This week’s conversation is with Dan Quinn, the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

Dan became the head coach in 2015 and has compiled a 43-37 regular season record.

In 2016, he led the Falcons to an NFC title and its second Super Bowl appearance.

Entering 2020, Dan ranks second in the organization’s history among coaches with at least four seasons with a winning percentage of .538 and fourth in franchise history with 43 regular-season wins.

Dan earned his head coaching opportunity after becoming one of the NFL’s top defensive coordinators with the Seattle Seahawks, overseeing the top defensive unit in the NFL.

I had the pleasure of getting to know Dan in Seattle, he’s an amazing human.

In this conversation, we touch on how he got into coaching, his approach to overcoming difficult moments, and style of leadership.

“The thing that drives me and gives me the most happiness is having the ability to serve others, to see them reach their potential, to see what they are capable of.”

In This Episode:

  • Grew up with four older brothers and an older sister, sports was an integral part of his life from an early age
  • Settled into football and track in high school and played throughout college
  • How did being the youngest in his family shape him?
  • What made him want to get into coaching?
  • How he copes with and responds to losses… specifically the Super Bowl defeat to the Patriots
  • What he’s driven by… seeing others realize their potential
  • When does he feel like he’s at his best?
  • Where does he get in his own way? Spreading himself too thin and trying to do too much
  • His optimistic approach to life… why it can be a blessing and a curse
  • How he became happier after he stopped worrying about the next opportunity and focused on being right where his feet were
  • What does his mindfulness practice look like?
  • What made the Legion of Boom during his time with the Seahawks so special?
  • His process for training focus so he can remain locked in for long periods during games
  • The one quality all great coaches share
  • Why it’s so important to understand how individual players and coaches learn best
  • His concerns with early sport specialization
  • How he thinks about mastery

 

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Quotables:

“Where I grew up, the youth coaches took such an interest in the kids and that really shaped me. When it was time for college, I knew I wanted to teach, I knew wanted to coach.”

“I knew early on that the best things for me were being a part of a team. What I loved about playing sports wasn’t necessarily the schematics side, but it was just the interpersonal connection with everybody.”

“I find my most happiness in seeing others perform at their best.”

“If a player’s feeling it and they have that much confidence in something, if we really are promoting the trust and caring about one another like we say, then you better give them that opportunity. More often than not, they make it work.”

“As painful as it was, I went back through the Super Bowl from a couple of different angles. It helped me separate the emotion of the game, as painful as it was, and then I was able to embrace it and say, ‘All right, this is what happened.’”

“The best coaches are the ones that don’t need to wait until they see the tape. They do it at practice. They’re like, ‘I know exactly what happened,’ and give a player feedback within seconds.”

“I would encourage the next generation of kids that are coming up to not be afraid to compete at a bunch of things, because it’s going to pay off in whatever sport sport you eventually choose.”

“What do the players want? They want to know the feedback and the truth. I’ve always thought the best coaches I’ve been around have been the best on the grass first, then in the meeting room.”

“I think what we’re first called to do as coaches is to say, “Do we understand the players and how they learn best?”

“Say there are 60 or 65 defensive plays in a game. I would often practice, how many of those plays could I be fully locked in, not thinking about the next play, the next thing, and really on that moment.”

 

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Dan Quinn is the current head coach of the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League. He previously served as the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks from 2013 to 2014, whose Legion of Boom defense led the team to two consecutive Super Bowl appearances, winning Super Bowl XLVIII.