Quinn expects Falcons to punch back from Super Bowl loss
BY MICHAEL MAROT – AP SPORTS WRITER
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn threw the first jab at the NFL’s annual scouting combine.
When he walked to the podium Wednesday, he answered his own questions – before letting anyone else speak.
Yes, he has watched the Super Bowl tape.
No, he will not forget what happened.
And now it is time for everyone to start focusing on the future.
Nearly a month after an epic Super Bowl collapse, Quinn calmly and confidently explained how the Falcons plan to use it to their advantage next season.
"Those who cover our team on a regular basis know we talk about boxing quite a bit. We got our asses knocked down on the canvas," he said. "You get back up and you go fight again. That’s kind of what this offseason is about for us."
Boxing is a perfect example for a natural counterpuncher like Quinn.
When questioned why the Falcons were still throwing the ball in the fourth quarter, when they appeared to have the franchise’s first championship locked up, Quinn defended the play-calling by saying they needed to stay aggressive. When there were questions about Atlanta’s defense wearing down, the Falcons dismissed that notion, too.
Now, with a little time to reflect on what went wrong, Quinn believes he knows how to avoid a similar fate: Accept the mistakes, learn from them and make the corrections.
"No. 1, you have to own it," he said. "There are consequences good and bad when you make plays and when you don’t. Owning those decisions, can we nail execution on this play better? When the opportunity comes to making a sack or creating a turnover, owning those scenarios."
It’s a message the Falcons want in their corner.
As Quinn sees it, this tough blow should serve as inspiration to come back even stronger in the fall and finish it off the title run.
Historically, that hasn’t happened.
It’s been 45 years since the Dallas Cowboys first went from Super Bowl loser to champion. The Miami Dolphins did it the next season, too. No other team has successfully done it.
In fact, the last time a runner-up played in the next Super Bowl was when Buffalo endured the last of its record-breaking four consecutive losses in January 1994.
And only two of the last nine second-place teams have reached conference championship game.
Quinn believes his team is good enough to defy the odds – and he’s not alone.
"We are a resilient group," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "We are confident with Dan Quinn’s leadership that we will bounce back."
And, changes are coming.
Shortly after the Super Bowl, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan accepted the head coaching job in San Francisco. Quinn subsequently hired former Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian as the replacement.
Defensive coordinator Richard Smith and defensive line coach Bryan Cox were fired three days after the season ended, moves Quinn said were unrelated to the loss. He then promoted Marquand Manuel to the top defensive job.
But it’s not just Quinn who has been living with the fallout.
"Uh, yeah. I mean I second-guess just like all you guys do," Shanahan was asked if, in retrospect, he should have called more runs. "Any time a play doesn’t work, you say, ‘Yeah, I wish I called what works.’ But the reason for calling those, why we did that, what we were thinking, I don’t second-guess at all."
And that’s exactly how Quinn wants it – throw a punch, take a hit, accept whatever happens next.
He figures it’s the only way to have a fighter’s chance in the next bout.
"When they (Falcons players) asked me if I watched it. I say ‘yes. I am past it. I am not over it,’" Quinn said. "I don’t think I ever will be (over it) and that’s a good thing."