Atlanta Falcons: The Super Bowl Highlights Dan Quinn’s Value

Oct 25, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn talks with Falcons owner Arthur Blank prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 25, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn talks with Falcons owner Arthur Blank prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports /

As we digest the outcome of Super Bowl 50, and look toward yet another NFL off-season where franchises do their best to take that next step toward their own Super Bowl immortality, Atlanta Falcons fans look toward the man whose value has become exasperated as a result of the NFL playoffs, despite the fact that he didn’t even participate in this year’s postseason: Dan Quinn.

As we all know, the Denver Broncos imposed their will on the Carolina Panthers, and won Peyton Manning his second Super Bowl, without much trouble.

Now, what does that have to do with Dan Quinn? It’s a simple notion: Denver was almost completely carried to the championship by the strong muscle of its defense; that side of the ball is Dan Quinn’s specialty.

It doesn’t matter how much the game changes, how much emphasis is put on the offense, or how much the game evolves from an offensive standpoint, the age-old adage will forever ring true in this sport: defense wins championships.

The Denver Broncos were an absolutely average team offensively in the regular season, finishing 16th in the league in total offense, that’s dead middle. Their 22.2 points per game was 19th in the league, which is below average.

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In the playoffs, the Broncos’ offense averaged 254 yards per game, that was third worst, ahead of only the Houston Texans and the Minnesota Vikings, both of whom were one and done teams in the wildcard (neither of these two teams managed to score a touchdown).

The Broncos were willed to the Super Bowl on the back of its defense, which gave up the fewest amount of yards in the NFL this season, and led the league in sacks.

Von Miller, Denver’s premier pass rusher, was Super Bowl 50’s MVP, as he totaled 2.5 sacks, and forced two fumbles, both of which directly led to Denver’s only two touchdowns scored in the game.

In the end, it shouldn’t have really been a surprise that the team with the league’s best defense won the Super Bowl when they got to the big game (Denver was a 6-point underdog at one point, leading up to the game). The team with the league’s top defense has advanced to the Super Bowl eight times in NFL history, and has won the big game seven of those times. The only loss came last season, when Seattle was one yard away.

The past three seasons, the team with the top ranked defense has made it to the Super Bowl (Denver 2015, Seattle 2014, Seattle 2013). Dan Quinn was in charge of the Seahawks’ defense, the two Super Bowl years before this one.

Carolina’s defense, meanwhile, did absolutely everything in its power to pull out a victory. They held the Peyton Manning led Broncos’ offense to a measly 194 total yards (the lowest amount of yards ever, by the winner of the Super Bowl), held them to 1-14 on third down, had five sacks, and forced two turnovers. The only touchdown they gave up was one where the opposition started the drive five yards from the end-zone.

The Panthers did not get to the big game solely off the back of the league’s MVP, Cam Newton, and the offense. Led by all world middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, Carolina ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense.

So what ends up being the moral of this story? Having a great offense is exciting and fun to see, but having a great defense is what truly makes the foundation of a champion.

That’s where Dan Quinn comes in, for Atlanta. Even through all of Atlanta’s success in the Matt Ryan era, the Falcons have always lacked a good defense: the best one coming in the 13-3 season of 2010, when it was 16th in the league.

This season, after a few minor additions in free agency and the draft, Dan Quinn took a Falcons defense which ranked 32nd in the league (dead last), and made them respectably average (16th).

Atlanta was never going to become a defensive juggernaut in Quinn’s first season, Rome wasn’t built in a day after all. Going from 32nd to 16th was the best possible scenario in year one. The next step is taking this defense into the top 10, and then the top-5.

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The birds have always had an explosive offense which has consistently finished in the top 10 in recent memory, but there has been an over-reliance on the offense and inadequacy on defense, so it’s no coincidence that they only have one playoff win in the Matt Ryan era.

To truly take those steps toward Super Bowl immortality, the Atlanta Falcons will need to build a defensive fortress the way Denver did, the way Seattle did, and the way seemingly every other Super Bowl champion has done. Luckily for the birds, they already have the perfect architect in place for such a project, and his name is Dan Quinn.