Dan Quinn defends 'character' of controversial Falcons guest coach DJ Durkin

The hiring of DJ Durkin with the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/atlanta/" data-ylk="slk:Atlanta Falcons">Atlanta Falcons</a> came under immediate scrutiny. (Getty)
The hiring of DJ Durkin with the Atlanta Falcons came under immediate scrutiny. (Getty)

On Monday, the Atlanta Falcons announced the arrival of former Maryland head coach DJ Durkin as a guest coach during training camp.

Maryland fired Durkin in October after a lengthy investigation into the program following the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair and an ESPN report of a “toxic culture” within the team based on fear and intimidation.

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Preventable death occurred under Durkin’s watch

McNair collapsed on a practice field last spring and later died of heat stroke after not receiving appropriate life-saving measures. A trainer was heard yelling to “drag [McNair’s] ass across the finish line,” and he did not receiver proper measures to cool down his body after he collapsed.

Durkin was placed on leave for the first eight games of the Terrapins football season. The school reinstated him in October, but ultimately decided to fire him the next day after players walked out on him and lawmakers pressured the school to part ways with the coach.

Dan Quinn defends Durkin hire

Upon the news of Durkin’s hiring in Atlanta, which the Associated Press describes as “buried in an announcement that began with three other coaches,” head coach Dan Quinn faced immediate scrutiny from media.

“I would hope that people understand me well enough that nothing is more important than the team,” Quinn said. “People who have covered the team know that. The fact that I know this coach first-hand and know what his character and then the due diligence that goes with that, I would certainly hope that anybody covering the team would let the fan base know that I always have the team’s best interest in mind and would never put them into a space that would be otherwise.”

Falcons coach Dan Quinn found himself under immediate fire Monday after the hiring of DJ Durkin, who was fired following the death of a football player at Maryland last year. (Reuters)
Falcons coach Dan Quinn found himself under immediate fire Monday after the hiring of DJ Durkin, who was fired following the death of a football player at Maryland last year. (Reuters)

Quinn and Durkin’s relationship

Quinn and Durkin worked together on the defensive staff at Florida. Quinn was the Gators’ defensive coordinator from 2011-12 when Durkin was the team’s linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. Durkin took over Quinn’s position when Quinn left for the NFL to run the Seattle Seahawks defense.

Quinn leaned on his personal relationship to vouch for Durkin and again brought up his character.

“I know DJ firsthand,” Quinn said. “I coached with him. I know what his character is. We did all of our due diligence of calling everybody at Maryland and had our own follow-up to there.”

This is not the first time Durkin controversially found work in the aftermath of the Maryland scandal. Nick Saban brought him on as a consultant for Alabama ahead of the college football playoff last season. He did not remain with the team.

Durkin is not expected to remain with the Falcons beyond his training camp stint as a guest coach.

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