Dan Quinn has a three-layered virtual plan for NFL draft

Dan Quinn is entering his sixth season as the Falcons' head coach.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Dan Quinn is entering his sixth season as the Falcons' head coach.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn is at home in the final stages of preparing for the virtual NFL draft, which is set for April 23-25.

“You know what?” Quinn said. “When we first went away from the building (when the season ended), one of the things that we first committed to as the coaching side, ‘Hey, let’s go scouting full-time. As you guys all know, sometimes in the offseason there is a half-day devoted towards scouting and the other half on the football.”

So, the Falcons' coaches already were on the road before the coronavirus pandemic caused the state to shelter-in-place and social distancing was instituted.

» MARK BRADLEY: Dan Quinn has a draft plan

“We went full-time into scouting as we could, so that would have probably have been like the silver lining of all the discussion based on this new communication that we’re using,” Quinn said. “All the meetings.”

The Falcons’ meeting technology of choice has been Microsoft Teams, while others have gotten proficient in Zoom. They also have used Skype and FaceTime to interview draft prospects.

“I think we’ll probably have a closer look at what all the technology looks like for everybody as we’re following the draft as we get closer,” Quinn said. “(General manager) Thomas (Dimitroff) and I, he’s done a great job of leading the way on this, and we’re ready to get rocking for sure.”

The office MVP is Karl Pierburg, the IT guy. (Officially, he’s the vice president of technology, data and analytics.)

“This guy is on it and loves the challenge of new things,” Quinn said.

Even the upbeat Quinn knows they there could be glitches with him in one place, Dimitroff at his house and director of player personnel Steve Sabo and director of college scouting Anthony Robinson at their houses. The collective group will head up the virtual war room.

“For us, knowing that there is some new challenges to go through, I think that's a good thing,” Quinn said. “But, yeah, phone lines. We’re fortunate from the laptop going through to different ways to connect on laptop and iPad, TV, and then conference call back and forth with Thomas and myself.”

The football brass has had to embrace the technology.

“We’re going to use this technology, Teams, as well, to go through some trade opportunities,” Quinn said. “More often it’ll be face-to-face contact like this (on video conferencing).”

Quinn is hoping everything runs smoothly.

“Well, I think No. 1, like the phone,” Quinn said. “You know, like if the Wi-Fi goes out or the connection goes out, do you have ways to get to the phone? Not everybody has a landline anymore, so that's one thing that we're going to have to use.

“From the technology side, one, we'll have our laptops and TV and be able to teleconference. The second layer with that would be our iPhones, communicate that way. The third way would be having a landline back and forth through one another.”

So, there will be a main plan, a backup and a third-string plan.

Think of it as having three quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub and Kurt Benkert.

“(We will) have a bunch of mocks that we go through together,” Quinn said. “I think that’ll be — to pressure test it, so to speak, with one another and with the league, too.”

Quinn is a stickler for turning on your video. None of that hiding being your icon picture or a letter symbols.

“I found with the players, definitely we’re more present when we’re on the video conference call than a phone call,” Quinn said. “You can get a phone call and write something down and doing something else, but on these calls, it’s been good to stay connected with people — especially during this time when we're not getting as much face time as we normally do.”

Quinn, like most, are missing the human interaction.

“I would say I miss the locker room like hell,” Quinn said. “That part of seeing everybody and talking and so many connections that go in there; huddling up with a few guys, talking about where we are, what we're doing.

“What I’ve learned is that you can come close to that virtually, whether it’s on a Teams call or a Zoom call, to find that connection. I think that part I definitely miss the most.”

The conversations, in these difficult times, have covered new and different grounds.

“I would say one of the silver linings in being away and having to use the technology to do that, I would say in some instances the relationships have gotten better, because maybe for the player or the coach the first thing that we’re talking about oftentimes in talking to a player or a coach isn’t the football side,” Quinn said.

“Oftentimes you come into a building, ‘Hey, man. What’s up? Let’s get started.’ This is how we’re going to play. Right now, it’s a deeper check-in. ‘Tell me about your family, your immediate family. Is everybody doing OK? Is your grandmother able to get the medications?’”

Talking about families has been comforting.

“I definitely miss seeing everybody on a regular basis, but trying to do it in this way has helped in that kind of connection,” Quinn said. “It's been important for sure.”

Pretty soon, the Falcons will be on the clock with the 16th overall pick.


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