Inspired by 49ers experience, Quinn's Falcons grow into brotherhood

Inspired by 49ers experience, Quinn's Falcons grow into brotherhood

SANTA CLARA – The Atlanta Falcons went 8-8 in Dan Quinn’s first season as head coach.

But he felt something was missing, in addition to the necessary number of victories to qualify for the NFC playoffs.

“I’d say, honestly, we were a neighborhood and now we’re a brotherhood,” Quinn said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters.

“I was so wanting that connection to happen as a team. Most of the good teams I’ve been a part of had this really close connection. Last year, we never got to that spot.”

Quinn spent his first two NFL seasons on Steve Mariucci’s staff with the 49ers as quality control coach in 2001 and ‘02. Dennis Erickson retained Quinn as defensive line coach for two seasons.

“This offseason we worked hard at that to make sure the players had an accountability to one another,” Quinn said. “That started for me way back, from my first time with the Niners and having Bill (Walsh) and Mooch talk about the 49er way, and the standard of doing things.”

The Falcons (8-5) are tied atop the NFC South standings with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with three games remaining. Atlanta can take another step closer to the playoffs on Sunday against the 49ers (1-12) at the Georgia Dome.

Quinn, who interviewed for the 49ers’ head-coaching vacancy in January 2015 to replace Jim Harbaugh, said his vision for building a franchise was also greatly influenced by his time on Pete Carroll’s staff with the Seattle Seahawks, where he served as defensive coordinator.

“It left such an impression on me when I got to Seattle, Pete had that way,” Quinn said. “He didn’t call it the 49er way, but it was a real standard of how we wanted to do things and making that place feel special. And that’s what I wanted to create here.

“I never wanted to make it Seattle East or another Niner spot. I wanted it to be our team and all the things that could make us tough as hell, physical. I wanted that connection as a team to take place.”

Quinn took a week off from the typical offseason workout program to take participate in a program with Acumen Performance Group, a company started by a group of retired Navy SEALs. The idea was to help build team unity and chemistry while overcoming various physical and mental challenges. The training took place at the Falcons' practice facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia. (An earlier version of this article incorrect stated the training was in San Diego.)

On Dec. 4, the Falcons experienced one of the worst losses in the NFL when a two-point conversion attempt was intercepted and returned for two points the other way to lift the Kansas City Chiefs to an improbable victory.

Last week, the Falcons bounced back with a 42-14 victory at the Los Angeles Rams.

“We’re quite a bit different than last year,” Quinn said. “We’ve added players, but we’re different in our mindset. We’re more resilient. I’d say we’ve gone through some of the difficult ones you go through, losses and those things, and you better grow from them or they’re going to eat at you.”

Jed York has full trust in John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan despite two losing seasons

Jed York has full trust in John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan despite two losing seasons

PHOENIX – Jed York “mutually parted ways” with Jim Harbaugh after the 2014 season to begin a string of three consecutive years in which the 49ers fired their head coach.

He canned Jim Tomsula after the 2015 season, during which the 49ers won five games.

York went back to work just 12 months later. He pulled the plug on Chip Kelly’s tenure with the 49ers after a 2-14 season as part of an organizational overhaul that included the firing of general manager Trent Baalke.

Yet, things are a lot different after two losing seasons with coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch in charge.

York is actually showing some patience.

Since York signed Shanahan and Lynch to six-year contracts in 2017, the 49ers have won just 10 games. But instead of being on the hot seat after two seasons, Shanahan and Lynch have earned even more confidence from York.

“And I wanted to send the message to them and send the message to our fans, send the message to our players on the roster and potential free agents going forward that these guys,” York said of the six-year contracts.

“We’re probably not going to get it all right in the first year, first two years, but this is something we’re going to try to build and I believe we have a very good foundation. I think the future is bright for us.”

Does York feel as good about Shanahan and Lynch now as he did the day he hired them?

“I feel even better,” York said Sunday at the NFL owners meeting.

York said he has confidence that his coach and GM will continue to work in unison to build the 49ers into a contender. He said his trust in them is borne from watching them work together to formulate their plans for free agency and the draft.

After the 2016 season, York set forth to put together a team in which there was cohesion between the head coach and general manager. The previous coach-GM tandems were often at odds.

Two rough seasons later, York is not disappointed with the Lynch-Shanahan union. He said he is pleased with the chemistry that has been formed.

“I see that in spades,” he said. “It’s just awesome to watch those guys work together.”

York said he was willing to show more patience with Shanahan and Lynch because of the decimated roster they inherited and the realization that there would be a learning period as neither man had previous experience in his respective role.

“You don’t know what you don’t know when you’re in those positions,” York said. “And I think it’s been interesting to watch these guys really come together and show they’re a stronger bond today than what they were two years ago and it’s only getting stronger.”

[RELATED: 49ers were aggressive in pursuit of Odell Beckham Jr.]

York has not exactly exhibited patience during his time calling the shots with the 49ers. But he said something is different with Lynch and Shanahan.

“I have a lot of patience with these guys,” York said. “I think there are reasons we’ve had the records we’ve had the last two years. And I feel very, very good about the team those guys are putting together.”

Jimmy Garoppolo's offseason plan has included rehab, recruiting free agents

Jimmy Garoppolo's offseason plan has included rehab, recruiting free agents

PHOENIX — Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is embracing his role as the leader of the franchise as he looks toward the start of the 2019 season.

49ers CEO Jed York spoke at the NFL owners meeting about Garoppolo like a proud parent.

He has been keeping an eye on his quarterback’s rehab and reports that he sees Garoppolo developing into a true leader. He said the two of them chat regularly.

“I’m not going over film with Jimmy,” York said, “so I don’t think we have to worry about anything from that standpoint. I see Jimmy, whether it’s in the lunch room or if I’m down in the training room or if we’re working out.”

Garoppolo has been working out with 20 to 25 teammates at the club's Santa Clara facility, York said. He is not allowed to throw passes to teammates at the team's training complex, a team spokesman said. Garoppolo has future workouts with his teammates scheduled for the Los Angeles area.

“It’s great to see that,” York said. “The team is really, really jelling and watching them come together as a unit, that’s what you need. It’s not a collection of individuals. It’s a team.”

Garoppolo’s involvement doesn't stop there, though. 

He was very active during free agency, playing the role of recruiter by calling some players the 49ers were interested in.

“I know he called the guys who we were interested in on the first day or so of free agency and expressed his interest in getting guys here,” York said. “I’m fairly certain that he called Kwon (Alexander) during that negotiating window when you can start talking to people.”

York explained that this is a new aspect of Garoppolo’s role as the face of the franchise.

“Those are things that he wants to do,” York said. “That’s where it’s different when you come in and you’ve been a backup, now being the guy. It’s hard when you’re the guy, you’re the highest-paid player, but you’re not playing for (the) team.”

Obviously, York would have preferred to have Garoppolo on the field for the entire season in 2018, but he sees the positives that came from Garoppolo's season-ending knee injury.

“I think he was able to learn a lot of the cerebral things,” York said, “and a lot of the things that come with that leadership position over the last year, which really excites me for him going forward.”

[RELATED: 49ers were aggressive in pursuing Odell Beckham Jr.]

York said Garoppolo is ahead of schedule on his path back to the football field after sustaining a torn ACL in Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Garoppolo looks as if he has added some muscle to his frame while going through his daily rehab, York said.

“He’s just grinding every single day to get better personally and to get better as a team and understanding how important it is to do those things as a team leader,” York said.