INDIANAPOLIS -- As much as the last month has been a swirl of celebratory glory for the Patriots in the wake of their historic Super Bowl LI comeback, the Falcons have had just as much time to assess what could have been.
Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn admitted as much when he stepped to the mic for his Combine press conference and addressed the elephant in the room in his opening comments.
"One of the questions you may ask: have you watched the game? Yes, I have. A lot. You have to own that. The calls. The things you could do differently. That's not unlike most Sunday nights for me. What I can tell you and share from our team and that experience is this connection and this brotherhood that these guys have is so real and so strong. I love these guys. I'm pumped to be part of it," Quinn said, before expanding on the value of watching the kick-to-the-groin Super Bowl loss and learning from it.
I'm past it. I am not over it. I don't think I ever will be.
"When they ask me if I've watched it, I say yes. I'm past it. I am not over it. I don't think I ever will be. That's a good thing. Sometimes those kinds of experiences propel you to have the type of offseason that you like to have. The analogy I use for our team is we are fighters. For those that cover our team on a regular basis, you know we talk about boxing quite a bit. We got our ass knocked down on the canvas and you get back up and you go fight again. That's kind of what this offseason is about for us."
As a young coach with a relatively young program in Atlanta, Quinn is hopeful that his youthful squad will make something good from what clearly has the potential to be a debilitating failure.
"What I can tell you is that being in that experience and battling for it at the highest level you can't duplicate that. We actually had on-the-job training. There is something that you totally gain from that," Quinn declared. "We'll be stronger for it. It's tough and painful to go through when you have a difficult loss. But it doesn't define us. We have a team that's totally on the rise. We're going to battle like crazy this offseason to become even better moving forward."
We got our ass knocked down on the canvas and you get back up and you go fight again.
History has shown that Super Bowl-losing teams often struggle play at a high level the following season, with Cam Newton's Panthers the most recent example. Quinn is focused on making sure his squad doesn't add its name to the list of those falling victim to the Super Bowl hangover.
"It's a fair question. How do you learn to overcome that loss? You have to learn to get past it. I didn't say you have to get over it, but you do have to get past it," Quinn said. "By replaying everything and looking in the rearview mirror you're not going to get better."
The difference between learning from the Super Bowl loss and allowing it to linger is clearly a focal point of Quinn's plan for the Falcons this offseason.
"The what-if game is real and if you are prepared to go down that road there are a lot of layers to it," Quinn admitted. "I can tell you I went through just like every game. No game comes down to one play. Could you have a do-over on certain plays and this situation? Yeah. I'd say that's not a lot different than most games.
"At the end you have to own (the way the game played out). You do what you think is best to win the game at that time. We'll always do that. We are an aggressive team and we're going to take our shots. The reason we were able to play in the Super Bowl was because we are aggressive. We're not going to back off of challenges. Do-overs, would you like to have some? Yes. Is that every game? It is."
But not every game is the Super Bowl. And only one team, Quinn's Falcons, has to spend the coming weeks and months trying to overcome the emotional results of the greatest Super Bowl collapse in NFL history.
Right now, Quinn is saying all the right things. Only time will tell whether his team will be able to follow its leader to successfully rebound in 2017.