Falcons locker room supports Dan Quinn after historic blown leads

When the Atlanta Falcons stumbled to a 1-7 start last season, Julio Jones and other players strongly expressed their support for coach Dan Quinn.

This season, with the Falcons off to an 0-3 start, the players haven't changed their stance as critics call for Quinn's job.

"If you look at what Q has done here, he started the brotherhood," veteran cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson said Monday. "We ride for him. We really put it in for him. And he's always got our back. He's really a great coach.

"It's just something that right now, it's a tough spot for our team. There's a lot of things being said. We just need to stay together."

A day after the Falcons blew a 16-point, fourth-quarter lead in a 30-26 home loss to the Chicago Bears, Quinn declined to address any speculation about his job status. In fact, he was asked point blank if he's coaching for his job next Monday night when the Falcons take on Aaron Rodgers and the 3-0 Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

"Any time I take away from that, it takes away from the team and the focus for Monday night,'' Quinn said. "So, it doesn't do any value to discuss it much further than that."

The Falcons also blew a 29-10 lead and late 15-point lead in last week's 40-39 loss at Dallas.

There will be plenty of discussion about Quinn's job unless the Falcons conjure up a way to turn the season around immediately. They've become somewhat of a laughingstock because of their history of blowing big leads, dating back to the 25-point lead which turned into a 34-28 Super Bowl LI loss to the New England Patriots. The Super Bowl hangover continues to linger as Quinn has a 24-27 regular season record since 2016.

Still, the players continue to support Quinn.

"We've got his back," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "We've got to play better as players. That's what you have to focus on. When things aren't going well, it's easy to look around and see what everybody else is doing or where everybody else is screwing up. The only way we're going to improve as a unit is if we all kind of look in the mirror and find ways to improve individually."

Team owner Arthur Blank made clear his expectations for this season were the playoffs. Blank retained Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff with the belief they could build off a 6-2 end to the 2019 season. But Blank also reorganized the power structure, having team president Rich McKay oversee both Quinn and Dimitroff.

Injuries are not an excuse, although the Falcons have dealt with significant ones with wide receiver Jones (hamstring), starting cornerback A.J. Terrell (reserve-COVID-19), projected starting cornerback Kendall Sheffield (foot), team captain Ricardo Allen (hyperextended elbow), pass-rusher Takk McKinley (groin) and ascending linebacker Foye Oluokun missing the Bears game. Not to mention defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (hip), wide receiver Russell Gage (head injury), defensive back Darqueze Dennard (undisclosed) and kicker Younghoe Koo (reported groin injury) got banged up against the Bears. Although Jones is the most important of that group, the kicker situation with Koo will be worth monitoring as well.

Quinn wouldn't blame the slow start on the team's conditioning, either, based on the lack of offseason practice time due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also refused to blame his assistants, although offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter probably should have run the ball more with the fourth-quarter lead against the Bears. Koetter, who watched his offense have four consecutive three-and-outs in that fourth quarter, said he wanted to keep an aggressive approach with the Bears in striking distance and possessing timeouts.

Meanwhile, both defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and special teams coach Ben Kotwica blamed themselves for the missteps that cost the Falcons in the losses to the Seahawks and Cowboys, respectively.

Asked if he would consider any changes or coaching tweaks now instead of the midpoint, like last season, Quinn responded, "I know where you're heading. There's no time to wait and see, that's for sure. What we have established is what are the specific things that we want to improve upon. One of those is end-of-the-game moments, whether it's four-minute or two-minute, however those factors come in and work on to tweak. So that's really where our attention and our focus is to make sure we can put the players in the best spaces to do the best job."

As for the players supporting him through this rugged start, Quinn expressed his gratitude.

"The brotherhood, first, is created for the players," he said. "But there are certain moments that it gets reciprocated back to me. You definitely have a lot of appreciation for that. And you want to fight like hell for what you believe in. I definitely believe in this team. I appreciate their comments. You do want to fight like hell for what you believe in, and I believe in this team."