work in a collaborative way across the building. He is a coach, an individual that has pulled the best out of every player that he coaches, designing and playing to their strengths, and teaching them how to be better at what they are doing. He is smart, he’s decisive. [He] utilizes his experience over the years, both good and bad, to develop his own unique approach to coaching. He has a real desire to look for ways to do it better. To get better, to continue to push to a higher standard. The expression ‘good is the enemy of great’ may have started with Dan Quinn. Dan’s leadership has produced some of the League’s top defenses, most notably in 2013 and 2014 with the Seahawks. In those two years, Seattle allowed just 271 per game, 15 points per game, held opponents to 91 rushing yards per game, and won the Super Bowl in 2013. Dan also has a firm grasp on his offensive philosophy, which I am sure he will spell out and be asked about. He is putting together a coaching staff that reflects his approach to leadership teaching and creating a high energy environment. He has well thought out ideas on how to put together a roster. I want to give you plenty of time to get to know Dan and ask him a lot of questions, which I am sure you will, but I want to also take just a few short minutes to expand on the changes in responsibilities that we announced a few weeks ago. Here is some context to that. As we planned for hiring a new head coach we spent a good amount of time talking through areas where we could improve our processes and our decision making to maximize the resources within our football operations. We also considered the best practices and models at other clubs and we decided that ideally we would find a head coach that had both the capacity and the desire, and those are two distinct attributes, to control the 53, 46-man rosters as well as the practice squad. We discussed that opportunity with all of the candidates but we were not in a position to publicly clarify the questions regarding structure until we had a head coach contract completed, which didn’t happen until Monday of this week. We were very fortunate to find in Dan a head coach with strong references for evaluating talent, as well as a strong desire to be highly engaged in building the rosters. I’ve said this over the weekend and in a couple of interviews at the Super Bowl and I think it’s worth repeating, words like power and final say, control, are not terms that we like to us in how we operate our Falcons or any of our other businesses. Our approach has always been to use collaboration and partnership and it will stay that way. It is an approach that was very attractive to coach Quinn. Going

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forward, Thomas and Dan, along with their staffs, will collaborate fully on evaluating our roster and working on free agency and the draft as well as other player matters related to building the roster. To be specific, Thomas as our general manager will have final authority over free agents and draft picks. Scott now has a responsibility for running free agency and the draft, which is a great use of his time and his talents and he still continues to report directly to Thomas. Dan will have final authority over the 53 and 46-man rosters, and practice squad. Again, the word final is not one that I would choose to use and I don’t think the coach will continue to use, but in order to legally understand what that means, we thought we would spell it out. This structure is not unusual today in the National Football League. Ten of the clubs work this way, including eight that have hired new head coaches since 2010. It is a current trend. More importantly, this is about maximizing the capabilities of Thomas and Scott, while adding Dan’s unique strengths to the group. We have two accomplished leaders in Thomas and Scott. They have a long history of working together and a trust relationship. They have received multiple recognitions for their individual work in the National Football League, including two Sporting News Executive of the Years each, in terms of their efforts. We feel combined with a head coach with a proven track record in talent evaluation this trio is a strong combination and one that we will capitalize on, on behalf of the franchise. All three of these men look forward to working together and I am confident that their collective efforts will result in a strong roster this season and in future seasons. I want to make it clear that both Dan and Thomas are reporting to me. My role in terms of player decisions will be unchanged. For 13 years it has been zero and for the next whatever number of years it will continue to be zero. My involvement will continue to be to support and understand and not direct in terms of player decisions. This reporting structure is simply what we believe to be the best setup to help these men accomplish their individual and their collective roles. It is also more common in the League today. Thirteen clubs have the same structure, including four of the seven new coaches who were hired this year. Again it’s a current trend. I want to close by thanking Rick Smith, who is with us today, and his wife Julie. Thank you for being here. Thank you for your help working on Dan’s contract and your efforts on his behalf and on behalf of our franchise. Now, I am very pleased to introduce Dan Quinn and welcome his wife Stacey, who is sitting in the front row as well, to Atlanta. Thank you.”

