Falcons Coordinators Are Set In Place And Ready To Work

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga.- – The Falcons coaching staff is set and ready to move forward with preparing for the 2015 season. On Tuesday, their newest coordinator’s met with the media.

The team announced some of the new coach hiring’s last week, when Dan Quinn was introduced as their newest head coach. Of those hired on were new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Richard Smith.

The Falcons had decided to keep Keith Armstrong as their special teams coordinator. He’s glad to be staying here with the team, but admits that things are different. He believes he’ll be the coach that works the most with the younger coaches on this staff.

“You’re tied in to special teams and you’re going to get into how we’re going to share the personnel,” Armstrong said. “I treat it like I didn’t have to move, but it’s a new job. You have to take that approach.”

Armstrong had a chance to work with Quinn, when both coaches were on Nick Saban’s staff with the Miami Dolphins. He says he could see back during those days in South Florida that Quinn someday could be leading up his own group of coaches.

“Very detailed guy,” Armstrong said. “(He is) very good with the players, always positive, always more interested in what the guy could do, and actually adjusting with what that guy could do individually.”

Those details it seems will be all across the board with the team this season and beyond. In fact, Quinn is already getting involved and had a good story about their interaction during a Tuesday morning meeting.

“He wrote speed, underlined it, and handed me the piece of paper,” Armstrong said. “He’s in tune with it and he knows it. His philosophy whether you’re a starter or backup, is if you can run you’re going to play on special teams.”

On the offensive end, the name Kyle Shanahan comes with experience in the NFL. His father Mike, of course is the two-time Super Bowl champion coach with the Denver Broncos. He also had a chance to coach with his dad in Washington D.C., as the Redskins offensive coordinator.

During his time in the NFL, Shanahan says he’s picked up a few things working with his father and also working with a close family friend in Gary Kubiak during his time with the Houston Texans. Needless to say, he learned a lot from both influences on his career

“My first year as a coordinator I only wanted one way to do it and that was the way I had done it,” Shanahan said. “After having some experience, I’ve had to do it other ways and seen there’s other ways to be successful. That’s something that both of them had always preached to me, that good coaches are about putting their players in good situations. It’s all about the player and you have to find what they do. Most of them are good, that’s why they’re at this level. There’s lots of ways to do it and you’ve got to find out which way they do it the best.”

Shanahan’s first year as an offensive coordinator, came in 2008 with the Texans. From there he went on to join his dad with the Redskins from 2010 until 2013. This past season, he was with the Cleveland Browns as their coordinator.

He is working with his third different groups of quarterbacks in the least three years. This time, he’s working with a Pro Bowl quarterback that is no doubt the Falcons franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan.

“There’s a lot of good quarterbacks on this planet, but there’s probably only about five and maybe eight on a given year that people aren’t trying to replace,” Shanahan said. “So it’s an extremely tough position. Everybody wants that franchise guy and to already be in a situation where they have that is very enjoyable. Because, you can focus on other things, focus on other positions, and it makes things easier.”

One of  the other things to focus on, is the offensive line. Shanahan has been in “zone-blocking” schemes over his career with the Texans and Redskins. These years were spent with his father and Gary Kubiak.

The man who is credited with making this offensive line blocking scheme a success, is former Falcons offensive line coach Alex Gibbs. Through his time in the league, Shanahan has become a huge fan of this approach.

“I think it’s similar to what Dan Quinn has preached on defense,” Shanahan said. “As coaches, we’re not trying to make ourselves smarter than we really are. This is just football. We need something sound, that we believe in, that puts the defense in a bind, and we need to be very good at it. Whenever you have something that you believe in that is schematically sound you drill that over, over, over, and over again until you get very good at it. Zone happens to be what I believe in.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Richard Smith is taking over. He comes to the Falcons after spending the last three years with the Broncos as their linebackers coach.

He says in addition to trying to see if they have players that can play multiple positions, they’re also looking for other qualities to add to their side of the ball.

“Trying to upgrade the speed of our football team,” Smith said. “The thing that I’ve been impressed with (watching film), I did feel that they played hard. You didn’t see a team that was not playing hard. So, I think there’s some opportunities here to get this thing rolling in the right direction.”

Smith coached with Quinn back in San Francisco and like Armstrong says that he noticed good qualities in him as a coach. In fact, Smith says it almost became kind of a joke in the building that they would tell Quinn that Steve Mariucci (49ers head coach at the time) called and said it was time for him to go home.

Last week, we heard Dan Quinn say that they would be “fast and physical” on defense and as team in general. Smith says that is a philosophy as a coaching staff.

“What we’re looking for is first of all guys that come out and have fun,” Smith said. “We’re looking to play fast, be fundamentally sound, and be able to attack. What we mean by attack, is it’s not necessarily where we’re going to have be a big pressure type of football team. Make it where we’re not playing a thousand different defenses that we’re playing, where players can react, play fast, and hard. (We’re) trying to create turnovers in terms of our aggressive style of play.”

The expectations for this team seem pretty clearly spelled out, at least here in the first two weeks. As for Smith and the play-calling duties on game day, he says he’s fine with Quinn doing that if he feels it is necessary.

The next step in the offseason, is for the Falcons coaches, scouts, and front office personnel to head up to Indianapolis for the annual scouting combine. Soon enough, they’ll be able to focus on the players that have inside the facility already.

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