Each year, there are a handful of NFL teams in desperate need of changing the culture and identity of their franchise. This year, the Atlanta Falcons are one of those teams.
Atlanta has hired Dan Quinn to be their head coach and turn around a team that has gone 10-22 over the last two seasons.
How’s that transition going so far?
“It’s going good,” former Falcons wide receiver and current Atlanta radio host Brian Finneran said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “When you have 10 wins in two years after five straight winning seasons and four shots at the playoffs, you got to change something. This year for the Falcons, that was Mike Smith being fired and Dan Quinn coming in from Seattle. When you talk about culture change, energy, excitement, attitude, the way the guys fly around the football field, the way they practice – everything has ramped up a little bit. Listen, I loved playing for Coach Smith when I was there with the Falcons. I played for him for three years from 2008 to 2010 – and he was phenomenal, and all we did was win. So what happens is the roster gets bad, you miss on some draft picks, you get a little lax in some of the coaching stuff you do, and before you know it, you got a 4-12 season and a 6-10 season and you’re out the door.”
Quinn, of course, spent the last two seasons in Seattle, where, as defensive coordinator, he spearheaded the best defense in football. The Falcons hope he can do the same in Atlanta.
“They were one of the worst teams in the league (last year),” Finneran said. “Tackling, turnovers, sacks – it was really tough to watch as a fan and a former player for the team really pulling for them. To see Matt Ryan go out there and Julio Jones go for 1,500 yards and Matt throws for over 4,000 again and Roddy (White) scored seven or eight touchdowns. It was brutal. So Dan Quinn, a defensive-minded coach (will come) in here, fix that defense, get guys playing better, get guys playing up to their talent levels and hope that they can improve on their previous year – because you can’t be last in the league in sacks and you can’t be one of the worst teams as far as yards per play. I think it was over 6 yards per play. It was awful all around.”
Believe it or not, the Falcons actually had a top-10 offense last season, and after some playoff heartbreak and two lost years, Ryan enters his age-30 season hellbent on playing in a Super Bowl. As Brandon Tierney observed, though, the Falcons have wasted some of Ryan’s prime years. Has Ryan been frustrated by the direction of the franchise, or has he been a company man who understands this is the nature of the game?
In general, what kind of man is he?
“He’s a man’s man,” Finneran said. “He understands what goes on in the system. When you said company man, that’s it. That’s what he is. He also understands that he’s got guys in front of him that have to block for him. Whether they’re really good or really bad football players, that’s what he has. He took 44 sacks two years ago, 31 last year on top of numerous hits on top of that. So the biggest feat Matt Ryan did is get through the last two seasons alive, to tell you the truth. Because he was beaten and battered. So he’s a company man. He’s frustrated, sure, but he’s not going to let anybody see that. He just won’t do it.”