FLOWERY BRANCH — Contrary to outward appearance, there are things Dan Quinn does not love. On the eve of the Falcons’ training camp, the Earth’s sunniest human was asked to cite examples of stuff for which he actually has a distaste.
“People who are dishonest,” he said. “That really bothers me. People who will say something to get close to the players. I think, ‘That’s shady.’”
As for the men he coaches, Quinn offered this: “Lack of effort and lack of concentration. Let’s say you and Brian (Cearns, the Falcons’ publicist standing nearby) are battling, and you’re not doing well. I’m like, ‘Well, you need to figure a way to do better.’ But if you’re not putting out the effort, that ticks me off.”
Then: “There are some things I don’t understand. Like when Mark Bradley writes something and I think, ‘Why would he write that? That is totally off-base.’ That ticks me off.”
The offending author notes that Quinn smiled as he said this. He is, as mentioned, the Earth’s sunniest human. And if your team is coming off the worst loss in the history of the Western world – and his is – he’s probably the guy you’d want coaching it. Happy Dan isn’t going to turn into Gloomy Gus because the Falcons finished second in a Super Bowl they led by 25 points. On cue, Happy Dan is again rarin’ to go.
“We want to be the best attacking team in ball,” he said Wednesday, speaking at a media briefing, and therein we saw – not for the first time – how rarin’ DQ can be. He shortened the word “football” by four letters. He referred to doctors as “docs.” He mentioned something medical-related as “ops” – opinions, I believe, as opposed to operations. When there’s ball to be played, Quinn has no time for extra syllables.
And he has – even that naysayer M. Bradley will concede as much – one heck of a team. On paper, it looks rather better than the group that led the Super Bowl by 25 points. Desmond Trufant, who’s terrific, is healthy. Dontari Poe, Takkarist McKinley (the guy getting the “ops,” FYI) and Duke Riley should add to a defense that got pretty darn good after Quinn took hold of it late last season.
Said Thomas Dimitroff, the general manager: “I’m more excited about this roster than I’ve ever been.” He also characterized his defensive line as “a manly group.” He also said, “This organization is oozing with competition” – even at the famous pingpong table in the locker room! Can anything stop this manly group on its path to domination of all ball?
Well, yes. Something might. This is the NFL, where the difference between 8-8, which the Falcons were in Quinn’s first season, and leading the Super Bowl by 25 points is not very much. The Falcons have new offensive and defensive coordinators. They needed a new DC. They’ll miss the offensive guy, who apart from the final eight minutes of regulation in Houston, put nary a foot wrong last season. Quinn spoke with gusto – he speaks no other way – as to how much he liked the makeup of this staff, but I’m pretty sure he said the same last year and the year before that.
He wasn’t two minutes into his opening remarks before he trotted out the bromide now stamped on the wall of the entrance hall at Falcons HQ: Iron sharpens iron. Neither he nor Dimitroff brought up the Super Bowl, and the only question about it was couched gently – “the way things ended last year.”
Quinn re: last year: “We discussed what we learned and where we’re at and what we need to do for us to get better.”
This nattering nabob of negativism cannot deny reality: Yes, this is a new season. The Falcons could well be stout, not to mention manly, enough to leave that lost 25-point lead – and the rest of pro ball – in the dust. But reports out of Seattle, whence Quinn came, hold that the strutting Seahawks haven’t yet gotten over the Super Bowl loss in February 2015 to, er, New England, the one that ended with Russell Wilson throwing an interception on the goal line. (Richard Sherman is said to be most displeased, which figures.)
We live in a time of negativity. I like to think I was ahead of the curve, but the level of discourse on social media and cable TV shocks even this jaded observer. I wish Happy Dan and his Brotherhood all the best, but my pragmatic side holds that a team insisting it’s over something doesn’t mean it is.
“I do lead a life of optimism,” Quinn said, and that’s surely a good thing. Even with a stacked roster, these Falcons will be tested in a way few teams have ever been. Maybe no team in the history of ball.
Further reading: The Falcons head to camp trying to get past a loss like no other.
Still further: Pro Football Focus: The Falcons’ roster is the NFL’s best.