FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons have a lot to play for over the next four regular-season games.
If you don’t think so, you haven’t been listening closely to coach Dan Quinn.
I’ve been walking the halls here at the Falcons headquarters and training complex over the last year and a half, and this week has been noticeably different.
Quinn, who is as even-keeled and consistent as any coach I’ve met in my 20-plus years of working in the media, has been more direct and transparent with the media as I’ve ever seen or heard him.
Let’s just put it out there: This has been a tough year for the Falcons, who are currently 4-8 and sitting in last place of the NFC South. And no coach is going to be in the best of moods on the heels of a four-game losing streak, especially when he’s repeatedly being asked questions about what’s wrong with his team.
I've sat through a lot of press conferences during my career and listened to coaches on all levels, I’ve seen and heard a lot of them handle the kinds of questions Quinn has been asked this week much differently.
Instead of dodging, dismissing, denying, spinning or getting agitated or being disrespectful, Quinn has been respectful, steady and brutally honest when asked his team’s shortcomings thus far.
While most coaches understand that tough questions often go with the territory, it can’t make answering them any easier. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes for those even asking the questions.
When asked about the defensive line play, specifically when it comes to stopping the run, Quinn responded and said, “Terrible.” Yes, Quinn went on to explain how he wants his defense to play and what he expects, but the point was made loud and clear to everyone in that room with that initial word.
When Hugh Douglas asked Quinn about possibly sitting Matt Ryan during the final four games of the season during his weekly radio show on 92.9 The Game on Wednesday, he said, “No. Hell no.” And he said it emphatically, adding, “Like, we’re going to fight, Hugh. You know that. Everything we do, Matt’s right at the front of it. … No, that is not part of our thought or discussion in any way.”
When Quinn was asked about his coaching staff and how they’ve done in managing things this season, he didn’t hold back.
“I think that would be a better question that we could follow up within a month because we’ve failed more tests then we’ve passed so far,” Quinn said. “So you’ll never see me up here and use anything other than playing at our best excuses, injuries, anything. We have a standard that we live up to and we haven’t met those as we’d like.”
And Quinn explained what that standard will be, especially in terms of the next four games.
“We have a lot of fighting to do and a lot of work to do,” Quinn said. “By no means are we just entering the last quarter of the season. So where other people are looking to put closure on, I’m looking to attack. That’s what I intend on doing.”
Specifically, Quinn said he wants to see three things: Leadership, the turnover margin “corrected” and strong, relentless effort on and off the field. There’s absolutely no doubt what Quinn expects to see from his players or coaches over the next four games.
“All of those things I'd like to see pick up. So, I wanted to make sure I was clear today before we got rolling.”
Crystal clear, if you ask me.
And if you’re a fan of the Atlanta Falcons right now, that’s got to fire you up. Or, at the very least, give you hope as you watch these next four games.