Dan Quinn trying to navigate Falcons through 1-5 crisis

As the losses have unexpectedly started to mount, Falcons coach Dan Quinn has remained calm as he tries to turn around the fortunes of the team.

The Falcons were expected to contend with the New Orleans Saints for the NFC South title, but after six games are 1-5 and have a tough remaining schedule.

Things don’t look so bright for the Falcons and their ultra-positive coach any more, but they are still working to get things turn around as the Falcons will face the Los Angeles Rams (3-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“Dan is such a great leader,” Falcons defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson said. “Such a great man. He does so much for everyone. Anybody who knows him, knows that about him. He’s genuine. He’s real and we all want to do well for him because of that.”

After Mike Smith, the coach with the most wins in Falcons history, was fired, the Falcons turned to Quinn. After a successful stint as Seattle’s defensive coordinator, Quinn was hired Feb. 2, 2015.

After the Falcons were 8-8 during his first season, they were 11-5 and went to the Super Bowl, but blew a 28-3 lead while losing to New England.

In 2017, the team returned to the playoffs and lost in the divisional round. Last season was marred by injuries as the team finished 7-9.

With the return of the injured players and some changes to the coaching staff, the Falcons were projected to return to their winning ways.

But things haven’t gone according to plan. The Falcons are one dropped pass by Philadelphia’s Nelson Agholor from being 0-6.

“Morale, I would say, you’re frustrated, but you want to do something about it,” Quinn said. “When you’re into those spaces, it’s my job to fix it. They are digging hard to want to get it right.”

He’s worried about the team, which he contends has played with good energy, but poor execution.

“I know they are hurting,” Quinn said. “The fans are hurting. Everybody is because if you’re around the team you know how much it means to them. More than anything, they want to get it right. When we haven’t done that, it stings.”

Quinn’s record is 37-33 during the regular season and 3-2 in the playoffs. He hasn’t over-reacted to the losing during this football crisis.

“He’s consistent,” Henderson said. “Disappointed obviously, but he still remains positive and energetic. He wants to make sure that we are giving our guys 1,000 percent of ourselves, of our energy, of our motivation and making sure that we are giving them our best despite the circumstance.”

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has watched as Quinn has tried to navigate the team through this rough patch.

“He’s been awesome,” Ryan said. “He is so consistent day-in and day-out. You know exactly what you can expect from him.”

Ryan’s disputes the notion that the players have tuned Quinn out.

“His message is always different, but it’s fresh and it hits home to where we’re at as a team,” Ryan said. “He’s done that the entire time that I’ve been with him and he’s been here. He’s been great. He is day-in and day-out, high energy, focused on the opponent and what we need to do that week to get a win. I think the guys really appreciate that from him.”

The rise of the Falcons and Rams are intertwined. The Rams were built by former Falcons executive Les Snead, who was with the team 1997-2011.

The Falcons beat the Rams in the playoffs in 2017, which helped them retool and make their Super Bowl run in 2018.

“I think the record is misleading,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “I think when you look at them. It’s a really, really good football team. They’ve had some unfortunate breaks toward the end of games and they’ve played some tough teams.”

The Falcons believe they are close to fixing some of their issues.

“It’s such a fine line week-in and week-out,” McVay said. “In football there is such a small difference in the plays that you make and the ones that you don’t.”

Quinn believes his team is getting properly prepared.

“They’re going to work really hard, Quinn said. “It’s not just the three hours in the game that you guys see, it’s all the ones that go through the week. We’re going to work like crazy to get it right.”

Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, there have been three teams to rebound and make the playoffs. Last season, the Colts started 1-5 before finishing 10-6 and going to the playoffs. The 2015 Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) and the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals, under the legendary Paul Brown, were the other teams to rebound and make the playoffs.

Neither of the three teams advanced past the divisional round in the playoffs.

Quinn was cautious when discussing if the team had a sense of urgency to stack some wins.

“I think the thing you have to be careful of is because you want it so badly to get right, that ‘I’ll do this and I’ll do that’ and you can almost spread yourself to where you’re frantic because you want it to go well so badly,” Quinn said.

The Falcons just want everyone to do their assignments and be accountable to their teammates.

“As a teammate or a coach or anybody, to say, ‘I’ll do more,’ or ‘I’ll do this,’ and really doing your role at a kick-ass high, high level,” Quinn said. “You don’t have to have the game of your life, you’ve just got to do what you do really well and then just start multiplying that by people. How do we get to that space?

“Through a hell of a week. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, so when you get to Sunday, you’re like, ‘I hope they give me this look. I hope I get this opportunity on this play,’ where you can’t wait for that moment.”

Ryan said Quinn has been straight forward with the team about it’s level of play.

“Obviously, we’d all prefer to be in here on Mondays and Wednesdays and through the week after wins, but he’s real about it,” Ryan said. “I think that’s what people appreciate. It’s OK to be frustrated, it’s OK to be (expletive) when you don’t get the job done, but you’ve got to use it to your advantage. You’ve got to use it so you’re productive with it. That’s a message that he’s consistent with. I’ve always been impressed with him with that.”

Quinn just wants to know one thing.

“How do we play our best three phases?” he said.


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