Falcons’ Dan Quinn staying loyal to Shanahan, staff amid heat

091415 ATLANTA: Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan confers with quarterback Matt Ryan during their Monday Night Football game on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, here with quarterback Matt Ryan during, has taken some heat for team’s poor production in 2015 and has been blamed by some of the decision to release wide receiver Roddy White. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

There is noise around the Falcons again. Noise created by two wayward assistant coaches at the scouting combine, noise following the release of Roddy White, noise about past regrettable personnel decisions that never seems to fade and now noise that has hit like two crashing cymbals about the offense and its hard-headed coordinator, Kyle Shanahan.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said criticism “goes with the territory.” He’s right. The only thing that changes is how people respond to it, and Quinn has chosen to maintain unwavering loyalty to his staff, to Shanahan, to general manager Thomas Dimitroff and to the system they have set up in Flowery Branch.

There’s something admirable about that. There’s also something dangerous if it doesn’t work out.

If the Falcons turn into Super Bowl contenders, Arthur Blank will shower Quinn with titles, riches and Home Depot Sheetrock stock options, and the coach will evolve into one of the NFL’s bigger power brokers. If they fail, he’s just the next ex-great assistant who wasn’t ready for a head coaching job.

“I love what Kyle represents in terms of the style we want to play and the way we want to attack,” Quinn said. “I understand the criticism. That goes with the job of coaching. But there’s a number of things we’re doing well. Past that is what this offseason (evaluation) is all about.”

Quinn had some interesting comments, and did a bit of a verbal tap dance, in the wake of recent comments by White that effectively cast Shanahan as an obstinate knucklehead. White’s agent went as far to say Shanahan gave Quinn an ultimatum, as in “It’s me or Roddy.” That, I’m not sure I believe.

My view on Shanahan is that while he’s not nearly as bad a coordinator as he has been painted, he gets overly married to scheme, like most OCs, and he struggles to accept input. He seemed to mentally close the door to White’s potential role in the offense from Day 1. He tends to hear only one voice — his own — which Quinn didn’t exactly deny and certainly doesn’t embrace.

But it wasn’t Shanahan’s decision to cut White. Quinn believes in Shanahan, but I also believe Quinn and Dimitroff had been contemplating the decision for a while. They wanted the offense to go in a certain direction and didn’t believe White was a great fit, and since they believe in their coordinator it didn’t make sense to keep the player (as much as I think White got jobbed last season).

Quinn said all coaches are part of the personnel-evaluation process, but he added “in no way is anybody over that process. The personnel decisions come down to Thomas and myself.”

As for White’s contention in multiple interviews that Shanahan wasn’t inclusive in meetings and accept input from players, Quinn suggested there could have been a problem.

“Part of the process we’re going through this year is (asking), ‘Are there ways for us to do better, inclusively. … That’s important to me, having that connection between our staff and our players. That certainly will be something our entire staff works on to improve.”

I would love to tell you what Shanahan thinks about all this, but the Falcons have declined to make him available for interviews.

The extent to which Quinn believes in Shanahan can be illustrated in some of the team’s offseason decisions. They replaced White with Mohamed Sanu, giving the free agent a whopping five-year, $32.5 million contract ($14 million guaranteed). That’s an astronomical contract for a player whose last deal topped out at $1.542 million in 2015 and who was Cincinnati’s fifth leading receiver last season. But Quinn, Dimitroff and most of all Shanahan believe he can beat one-on-one coverage and were impressed with his hands and toughness.

The Falcons also signed center Alex Mack, who played for Shanahan in Cleveland. They signed backup quarterback Matt Schaub, who played for Shanahan in Houston. It’s normal to acquire players who fit schemes, but the moves also illustrate Quinn’s belief in Shanahan.

Say this for Shanahan: At least he didn’t fall into a pool of slop at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Combustible defensive line coach Bryan Cox shoved an Arizona scout in a hotel when he attempted to bring a draft prospect from an interview with the Falcons to one with the Cardinals. Defensive backs assistant Marquand Manuel morphed into a national story when he asked a player, “Do you like men?” Even if done jokingly, that’s beyond stupid in these times of every soundbite being one keystroke from going viral.

Quinn and Dimitroff chose not to fire Cox or Manuel and obviously had Blank’s backing. If all this works and the Falcons are successful next season, wins will drown out the noise. If not, Quinn ain’t heard nothing yet.

