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Dan Quinn of Atlanta Falcons helped by Steve Kerr, Terry Francona after SB loss

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PHOENIX — The club isn’t one Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn wanted to join. However, he knew the other members — and it has helped him advance past a devastating loss in the Super Bowl.

Shortly after the Falcons blew a 25-point lead in losing Super Bowl LI to New England, Quinn received a text from Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr. And during Quinn’s stay here at the NFL owners meetings, he met with another person familiar with blowing a lead: Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona.

Quinn also has spoken with San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford — whose team lost in the NBA Finals in 2013, only to win it the following season — and Quinn’s former Seattle Seahawks boss, Pete Carroll.

They weren’t misery-loves-company conversations.

“It was more like, ‘Hey, man, it’s tough,'” Quinn said Wednesday. “But this is what we signed up for. As a real competitor, that’s the attitude you can take, to say this is the world we live in, embrace it.”

“I wanted to make sure when I get a chance, whether it’s our sport other sports … to share and learn and gain perspective on how you handle a team and how you handle the players, how you handle the relationship between the owner, GM and head coach or manager. Those are topics that come up.”

Dan Quinn, on talks with Steve Kerr, Terry Francona and R.C. Buford

So that’s what Quinn has decided to do.

“When you have the disappointment at the end, you’re not over it, you’re past it, but it’s OK to let it fuel you where you can to go,” Quinn said. “That’s where I’m at.”

That’s where he wants his team to be, too. When the Falcons report for offseason workouts on April 17, Quinn won’t hide from the Super Bowl loss when meeting with the players, nor will he dwell on the memory. He will use the same word he’d use after other losses: reset.

As in: Move forward.

“You have to acknowledge it,” Quinn said. “You have to own the moments that went bad. But you also have to own the ones that went well, too. That’s what I intend to do.”

Not that it’s an easy spot to reach. Quinn has been part of two crushing losses in the Super Bowl, having served as Seattle’s defensive coordinator when the Seahawks lost thanks to a last-minute interception at the goal line by New England in February 2015.

But now he’s the head coach, responsible for setting a tone in the building for his assistants and players. That’s one reason he wanted to speak to people such as Kerr, Francona and Buford.

Shortly after Kerr texted him, they spoke on the phone — the two first met in 2013 when Kerr visited Seattle’s training camp. The meeting with Francona was pre-arranged, knowing he’d still be in spring training in Arizona.

Quinn said he didn’t know if there was a commonality to their defeats. After all, his played out in one quarter; for Kerr and Francona, it was over several days. But the end result was the same. The Falcons lost the largest lead in Super Bowl history. Kerr’s Warriors were the first team to blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, losing to Cleveland in a tight Game 7 last June. The Indians took a 3-1 lead in the World Series, but lost in extra innings in Game 7 in November.

Quinn had texted Kerr after his Game 7 loss. This time, Kerr texted him. This was the gist of the message: I know what the dark nights are like; call if you want to talk.

Regarding Francona, Quinn said several people felt they would have a good connection. They spoke about their seasons, but also their message to the staff and players.

“When it ends with a loss, it’s hard,” Quinn said. “[It’s] how you handle your team, how you handle the emotions of that.

“I wanted to make sure when I get a chance, whether it’s our sport other sports … to share and learn and gain perspective on how you handle a team and how you handle the players, how you handle the relationship between the owner, GM and head coach or manager. Those are topics that come up.”

Quinn said he didn’t go through any sort of grieving process for the game or the season. At least not for himself. Rather, it was for owner Arthur Blank and the players and the team in general. Again, Quinn opted to look at what was accomplished instead of what was lost.

He referred back to a conversation with Blank during his interview process in 2015.

“I said I was hoping to see that connection between the city and the team,” Quinn said. “That happened. Those were the things that lit me up, the connection I hoped would happen between the players and the city and the fans — and that happened.

“To not get the final piece at this time or reward them and the fan base, Arthur and the players, that’s where my disappointment fell. At the same time, I cannot tell you how much fun it was coaching in the Georgia Dome in January. It was loud, the crowd was into it. It was so cool.”

That doesn’t mean Quinn quickly moved forward. He did rewatch the loss, wanting to see areas the Falcons could have handled better and also what New England did to recapture momentum and ultimately win. Quinn did not second-guess the decision to throw rather than run the ball when they held a 6-point lead and reached the Patriots’ 22-yard line with 4:40 to play. They were aggressive all year, he said, and stayed that way. But he reflected on various calls throughout the game.

Perhaps it helped that he had to mostly hire a new offensive staff this offseason; it allowed him to look forward rather than back.

“It hurts,” he said of the immediate aftermath. “The first little bit after the game, it’s way more counselor than coaching. We had tears, but not finger-pointing because that’s how tight this team is. Then you go back and battle again. You have to turn; this is 2017.”

And that gives Quinn and the Falcons another chance to make a run. He reflected on meetings from the year he worked in San Francisco with Bill Walsh, who always talked about building a culture. Quinn’s chats with other leaders in other sports helped him reach where he wanted to be mentally.

“Competing for those championships is as much fun as it can get,” Quinn said. “I don’t go back too far and try to relive the what-ifs and those moments. But what you do look back on is how much fun it is to compete for a championship.”



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