Both in Renton, Wash. and Flowery Branch, Ga., NFL teams will begin their week of practice with "Competition Wednesday."
Never mind that on this particular week in which the Seahawks and Falcons play on a Saturday, "Wednesday" actually falls on a Tuesday, the fact that both of these teams use that verbiage is a reminder of the close ties between the two franchises, which will face off in the Divisional Round of the playoffs Saturday afternoon.
And it's only natural that there would be some similarities between the way the Seahawks and Falcons operate. Atlanta's head coach, Dan Quinn, spent three seasons working under Pete Carroll in Seattle, first as the defensive line coach in 2010, then as defensive coordinator in Seattle's back-to-back Super Bowl seasons in 2013 and 2014 following two seasons at the University of Florida.
"Today is a big day for us on Competition Wednesday, so I do have some of the same structure that I learned through Pete," Quinn said on a conference call with Seattle-area media. "There are a lot of things that are different, but having a real routine is probably the main thing that I got out. Whatever that routine is, it's important to follow it, because all competitors have it. I think each coach, if you went around all 32, has some routines to get ready, and ours is different than Seattle's which is different than L.A. or Arizona or Carolina and Tampa and New Orleans. But having that process to rely on as a competitor to get ready, it doesn't allow the outside stuff to influence your week to week, where you can just stay in that pocket of getting ready."
Yet as much as Quinn can appreciate what Carroll has done in Seattle having been a part of it for some of the Seahawks' best years, he also knows he can't simply try to replicate that exact formula in Atlanta. Of all the things Carroll taught Quinn, one of the more important lessons was one about being true to himself. Or in Carroll parlance, letting it rip. Dan Quinn and Pete Carroll aren't the same person, so Quinn knows he can't be his best as a coach if he's simply trying to be Carroll.
"I never intended to have Seattle East, I wanted to create our own Atlanta," said Quinn, whose Falcons earned the NFC's No. 2 seed with an 11-5 record in his second season as head coach. "Of course I learned fantastic lessons from my time with Pete and (general manager John Schneider), and the players there for sure. But one of the best pieces of advice was, 'Hey, Q, do it your own way and let it rip.' That came from Pete, and I've tried to really stay true to that. There are definitely things that had a huge impact that we could go on for days about my time there, from coaching to players to management, but honestly all those experiences helped me create the vision of what I hoped to create here in Atlanta. That's what I was hoping to create."
Quinn's players agree that their coach is building his own program in Atlanta, not trying to create a replica of the Seahawks.
"He doesn't really compare it to anybody, he likes to have his own unique feel for the team," outside linebacker Vic Beasley said on a conference call. "He's a great coach in building the defense and he's a great coach and building the team overall. It's a pleasure to play for him and we're looking forward to spending more time with him.
"You don't really hear him say anything about Seattle or comparing us to Seattle. Like I said, he likes us to have that unique feel. We're different."
The "unique feel" Quinn has created has been a successful one, with the Falcons going 8-8 in his first season after back-to-back losing seasons prior to his arrival, then 11-5 this year. One of those losses came in Seattle earlier this season, though as Quinn notes, "both teams now are a better version of themselves when we played back then." And while the Falcons didn't get a win that day, Quinn saw value in that game, not just for what his team experienced on the field, but also because it allowed him to get any awkwardness about facing his former team and boss out of the way.
"Going through the first game again them out at Seattle was a unique one for me," Quinn said. "Now that that game is under the belt already, so to speak, I hope we battle against one another and we have a bunch of these conference calls over the next ten years. I hope we turn into a classic battle through the years. That would be my hope, but I am glad that first game is already out of the way. Now it's just kind of back to ball and playing against guys you know. Not much past that."
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