Asked about his coach, the All-Pro player said: “He’s a players’ coach; the players are going to go out and play for him. It’s about competing and toughness and brotherhood and going out and finishing games.”
Yep, that sounds pretty typical of the comments you get from the Seahawks’ locker room when players are asked about coach Pete Carroll.
But not in this instance. This was receiver Julio Jones talking about Falcons coach Dan Quinn.
Of course, if you asked around the Seahawks’ locker room, they’d say the same things about Quinn from the days when he was the defensive coordinator here during the Super Bowl seasons of 2013 and 2014.
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So what Quinn has established in his 21 games leading the Falcons is not nearly as much about plugging in the same defensive formations and schemes the Seahawks used as it has been creating the same cultural bylaws of competition and toughness.
The 4-1 Falcons will give the 3-1 Seahawks the biggest challenge of their season so far in what is forecast to be a very stormy Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Quinn’s club has won all three of its road games this season and notched an impressive back-to-back tandem of wins over last year’s Super Bowl teams — Denver (on Sunday) and Carolina (Oct. 2).
But to look at the statistics from this season, the Falcons’ defense seems entirely antithetic to any Quinn-coached defense in history, as they surrender an average of 28 points a game.
The Falcons have won so far with the No. 1 offense in the league powered by the top-rated passer (Matt Ryan).
While it’s tempting to say that Quinn has turned the Falcons into an NFC powerhouse, with a two-game lead in their division, it must be remembered that they started 5-0 last season before winning three of their final 11 games.
“Those were scars that were painful to go through, but on the other end of it, we grew tougher, we grew stronger and we had a good offseason,” Quinn said Wednesday in a conference call from the University of Washington, where the Falcons are working out this week. “This season feels a lot different.”
The biggest lesson Quinn took from Carroll about being a head coach, he said, was to stay true to himself, to do it his way, to be himself and then just “let it rip.”
The trick was shaping that identity into one all his own.
“We weren’t trying to create a Seattle replica,” Quinn said. “It was (about) how we wanted to utilize the players, the messaging, the identity, the toughness that we wanted to play with come to life.”
Carroll saw the head-coaching potential in Quinn, calling him a clear and consistent communicator, somebody players could understand and trust.
Jones also cited those qualities as Quinn’s strengths. The Falcons have adopted Quinn’s standards of play and accountability to the extent that “… if a guy’s not living up to those standards, as players we call each other out rather than having a coach have to do it.”
That sounds familiar to the Seahawk defenders. Cliff Avril came to Seattle as a free agent in 2013, in large part, because he was so impressed by Quinn as a defensive coordinator.
And when asked about facing Quinn, Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, said, “Aw, yeah, that’s my guy.”
“He’s someone everyone could relate to and everyone in the building liked and appreciated,” Wright said. “I appreciated how simple he made everything for us; we just played our style, did our thing and we were No. 1 both years.”
Quinn didn’t have much time to reminisce or get too nostalgic. There was work to do.
“I can say this, I’m standing with a Falcons logo on my chest today because of so many people (with the Seahawks); I’ve got a lot of gratitude,” he said. “But past that, the game is at hand. … This week is about two teams going to battle, and it’s fun to be a part of it.”
The players on both sides of the field on Sunday know that’s the only way Quinn would have it.