Dan Quinn on the 7 factors that paved Atlanta’s path to Super Bowl LI.

The Atlanta Falcons’ run to the NFC championship demonstrated the team’s remarkable progress under Head Coach Dan Quinn. He is back in familiar territory, having won Super Bowl XLVIII as Offensive Coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks, but he insists the two cannot be compared: “It’s now this group going through this trip together.”

And what a trip. On Sunday evening in Houston, the Falcons return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1998 where Tom Brady’s New England Patriots stand between Quinn’s team and a maiden NFL championship. Ahead of the 2016 season, the Leaders Performance Institute sat down with Quinn to assess his plans for ensuring a successful campaign. Seven factors stood out but little did we know they would lead to Super Bowl LI. Here they are in all their glory.

 1. Getting the requisite reps

Atlanta’s first-half obliteration of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game was no accident – the hard yards were put in on the practice field. “The most effective instructional feedback happens during practice,” says Quinn. “You’re able as a coach to make that assessment and the correction right away; that makes a big difference. Sometimes it’s just reminders: ‘these things are important during a game. I’m going to ensure that we stay on top of that.’”

2. Empowering players

Not that this process is a one-way street, as Quinn expects players to play their part in shaping practice sessions. He explains: “We’ll ask players if there’s any calls they didn’t like or are uncomfortable with so that we can work on it ahead of the game.” Quinn is in no doubt that empowerment comes when player-coach communication is clear. “We’re always asking if there’s things we could do better,” he adds. “Even if that process takes a little time let’s do that.”

3. Knowing the personalities on your roster

Emotional intelligence is one of Quinn’s strengths and he knows how to tailor his message to each player. “When some people make mistakes they don’t necessarily need an arm around them – they need to be challenged,” he observes. “Other times they need that encouragement and I try to point out examples of what they look like at their best, whether that’s in a team or unit meeting or individually. I’ll say, ‘Let’s make sure this type of performance is to be expected.’”



4. Connecting the dots during a game

There is very little instructional feedback proffered during games but Quinn has mastered the art of the emotional one-word trigger. “We don’t need dissertations,” he asserts. “If things are going badly there could be one word or a trigger that gets them going back the right way.”

5. Using the crowd… sparingly

When the Falcons found their fans in raptures at the Georgia Dome during that rout of Green Bay, Quinn was mining that seam for all it was worth. He explains: “When the emotion is there you can encourage and feed off that – ‘listen to this crowd at the back of you’.” There is, however, a line he says cannot be crossed: “Sometimes when that noise is going around you can get to be real specific with a player; ‘make sure we stay connected to this’. You want him to have fun but he must stay true to his discipline.”

6. Celebrating bench players

Quinn freely admits he manages those players with minimal game time differently and it is critical to keep them on side. “You don’t want to diminish the player even if he’s only playing a small percentage,” he says. “His reps are integral to the team so you try to celebrate those moments in practice and in team meetings.”



7. Knowing when you’ve been a hit

How does Quinn know when his team talks have been successful? “When I hear players say the same message,” he replies. “That’s when I know we’re on point; if the players and coaches are repeating it then the message has gotten through and those are the times when I’ve had the most success. When it’s a small message that resonated with everyone and had the greatest impact on the game.”


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