Dan Quinn comes from the Pete Carroll coaching tree, so it is not surprising he is loaded with slogans and catch phrases and has a different name for each day of practice. But one of the slogans has stuck, and his players say it is a reason they’ve reached Super Bowl LI, where they will face the Patriots in Houston. That word is “Brotherhood.”
It has become the equivalent of the Giants “All-in” rallying cry during the 2011 postseason, when they ultimately beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Call it corny, but Quinn thinks being a brotherhood is important to the Falcons success.
“The best teams I’ve been a part of have been good in the locker room and it’s carried over on to the field,” Quinn said recently. “That’s certainly the case. You can feel how tight these guys are. They have a real connection to one another. They take that responsibility very seriously.”
It started last April when Quinn, entering his second season as head coach, invited a group of Navy SEALs to spend four days with his team. Among the topics stressed were teamwork, leadership and communication. Somewhere along the way, “brotherhood” was mentioned and Quinn made it priority.
The initial seed was a ping-pong table. Soon, players from offense and defense, stars to free agents, were lining up to compete and share something besides football. One ping-pong table soon became two, then three. Before long, the Falcons were doing a number of things on and off the field together. Now, coaches and players hardly can get through an interview without mentioning the word that now has its own hashtag.
It was the first thing Quinn mentioned after the Falcons defeated the Packers in the NFC Championship.
“The brotherhood that these men in our locker room have built has led to this moment,” he said. “It’s about how hard they want to play for one another and help get each other ready. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Falcons defensive end Dwight Freeney is a 15-year veteran who has played with the Colts, Chargers and Cardinals. You would think someone who has been around so long wouldn’t get caught up in slogans and such. But Freeney has bought in.
“We believe in it,” he said this week, “we feel it and this is probably the closest team that I’ve ever been on.”
Safety Keanu Neal mentioned the word when he was talking about how the Falcons defense has evolved to the point that it shut down Aaron Rodgers and has no fear of Tom Brady.
“It shows what they’re doing as coaches and what we’re doing as players is working,” Neal said. “We’re starting to mold together. Our brotherhood is so close, we’re accountable. When we make a bad play we feel bad because we feel like we let our brother down and that’s what makes this defense so good.”
Quarterback Matt Ryan says his ping-pong skills have been improving throughout the year. He might eventually be the MVP of the NFL, but it seems like he would like to be the team’s ping-pong champ just as much.
“It gets competitive,” he said. “Dan mentions the brotherhood and it’s tight and it’s real. But one of the central themes of our organization is competition and it comes to life on the ping-pong table. It’s created relationships with guys that have been good.”
Ryan gives all the credit to Quinn.
“He leads by example,” the quarterback said. “He’s one of the most genuine people I’ve been around. He finds ways to connect with guys and it’s different with everybody. His relationship with me if different than it is with Julio [Jones] but it’s equally as tight. When things are genuine I think the buy-in is there. And we got guys you want to get to know and you want to play for.”