DUNEDIN, Fla. — The Falcons just want this to go away. Some unsolicited advice: Act like a professional sports organization and there won’t be a need to spend so much time in the offseason putting out fires.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn and secondary coach Marquand Manual both apologized for an inappropriate question Manual asked a draft prospect at the recent NFL scouting combine.
The statements by Quinn and Manual did not address an accusation from an undisclosed source to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter that the inappropriate line of questioning to Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple was not an isolated incident. A team spokesman declined to comment on the source’s comment to Ledbetter that, “A few players told me the Falcons were asking gender (sic) questions” (presumably meaning sexual orientation).
So draw your own conclusions: Either, 1) The Falcons don’t want to address what they believe to be a baseless accusation; or, 2) The Falcons don’t feel the need to address an issue that may or may not be true because no player other than Apple has come forward to say he was asked, “Do you like men?”; or, 3) If Marquand or another assistant was found to have asked about a player’s sexual orientation but denied that to Quinn, only to be found later to have lied about it, the Falcons would look bad by issuing a denial now.
I weighed in on the absurdity of questioning an athlete’s sexual orientation the other day. That blog is linked here. If it’s found this was not an isolated incident, somebody should lose a job. There remains a possibility that the NFL will at least fine the team.
It’s worth noting, as Quinn alluded to his statement below, that Marquand’s question to Apple was not a part of some formal Falcons’ interviewing process that involved Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff at the main hotel at the scouting combine. Rather, it took place at another hotel where players, assistant coaches and scouts roam the lobby and hallways. It also was at that other hotel where defensive line coach Bryan Cox admitted pushing away an Arizona scout who was trying to take an unnamed player from an interview with the Falcons to the Cardinals.
Bottom line: These should not be an NFL team’s storylines in the season. The Falcons are still trying to clean up the mess following their delayed decision to release wide receiver Roddy White, whose ensuing critical comments of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have increased the heat on the coach.
By the time the Falcons play Game 1 of next season, much of this will be on the back-burner. But the incidents continue to damage the brand of a franchise that has gone three straight seasons without making the playoffs and is struggling to regain the momentum it had from 2008 to 2012, the first five seasons with coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan.
The Cox and combine incidents in particular have eroded the public’s confidence in the front office and coaching staff, which is a bad look when a team is trying to sell free agents and their agents on the team’s vision. The Falcons’ biggest concern right now is: Can they convince everybody they know what they’re doing and they’re heading in the right direction?
Here are the statements from Quinn and Manual:
“I have spoken to every coach on our staff individually and collectively today in regards to what happened at the Combine. The inappropriate conversation occurred between one of our position coaches and the player; it was not during one of our formal 15-minute interviews. Following my discussions with the coaches, we have taken additional steps to ensure our entire staff is well educated on the appropriate questions and comments that should be made during these processes. We had a training seminar with a league-approved counselor here at our facility today with our entire coaching staff regarding social responsibility. Our organization holds itself to a very high standard and we will learn from this.”
“I take full responsibility for the inappropriate question I asked at the Combine. It was wrong and I apologize to Eli Apple, Mr. Blank, the entire Falcons organization, my family, and our Falcon fans for my insensitivity. I understand it was inappropriate and the offense people have taken to it. I have had an individual counseling session on social responsibility today, and was part of a staff session as well, and found it very valuable in learning from this situation. Moving forward, I will become a better man by going through all of this.”
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