There was no question where the multi-titled, indefatigable Dan Quinn wanted to spend his energy on a bright day at Falcons minicamp. Just gaze across the green, grid-marked acreage of their training ground. There at the start of another mini practice you’d find a max-effort guy off in one far corner breaking down the basics with the defensive linemen. And a few red stand-up practice dummies were about to take a fearful beating.
The cap was backwards. The hands were on. The Falcons’ head coach was in his element. At least, that’s the sense. Hard to see and hear exactly what’s going on from the small corral where the media was confined.
But the coach confirmed the impression. “It’s like putting on an old favorite sweatshirt, it feels good to get back in that rhythm,” Quinn said this week. “The time I enjoy most is at practice, on the grass, teaching the guys in individual drills. Those moments I really cherish. I guess I’m getting to do a little bit more of that than in the past.”
There was much turnover in the Falcons’ coaching ranks following last season’s uninspiring 7-9 record. The head coach himself did not get turned over, and, in fact, added to his letterhead the title of defensive coordinator.
In such a time of flux, this minicamp was the first glimpse of how Quinn is going structure his practices and how he’s going to balance his time between being defensive guy and big-picture guy. The players aren’t the only ones who needed these preliminary workouts to get ready for real training camp.
“These three days (of minicamp) have been helpful for me especially, being more a typical in-week schedule,” Quinn said. “I spent a good bit of time with the defense, special teams. The parts I wanted to connect with offensively, I was able to.
“It was important for me to find my rhythm this week with a new schedule.”
This is how Quinn sees himself now, as the man most capable of completing his vision for a fast, disruptive defense while still maintaining his role of chief morale officer and motivational blasting cap. He is only playing to his strengths, for he clearly is not a CEO-type coach, more the type who thrives when looking through a player’s facemask, eye-to-eye with him.
His increased presence around the defense won’t keep it any healthier. But at least Quinn is not going to go into a season upon which his own future may hang without doing what he knows best.
Not like the offense is going to feel neglected. Like his predecessor Mike Smith, Quinn is a defensive guy, with the mindset to match. The team is structured around that. You can’t throw a slant pass without hitting some former NFL head coach stationed with the offense – coordinator Dirk Koetter, passing-game coordinator Raheem Morris and tight ends coach Mike Mularkey.
“They are in such good hands (on offense), I don’t want to get in there too far,” Quinn said. “I want to make sure I have a connection with players and our style and the attitude stays right. The biggest impact is on the special-teams side and the defensive side. I try to budget more time towards that role.”
We got a first glimpse this week of how HC/DC Quinn is going to deploy himself on the practice field. There is no reason he can’t make that work.
Game day will be another trial, as he’ll attempt to major in game management (with some help on the sideline) with an emphasis on defense. He can have a flock of assistants to look after such fine points as offensive play-calling and clock management, but it all still ultimately will fall on his shaved dome.
When Quinn spoke this week about the mindset of a defense needing to rebound this year, he may well, too, have been speaking for a coach who in his fifth season will be trying something quite different to get it right: “I don’t think there’s a lack of belief. What I do sense is we’ve got something to prove.”