Quinn familiar with ‘storylines’ but convinced Falcons ready to rebound

Falcons coach Dan Quinn wanted to make sure entering the season that his players wouldn’t still be in mourning over the Super Bowl loss. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

The only thing more difficult in sports than winning once is winning twice.

Sometimes everybody gets a little too drunk on success. Sometimes injuries happen. Sometimes players leave — or, worse, they stay but they’re thinking about their next contract, or endorsement, or car, or wife. Sometimes a coach’s message gets stale. Sometimes the general manager knows there’s a roster weakness but he thinks, “We were OK last year, so we’ll be OK this year.” (Boom.)

Dan Quinn is familiar with the ugly history that the Falcons are going against this season. Of the 46 teams in the 23 Super Bowls before last season, only four returned to the championship game the following year. All four of those were the defending champions.

None of the past 23 teams that lost the Super Bowl from 1993 to 2015 made it back. Only two returned to the conference title game. Ten of the 23 missed the playoffs entirely.

Good teams get lazy. Lesser teams get motivated.

“When you’re playing in championship games and Super Bowls, the next year you’re not sneaking up on anybody,” Quinn said. “That can be a difficult challenge. In either case, you better mentally put yourself right into the next season because if you look too far down the line, whether you won it or you lost it, you can get your ass kicked.”

We can’t know what kind of shape the Falcons’ collective rump will be in come the end of the season. They did all of the right things, bringing in two veteran defensive linemen (Dontari Poe, Jack Crawford) for depth. They signed a competent fullback (Derrick Coleman) to replace the one they lost in free agency (Patrick DiMarco). Their draft was impressive (led by defenders Takk McKinley and Duke Riley). They shook up their defensive staff (needed) and made a likely successful hire (Steve Sarkisian) to replace former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan (whose remarkable season nonetheless left a grease stain at the end).

So yes – they should win at a high level again. They’re talented and young, and they score a lot of points. But the expectation level for the franchise is now higher than it’s probably ever been in history. We in Atlanta are not accustomed to teams playing to that bar. More often than not, the bar clunks them on the head.

Stuff happens. Somebody gets hurt. A fumble bounces left instead of right. A player who overachieved in 2016 underwhelms in 2017.

Since emerging from their respect post-Super Bowl gloom, the focus of Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff has been to do everything possible to ensure players “recapture the attitude and mindset” they had last season, Quinn said. Because those are the things in the Falcons’ control.

Quinn sought counsel on how to rebound from devastating championship losses from a number of folks: Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, one of his mentors.

He came away convinced of something he already knew: The Falcons’ biggest challenge would be mental, not physical.

“It probably took me all the way to training camp this year to see really where our mindset was at,” he said. “It was about the second day when I came and said: ‘This team is going for it. We’re ready to leave that (Super Bowl) there and go for the here and now, even though the rest of the country is not.’ I know there’s storylines being made about us. But it was during the two-day block when I realized the work ethic here is something special.”

What jumped out at Quinn?

“It was the speed at which we were practicing,” he said.  “It was faster. I had kind of an expectation of what training camp would look like, and it had surpassed it.”

They will be tested. There are home games against Green Bay and Dallas, both cast as potential Super Bowl teams. There are road games at New England and Seattle, also obvious title contenders. (The New York Jets are mixed in for comic relief.)

But for Quinn, the Falcons’ success this season hinges on the NFC South. Tampa Bay is on the rise, Carolina is only two years removed from going 15-1 and playing in the Super Bowl and New Orleans still has Drew Brees.

“We talked about what it’s going to take, but we went back to the division,” Quinn said. “We know the team that comes out of it will have played some good football to do it. So that’s really where our focus goes, as opposed to going to something all the way in February.”

And then this: “We know the history of teams that haven’t done it. But we have lots to do prior to getting to that point.”

The next game is as far ahead as they’re looking. Probably wise

WEEKEND PREDICTIONS: Georgia over Lack of Irish, Falcons over Bears

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20 comments
stacy_
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DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Falcons should remain a contender. So many things can happen in the Not-For-Long league; there are single points of failure all over the roster. Ryan, Jones, two or three on the OL, Beasley, secondary is down one starter-level player, kicker.