Head Coach Dan Quinn’s Opening Statement:

“I’m so fired up to be here with you guys today. First off, I’d like to thank Mr. Blank, Thomas Dimitroff, Rich McKay, and so many in the Falcons organization that waited through our Seahawks playoff run for me to have this opportunity to be here with you today. That’s not an easy thing to do in this business and for those guys to have that kind of conviction told me, very clearly, the type of leadership that is in place here and one that I wanted to be a part of. For that I thank you and I can’t thank you enough for waiting it out. They understood that over the last month my sole focus had really been helping the Seahawks play as well as we could during that playoff run. I owed that to Pete Carroll and to John Schneider, the players, the coaches and the 12’s there. I wouldn’t be here today if it was not for all of them. Again, I appreciate you guys, in terms of waiting and I can’t wait to build a similar championship environment here in Atlanta. A special thanks to my family and friends, especially my wife Stacey who is here today. I wouldn’t be here without you today. I appreciate all the love and support, and my advisor and friend Rick Smith, who is here today as well. I know we have an extremely passionate fan base here in Atlanta. I want them to know that the brand of football that we are going to play is going to be fast and physical. We are going to attack in every phase that we can and then most importantly I would like you to know that the energy and the enthusiasm that you bring to the Atlanta Falcons can be unmatched in terms of the energy I will try to bring to you as your head football coach. It’s an unbelievable opportunity, one that I couldn’t be more proud to be here with you today. We have all sorts of challenges ahead, lots of hard work to do, but I can’t wait to get started with all of you and with that I’ll open it up to some questions.”

On how complicated the process of waiting until after the Super Bowl was:

“Fortunately for us, the League does provide an outlet where you can do it during a bye week. That was a huge advantage for me. I couldn’t imagine trying to do that the night before a playoff game. When you go through the bye there are a few days, in fact we were playing Carolina, it could have been Detroit or Dallas or Carolina, so during that week that was the time to do that. I was fortunate that I got a chance to talk to a number of clubs. Stacey asked me the question, if they all worked out what would you do? It was really clear. I told her that night that this is where I would like to be.”

On whether he plans to bring the rugby tackling style that is utilized in Seattle:

“One of our goals here is we are going to try to be the best fundamental team in football. That is a real challenge and tackling and our ability to go after the ball and take care of it on offense, those are going to be some of the core tenants that we will talk about. The rugby tackling really involves shoulder tackling. It’s a leverage tackling principle, so for us, not only is it safer but it’s more effective for us to do that. Rugby has used shoulder tackling for years and about two years ago when we were trying to take the head [hits] out of the game some people said ‘well it may not be as physical’ and we said that’s absolutely not going to be the case. Just like a pitcher throws fastballs in the strike zone we are going to try to hit people absolutely as hard as we can in the strike zone. That shoulder tackling, the physical nature can still come through for sure.”

On his defensive philosophy:

“It starts with effort first. That’s always the thing that we will talk about right at the forefront of it. From our effort and the way we attack, the style that we will play will come from that. We want to be really aggressive in terms of the way we attack the football. Those two things, in terms of our effort and the way we attack the ball will always be at the front of our conversations. Past that, we want to play as fast and as physical as we can. For us to play that style we won’t have 1,000 different defenses. What we will do, is not necessarily what we play, it’s how we play it. That style will be real clear and will come across in terms of style and the attitude that we play with. We will try to best feature the players that we have. That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to getting started with now is to better learn these guys here so we can best feature them in the best way.”

On whether he plans to keep his coordinator hat on:

“Quite a bit. We are fortunate enough to have hired some terrific guys to partner up with us, but that certainly has been my background as a defensive coach, so I will stay involved with that side of the ball.”

On why he chose Atlanta:

“Number one, it was the leadership challenge that you are after. When you go from being a position coach to a coordinator, that challenge goes from managing your own individual room and then as you become a coordinator then it becomes the staff that you are with and the defensive unit. For me it was that challenge that it was going to take to run an entire team in the style and the fashion that we like to play football. For me that was the real reason why I wanted to take on this next challenge. When I had a chance to talk to some other clubs as I went through it, this one was the best fit for me. Starting with Mr. Blank and then with Thomas. He was the guy that I connected with right away, that I knew I wanted to partner with. I saw that relationship work strongly in Seattle with Pete and John. That’s what I was looking for, somebody to partner up with to do it together. When I had a chance to connect with Thomas we had a lot of mutual friends, guys that I respect in the business, but it was that partnership made this one so unique for me.”

On whether he plans to call the defensive plays:

“We haven’t come to that decision yet, but I will certainly be involved on the defensive side of the ball. It may come to that, it may not. I haven’t been down that far yet in terms of decision making, but I certainly want to be involved on the defensive side whether it’s calling or being involved in the game planning.”