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23 comments
Arkansas_Transplant
Arkansas_Transplant

This front office seems quite inadequate or quite literally incompetent when it comes to free agency and payroll efficiency. So let me get this right? They release Roddy because apparently the salary cap implications, or so they say, even though it meant having to eat dead money? Only to turn around and sign another WR for more than what Roddy was scheduled to make next season and Sanu is at best (and I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here) is but marginal improvement, if one at all? Not to mention, they could have fixed an issue with that money they spent on Sanu to fix an area of concern that's been a huge weakness for around a decade now by signing Trevathan. Absolutely doesn't make sense! Plus you have Benjamin which could have served in multiple capacities sign for less elsewhere?

E636L30
E636L30

Yeah & that same loyalty will eventually cost him his job! Ryan is an average QB, Shanahan & his system will make him mediocre. Dude is a QB killer & why this organization doesn't realize that is beyond me.

ATLFan
ATLFan

Honestly, I would have fired Shanahan on the spot after we intercepted the Indy Colts on the 2nd play of the game at their 33 and Shanahan called three straight targets to Roddy White just to stick it to the fans. We even ended up missing the field goal and blew a golden opportunity to get off to a fast start on a game we lost 24-21.  Unforgivable.

vincent o conway
vincent o conway

good to know I can keep my money in my pocket and my emotions tune out of this year and the years after that etc.

BAMABABE
BAMABABE

so we'll cut guys, and overpay for guys just to make shannacant look better??? this will turn out wonderful im sure...the BEST coordinators use what they have to create the best scheme, not force what you have to adapt to a scheme that hasn't worked yet at any of his stops...i can understand and appreciate the whole zone blocking stuff, and when DQ discussed it before last season we were all excited, but when it doesnt work and the OC refuses to adapt or change anything its a problem....to try to now build a new team without spending buttloads of money to try to make the OC look better and make the HC look smarter for hiring him will only hurt us...

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

Now, Mike Smith is looking like the best coach in the world, saddled with the worst management in the NFL. 

Oh well. Everbank is closer & has a swimming pool.

Edgar
Edgar

On the seventh hour, on the seventh day, on the seventh month, seven doctors they say, he got lots of good luck you know they all agree but if ya lookin for trouble man you better not mess wit me cause I'm that ole Kyle Shanahan Man better known as da Hoochie Choochie Roddy White Releasin Man. Yeah... Pay mo for da man I'm gettin Dan I'm releasin. Well, maybe Jeff gets it.

UGA76
UGA76

I was a huge fan of the hiring of Quinn but he lost me by supporting Fantasy Football Dimitroff (FFD).Quinn showed his ineptness by supporting FFD when he handed Quinn the 31st rated talent in the NFL when Quinn got hired.Who the heck did Quinn think was responsible for assembling that horrid talent??FFD spends more time trying to save his job than working on the Atlanta roster.  I’m sick of his self-serving comment about how important it was to Charlotte’s success to keep the same people together for years.

 Quinn’s problem now is Dimitroff is still making the talent evaluations and the mess of the 2nd-4th round picks last year is just another example.On a roster as bad as Atlanta’s, those picks have to play and really should start. Now Atlanta is facing a two year rebuilding process with good talent evaluators which they don’t have to make the draft picks.Even a great draft can only fill four of the remaining 9 major holes in the roster.

 Atlanta still needs a DE, DT, 3 LBs, SS, 2 Guards and a TE.My guess is a new GM and HC will be drafting for those positions next year.

Donald_01
Donald_01

I fear Quinn will wind up unemployed next year along with those is is loyal too.  I suspect because of his illness and desire to win NOW, Mr. Blank will not tolerate another year like we just had without churning the entire staff from GM down.  Maybe that would not be such a bad idea.

BAMABABE
BAMABABE

@24ropes hey shanahan, don't you have better things to do than get online to defend ur self behind a fake twitter account?? NO ONE is ATL is supporting you, and no1 likes you as our OC....

DugoutDog1
DugoutDog1

@JeffSchultzAJC For all the flack about Sanu, coaches present far bigger problem. Sanu's stats can silence naysayers. Coaches must shut up.

DugoutDog1
DugoutDog1

@JeffSchultzAJC He'd look like an idiot bonehead for hiring coaches he denounced but Shanahan, Cox and Manuel are complete embarrassments.

bozie85
bozie85

@JeffSchultzAJC just curious, is it pretty standard op. procedure to make assistants unavailable?