EMALINI
EMALINI

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Cousingeorgestone
Cousingeorgestone

Nope, not buying a bit of what they're selling. My money says this is the year the bad Falcons make their return. The Football Gods gave them the good fortune none of us ever had following them since inception but they squandered it in the SB. As a result, this season the Gods declare, "No luck for you this year. Oh, and no soup either"....

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

So because you're unhappy when your team fails yet again after 51 years to win a championship--even with a 25-pt second-half lead--you're not allowed to express it??? You should just "find yourself another team"?!

That's the very definition of a disloyal, delusional loser.


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mgunter
mgunter

Boycott th NFL til they stop disrespecting the flag.

RonRoberts
RonRoberts

We'd be foolish not to think the Falcons didn't see what Kansas City just did to New England and realize their 28-3 lead was no fluke; what got them was adrenaline on the "big stage" wearing them out, physically. They were gassed. 


But that lead was no fluke, and New England may not even be "the team to beat" anymore, anyhow. So they have to go into each game, each week, and use THAT team on their schedule as the measuring stick. If DQ's good at keeping them mentally focused (and I think he is), this season should be fine for 'em. 

Having all the prognosticators picking everyone BUT the Falcons to win the NFC again should motivate 'em at home against Green Bay and Dallas. Win those, win the division and I think they'll have home field. Get that, and they're likely in Minneapolis for the Lombardi. Go there w/the experience from last season on most of that roster, and they'll not embarrass themselves. 


They're one of the top 5-6 teams in the NFL - and that's nothing to sneeze at. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@RonRoberts: "But that lead was no fluke, and New England may not even be 'the team to beat' anymore, anyhow."

_______________

We'll find out soon enough. Falcons head up there in 6 weeks.

nyctraffic
nyctraffic

@DawgNole @RonRoberts Tom Brady looked mediocre for almost 3 quarters.  In the 4th, he looked like the GOAT against an exhausted defense that had been on the field for 2 games worth of downs.  Even so, insecure Shanahan still had to hand them the trophy with his insistence on passing instead of locking down the victory.  It was all a perfect storm of ridiculousness.  The better team lost.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@nyctraffic: "The better team lost."

_____________

But they lost nonetheless, failing yet again to claim a championship--as all five ATL major pro sports teams have done with only ONE exception ('95 Braves) over 170-plus seasons spanning more than half a damn century.

There is NO excuse whatsoever for orchestrating the biggest collapse in the history of the Super Bowl. NONE!

BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

Yes, it is mental. Holding on to a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter of the biggest game in sports is mental.  As a team and as an individual player, you have to know how to do it. And what is all of this Shanahan bashing? Sure, he made some terrible calls late but ultimately, as the Falcon players were soiling their little pink dresses, we needed clock management from our head coach and did not get it. It was his duty to override Shanahan's calls, a duty that was unfulfilled.

Another Super Bowl this season? HA! I'll believe it when I see it. I'll never again believe the Falcons are made of championship stuff until they've actually won a Super Bowl. The Super Bowl hangover, the PTSD, or whatever you want to call it, along with their apparently unlimited choke factor, will hold them back. I am predicting 8-8, but don't think that a .500 season is guaranteed.

No, I am not angry and bitter or sick and tired of 51 years of Falcon football and the associated frustration. Correction: Yes I am.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@BaseballBuff: "Holding on to a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter of the biggest game in sports is mental."

________________

Blowing such a lead is also mental. Excellent post though.

Falcons have lost five straight. All this happy talk by the coach is just that--talk.

I'll rethink that IF they beat the Bears on the road Sunday, which should be one of their easiest away games.


nyctraffic
nyctraffic

@DawgNole @BaseballBuff You're counting the preseason losses?  Yeah, you know what you're talking about. You sound like a willfully negative depression patient.   LOL

DawgNole
DawgNole

@nyctraffic

And you sound like an excuse-making loser who constantly defends and rationalizes defeat.

They kept score in those preseason games, didn't they?

As only winners (and therefore not you) understand, "You play to win the game!"