On how long he thinks the evaluation of the roster is going to take:

“We are going to start that process tonight. To me, that’s the number one goal. Before we get into discussion about any one scheme, we need to find out as much as we can about these players. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing. I am looking forward to getting connected to these players and I would think our evaluation of the roster would take through the spring and through the OTAs. In that time, however we can best feature these guys is what we are going to do.”

On how far this team is from becoming a dominant team in the League:

“I haven’t studied our roster. It’s all about the mindset and how we can go on the attack and feature the guys we have here. I can’t wait to get started on that process and get to know the guys we have here. That process begins tonight.”

On how different he thinks it will be as a head coach as opposed to an assistant, and what tells him he is ready:

“It’s definitely different. Fortunately for me, I’ve been around some terrific head coaches and mentors through my time in the NFL and in college, so like all experiences, you learn from all of them. I knew I would have my own style of how we would do it if I got this opportunity.”

On what the biggest challenge in turning this team around:

“I think the biggest challenge for me is how fast I can get connected and learn our guys. My sole goal is to get to know our guys. The best teams that I have been a part of are teams that were very close, so I am anxious to get around them to get to know them.”

On how important it will be to have his type of players on defense:

“My kind of guy is someone who plays fast and physical. That style and attitude starts with effort first. There are some terrific guys here that I can’t wait to connect with. Playing good defensive football starts with a mindset and attitude first. That’s where we will start and there are a number of guys who are already here that will be a big part of what we do moving forward.”

On whether his message for the defense is that no job is safe and that his is looking to make as many moves as he has to make to get the right people in here:

“Not necessarily. The biggest thing for me is how I can evaluate our team the best, so I want to get connected with these guys so I can find out as much as I can about our own players. At every opportunity, we are going to compete. If that means evaluating and finding players to get things just right, then that’s what we will do. The first part of business is getting to know our own team.”

On how excited he is to work with Matt Ryan:

“I am very fortunate. To get partnered up with someone as accomplished as Matt and with the intangibles that he has, I can’t wait to get connected with him.”

On how far away this team is from returning to the postseason:

“Each year is different, and the challenges are different. For us, the biggest thing is not looking too far ahead. We are going to try the have to best offseason we have ever had for each, individual player. Our goal is to have the best training camp we’ve ever had and then we will let it go and begin the regular season.”

On his offensive philosophy:

“The number one thing for me is balance. A team that’s able to have run and pass, that’s the hardest to go against. I have always admired teams that have tough, physical styles, something like the zone run game and then also have ways to attack vertically in the passing game. For me, the number one criteria is going to be balance and having different ways to attack. That’s why it’s so important for me to have this understanding of how we can do it. With all of the pieces we have here, it’s going to be a terrific fit.”

On sacks and whether he feels like hybrid-type players or traditional pass rushers best fit his scheme:

“The biggest thing for us is affecting the quarterback. That may be hits on him, the times we can move him off of the spot. Third-down sacks are critical one because that is getting off of the field, but for us the biggest thing is going to be affecting the quarterback, maybe by the way we rush, maybe by the way we pressure, maybe by the way we cover or a combination of all of those, but affecting him is the number one thing. Versatility is going to be a really big component of our guys who play linebacker and play defensive line. That versatility to play more than one spot allows you the flexibility to add pass rushers to your team and also when injuries occur, which they are going to happen in this game, now that versatility allows you to play different guys at different spots. When a guy goes down, the next guy up has already played that position. We’ll start with versatility and the more guys can do. We’d rather start that way early and find out what he can do and keep giving him more if he can handle it. Then we know we have a guy that has that versatility.”

On playing fast being about reacting:

“When we play our fastest you are really mentally. By that what I am saying is that we don’t give the guys so much that they are not able to play right at their very best. Here’s the tip, here’s the alert, here’s the key and let’s go get it. The best defensive teams that I have played on have had that component. By playing fast it might not necessarily mean we have fast players, it’s the style and attitude of how we play. By us not overloading them, now we are allowing them to do what they do best.”

