Beasley and McKinley - DQ Guys who helped bring DQ down

Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn encourages Vic Beasley Jr. and Takk McKinley as they come off the field after the Los Angeles Rams scored a touchdown following a Matt Ryan interception during the second half Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Atlanta.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn encourages Vic Beasley Jr. and Takk McKinley as they come off the field after the Los Angeles Rams scored a touchdown following a Matt Ryan interception during the second half Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Atlanta.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Vic Beasley was the first of the DQ Guys, as they were known at 4400 Falcon Parkway. Dan Quinn arrived in Flowery Branch having not worked an NFL as head coach but, through the largesse of his new employer, having become the Falcons' czar of football. Quinn didn’t report to Thomas Dimitroff, still the titular general manager. The coach/czar reported only to Arthur Blank, emperor of all he surveys.

DQ Guys essentially were PC Guys, the “PC” standing for “Pete Carroll.” That illustrious coach – having headed the disparate likes of the Jets, the Patriots and the USC Trojans – built the Seattle Seahawks into the NFL’s best and most-feared team. Quinn had been the defensive coordinator for the best of those Seattle seasons, the first resulting in a Super Bowl, the second falling short because Malcolm Butler flung himself in front of Russell Wilson’s pass.

Before DQ was hired by Blank, a Falcons executive told me how much he hated playing against Seattle. His reasoning: “Pete has those guys play to the whistle and beyond.” Meaning the Seahawks were, shall we say, a tad excessive. Lo and behold, that exec was soon working in tandem with Carroll’s first lieutenant and truest believer. What Carroll had assembled, DQ wanted.

“Fast and physical” was how Quinn characterized his sort of players. (We note that the NFL team admitting to seeking “slow and wimpy” has yet to be uncovered.) The first player drafted by the Falcons of DQ was Vic Beasley of Clemson. Yes, Todd Gurley was available, but DQ wanted a defender, wanted a pass rusher, wanted – as Beasley famously described himself – “a double-digit sack guy.”

That was in April 2015. Two years later, with the Falcons of DQ coming off a Super Bowl in which they somehow finished second, their first draftee was another alleged pass rusher – Takkarist McKinley of UCLA. True to his word, Beasley had become a DDSG. Heck, he led the NFL in sacks.

He had 15.5 sacks in the Super Bowl season of 2016, though those who watched closely felt the number flattered Beasley. He wasn’t exactly a source of constant pressure. Indeed, he’d had nearly as many sacks as quarterback hits (16). This wasn’t an aberration. Over his NFL career, Beasley tackled the quarterback (33.5) almost as often as he touched him (46). Contrast these numbers with, say, Von Miller’s – 106 sacks, 216 QB hits.

(Also: Beasley’s best game as a Falcon came on Oct. 9, 2016. He had 3.5 sacks in Denver. The Broncos' quarterback was Paxton Lynch, making his first NFL start. He has since been waived by three clubs. The lineman Beasley overwhelmed was Ty Sambrailo, who – small world – would be traded to the Falcons for a fifth-round pick a year later. He’s now a Titan.)

As a DDSG, Beasley was one-and-done. He had five sacks in 2017, five again in 2018, eight last season. The Falcons kept fiddling around with his positioning, trying to decide if he was a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end or a standup linebacker, but you could go weeks and forget he was even on the roster. In February 2019, the Falcons chose to keep him for another year at $12.5 million, Quinn vowing to make Beasley his personal project. Duly motivated, Beasley skipped OTAs.

He was signed by Tennessee last winter for one season at $9.5 million. We watched, breath bated, to see if Mike Vrabel could unleash what Quinn could not. Beasley showed up late to camp. (There were no OTAs this pandemic year.) He worked five games. He had no sacks, no quarterback hits. The Titans announced Tuesday they planned to waive him.

As Titans GM Jon Robinson told reporters: “Not every decision that we make works out. We spent a lot of time working with him, trying to get him going. At the end of the day, we thought it was best for us to go in a different direction.”

A day later, the Falcons' latest coach – Raheem Morris, in case you’ve lost track – was moved to express his disapproval over a McKinley tweet that expressed HIS disapproval over the Falcons' disinclination to trade him. The oft-injured McKinley claimed the team turned down and offer of a Round 2 pick last year, an assertion that seemed fanciful if not LOL hilarious, and Round 5/6 picks this year.

Said Morris: “Obviously, Takk has a groin injury and won’t be out there (practicing) today. Takk will definitely be held accountable for his actions and everything that goes along with it. That’s with him missing today and all of the things he’s missed in the past.”

Takk totals: 49 games over three-plus seasons, 25 starts; 17.5 sacks, 45 QB hits. (That’s correct: McKinley has almost as many quarterback hits as Beasley, who entered the league two years earlier – not that that’s much of a measure.)

There’s the yield from two of DQ’s first three Round 1 picks. (Keanu Neal, seen as the Falcons' version of Kam Chancellor, was the first-rounder in 2016. Because of injury, he has started 10 games over the past two-plus seasons. He has one career interception.) We can’t say Beasley was an utter bust – he made the Pro Bowl in 2016 – and we can’t say McKinley hasn’t had a few moments, but one is gone, and the other is surely going. Not coincidentally, DQ and Dimitroff are gone, too.

No, not every draft pick pans out. Yes, this franchise has known many bigger whiffs. But we see now the peril in allowing a coach to have complete control over his roster. He might be handed the kind of players he thinks he needs, but what happens if he can’t, you know, coach them? What happens if they’re not especially coachable? What if not everybody is Grady Jarrett, who seizes his opportunity and just gets better and better?

Well, the coach winds up being an ex-coach, and the interim guy is left to answer questions about some goofy tweet. That’s what happens.

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