Falcons have controversial Durkin on board as guest coach

Former Maryland coach DJ Durkin, who was fired following the death of one of his players, is serving as a guest coach for the Falcons during training camp, the team announced. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and Durkin worked together on the defensive staff at Florida seven years ago.

Quinn referred to the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair as “an unfortunate situation” in addressing the controversy on Monday.

“I didn’t probably because I know who the person is having coached with him before,” Quinn said when asked of any hesitation with the temporary addition of Durkin. “So, I knew his background as a defensive coach and special teams. By doing our due diligence from there. ... An unfortunate situation, of course, but as far as eyes to look at the defense to help us, I definitely knew the advantage of that.”

Durkin was head coach at Maryland for three seasons and was fired in October 2018. He also spent five years at Florida, working two seasons (2011-12) with Quinn.

Quinn said he doesn’t believe Durkin’s association with the team, even as a guest coach, will reflect badly on the franchise.

“I would hope that people understand me well enough that nothing is more important than the team,” Quinn said. “People who have covered the team, know that. The fact that I know this coach first-hand and know what his character and then the due diligence that goes with that, I would certainly hope that anybody covering the team would let the fan base know that I always have the team’s best interest in mind and would never put them into a space that would be otherwise.

“With that said, it’s not that unusual for me to have people come to be a part of our program and add value to it for a smaller period of time. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again in the future.”

A request to interview Durkin was denied by the Falcons. He will watch practice for 12 days and consult with Quinn and other coaches. He will not have any player-related duties.

“I know DJ first hand,” Quinn said. “I know what he is as a coach. I know what his character is. We did all of our due diligence, calling everybody at Maryland and had our own follow up.”

Quinn has had guest coaches in the past, including Ron Wolf and Darrell Bevell.

Quinn believes that the contribution that Durkin can make in a quasi-consultant role out-weighed his recent past.

Durkin was initially placed on leave by Maryland after the heat-related death of the 20-year-old McNair during a team workout. There were allegations of a culture built on humiliation and intimidation at the Big Ten school. Durkin was reinstated at Maryland, but was fired the next day as criticism of the move mounted.

“I think it’s a huge advantage that you have somebody that you respect to look at certain things to help your team and the evaluation,” Quinn said. “... In the past, you know I’ve not hired, but have had guest coaches here for part of our (training camp) for a short time,” Quinn said. “The hiring part is that he’s in here as a guest.”

The addition of Durkin over shadowed the return of free safety Ricardo Allen, who took part in the first practice. Allen has been out since suffering a torn left Achilles against the Saints on Sept. 28.

Also, first-round pick Chris Lindstrom, who was selected with the 14th overall pick, opened with the first-team offense.

Wide receiver Julio Jones and linebacker Deion Jones both continued to rehab foot injuries and worked on the side with the training staff.

Former NFL defensive back Lance Schulters, Jamel Mutunga and Tracy Zimmer will serve as Bill Walsh coaching interns with the Falcons. Shulters was a coaching intern with the Falcons from 2015-17. Mutunga is currently the offensive line coach at Princeton. Zimmer is a former strength and conditioning coach at Pennsylvania.