Ricardo Allen got to do what many of his teammates couldn’t.
On Tuesday, Allen was at the Falcons' team facility in Flowery Branch and saw former coach Dan Quinn in the parking lot. Quinn was on-site gathering his belongings from his office in the building. This chance encounter was important for Allen, as he got to say a final goodbye in person to Quinn, who otherwise could only address the rest of the team one final time via a virtual video call.
“I was actually to say goodbye face to face, which made me feel so much better,” Allen said.
Although the Falcons have gone 7-9 in consecutive years and are off to a 0-5 start this season, Quinn still held control of the locker room. Throughout the downturn, he maintained the respect and admiration from the majority of his players. But as owner Arthur Blank said Monday, Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were aware that their status with the franchise depended on reaching the playoffs. By losing the first five games of the 2020 season, the likelihood of reaching the postseason was slim enough that Blank decided to go ahead and fire both men.
Quinn addressed his former players Monday and offered one last message after coaching 90 total games, which includes the regular season and playoffs.
“Even if he’s not leading us, he knows who we are and he still believes in us,” Allen said. “He wants us to go out there and do what we’re capable of doing, no matter who’s leading us. He said he supports us and to have respect for (interim coach) Raheem (Morris), and grind for him the same way as if we were still doing it for (Quinn). It was cool to see that even in the toughest of times for (Quinn) to hold and stand true to who he was. The way he came in is the way he went out.”
Said quarterback Matt Ryan: “He’s always been so consistent of being positive and optimistic. He was the same way in that. He told us that his time had ended here, but we still had work to do and wished us the best moving forward. And really just thanked us for the hard work we put in.”
Ryan said he played his best football under Quinn, which includes the 2016 season that saw him earn MVP honors en route to an appearance in Super Bowl LI. Ryan said he went to sleep early Sunday evening, but woke up in the early hours Monday morning. It was then that he checked his phone and saw an email the organization sent notifying the players Quinn had been fired.
Over the past three weeks, players were routinely defending Quinn and placing the blame for the 0-5 start on themselves. Following the Falcons' fourth-quarter collapse against the Chicago Bears, defensive end Dante Fowler spoke up in the locker room to offer Quinn a show of support.
In the end, the losses piled up to a point where Blank felt a coaching change had to be made.
“Ultimately it comes down to performance and production,” Ryan said. “That’s basically it. Our performance and production wasn’t good enough. So yeah, you definitely feel that responsibility as a team, and as players on that team, you needed to do more to play better. You’re disappointed that way. It’s a performance-driven league. As a whole, our organization didn’t perform well enough the last couple of years. We have to find a way to do it better.”
Allen expressed disappointment in the team’s early-season stretch, which led to Quinn’s ouster. Based on training camp and each week of practice, Allen figured there was no way they would be in this position where the coach he admires is gone.
“It hasn’t been the best. I would have never in my life going into this season thought we would have started off 0-5,” Allen said. “But this is something us as players and us as an organization, we put ourselves in this situation. Now, we have to scrap and fight out and take it one week at a time and focus on trying to be 1-0 this week.
"Man, it’s tough though. I’ll tell you, it ain’t easy. But we’re fighters over here. We won’t ever back down. Like I told a lot of people, my mama didn’t raise me to back down from nobody for nothing. This is an opportunity right here where I feel we can show who we are as men and what we really stand for because we have lost our top dog.”
Ryan didn’t have the chance Allen did when it came to being able to giving Quinn a final goodbye in person. Ryan said he hopes that at some point in the near future he will be able to sit down with his former coach and talk about the good times they had working together.
But in a socially distanced world, the only way for Quinn to communicate his final message to his former team was virtually.
“It’s a shame you can’t do that in person because of the situation we’re in,” Ryan said. “I feel sometimes those situations are much better in person than they are over Zoom. I look forward to whenever I get a chance to have dinner with him to catch up and to tell him how grateful we are for his time spent here.”