On putting together his coaching staff:

“Richard Smith is going to be the defensive coordinator and an important guy for us is going to be Raheem Morris. [Raheem] will be involved as the passing game coordinator. That will be an important part of what we do. Richard and Raheem will work closely together on the defensive side and I certainly will be involved that way as well. Fortunately for me, I was able to get connected with Kyle Shanahan. The way he can attack on offense, he is one of the hardest guys to coach against from a defensive stand point so whenever you are on the defensive side and you’re looking at the other guys, in the back of your mind you say ‘okay what is the system, who are the people that are so unique, so hard to go against’, and Kyle was always somebody that I thought of in that way. We talked about partnering up maybe a year ago, so when the opportunity came for him and I to connect this year that was really important. Keith Armstrong, who you guys know here, is a terrific coach. I was able to be fortunate enough to be part of a staff in Miami when he was there, so I have direct knowledge of how good he was. For me to have the ability to hire someone like Keith was really cool for me. Those four guys in specific will be in coordinator roles and leadership positions here with us. I know there is a press release that’ll talk about the other staff. Today I wanted to make the focus about those three and then talk about the team.”

On answering directly to Arthur Blank:

“Number one it makes it easy in terms of where to go in terms of where to report, but the guy who I am connected with the most and looking to partner up with is Thomas. Our collaboration together and how we see things and how we see football really got in line early in our meeting. Finding a guy with his experience, knowledge and passion for football was important for me. I can’t wait to get started.”

On being hands on at the defensive line position:

“I coached that position for so long that it is really where my eyes have gone to first. If I can lend expertise in that area, I certainly will. I know to be good in this League you have to be good on both sides of the line of scrimmage. I wholeheartedly believe in that. That will be a real focus for us. The toughness of your team, the ability to run the ball and finish games and then on the defensive side, the ability of those guys to rush and affect the quarterback, when you have those two things in line you usually have a pretty good chance of how you are going to play.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

On his relationships with the players:

“It’s one of the things I love the most about coaching, being connected with these players. There are all sorts of guys and we reach them differently. Some guys you have to put your arm around and tell them what a good job they did and other guys you have to find other ways to motivate them. For me, that job is one that I cherish. Knowing that I can have an effect on how a guy can improve and develop. Our whole staff, we are going to be a developmental staff. Our real goal in that is how far can we take each player. That’s our goal. From the guys that we bring in to training camp, how well can we learn them, how far can we push them, and see how good each guy can get. As we go through the whole team and each guy that we bring here, that is going to be our goal, how good each guy can get. That’s a lot for the staff to get to know these guys and find out what makes them tick. That relationship is one that we really cherish. Through the years there have been a number of guys that have had a huge impact on me through my years in San Francisco with Bryant Young, or in Miami with Jason Taylor, or at the Jets, or so many of the guys I’ve been connected with in Seattle. They have had a huge impact on me as well. That is one of the parts of the job I love the most.”

On the final play of the Super Bowl:

“That was a terrific game. It went right to the end. It was just a complete battle all the way to the end. Like most games there is a plan that goes all the way through and you talk about all the situations and scenarios that come up. Like it will be in all matters, it will be a collaborative process, but I would certainly defer to the coach in that way in terms of who the play caller is for the best call at hand. It will be something I’ll be involved with, let’s talk about a lot of those situations before they come up.”

On whether plays like that ultimately fall on the head coach:

“It ultimately comes down through the head coach. It’s his decision whether to say let’s change that or not. Without a doubt it comes down through the top.”

On his opening remarks when he meets with the team for the first time:

“Accountability is one of the things that we want to talk about first. The messaging for our team as we go all the way through the process will be competition first and finding a competitive edge in all that we do. It starts with that first and then effort and toughness and the ability to finish that comes through. We’ll have a real style about how we play so I can’t wait to connect with these guys. I wish the offseason was pushed up so we could start even sooner.”

On whether he sees the defensive challenges as personnel based or scheme based:

“I can’t wait to get started with these guys. I haven’t evaluated the players or the scheme in that way, but we’ll have a real style and attitude in how we play. For us it will still come back to effort first and then our ability to go after the football. Those will be things that will be at the forefront of our conversations. I can’t wait to get started on the personnel side tonight. The scheme will be something that can feature our players here best. That was a big part of what we did in Seattle, but most importantly, the better we get to know these guys and how to feature them, that will be what we do.

On what the last 48 hours have been like:

“It’s been an absolute blast. In the last 48 hours, to get a chance to compete for a championship in this game is as fun as it gets. Playing in that game, although the ending was as difficult and as hard as can be, I knew the next day I was going to have the opportunity of a lifetime waiting for me here in Atlanta. Although my focus had been on Seattle the entire month, I knew maybe at the end of the week here this opportunity would start. I couldn’t be more excited and fired up to be here with you guys today as it kicks off.”

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