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Ashway: Falcons can't be trusted with new coach hire
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I just don’t know about this guy Dan Quinn.

It’s been a week since the Falcons confirmed the worst-kept secret in sports, and announced that Quinn would be the team’s next head coach.

It’s not that I see anything wrong with Quinn, or his background, or the results he’s generated.

Here’s the problem: I don’t trust the Falcons.

And I don’t trust Arthur Blank.

Though I abhor the ubiquitous Blank’s weekly appearance on the Falcon’s sideline, I appreciate the overall ownership improvement the team has enjoyed under his aegis.

Of course, that’s faint praise when measured against the Smith Family Circus.

But what Blank did to Mike Smith was inexcusable and unpardonable. He undermined the best coach in franchise history, an honorable man whose major fault was an inability to tell time.

Blank let the news leak that a search firm had already been hired to locate Smith’s successor, prior to the Falcons’ final game, when they still had a shot at the playoffs.

Blank’s thoughtless backstabbing of Smith left a horrible stain on his pocket point, which cannot be removed. Blank had as much to do with the 34-3 result as anyone. He gift-wrapped Carolina’s trip to the playoffs.

Interesting here is the fact that the general manager, Thomas Dimitroff, retained his position, albeit with powers reduced and diverted to his assistant, Scott Pioli, and Quinn.

When hiring Quinn, Blank told atlantafalcons.com, “Our approach has always been to use collaboration and partnership, and it will stay that way.”

So you fire only half of the joint collaborators?

Former GM Rich McKay, now President and CEO, also serves as chairman of the NFL’s competition committee. Therefore, it came as quite a surprise that the Falcons were under investigation for piping artificial crowd noise into the desultory Georgia Dome during the past two seasons.

Without waiting for the league to announce the results of its investigation, Blank told espn.com, “Absolutely, it bothers me. We have a great deal of respect for the shield of integrity of the game, the integrity of competition. So that bothers me a great deal. We will deal with it.”

Blank has such devotion to the integrity of the game that he allowed Quinn to hire Steve Scarnecchia as an administrative assistant, according to Alex Marva of foxsports.com. For reasons soon to be obvious, the Falcons have yet to list him on their own leaderboard.

Scarnecchia, you may recall, worked in the Patriots video department from 2001 to 2004. That’s when the Pats were found guilty of having illegally taped the Jets’ defensive signals.

That’s not all. In 2010, Scarnecchia, then Denver’s video operations director, got caught taping a 49ers walk-through practice before a game in London. This caper earned Scarnecchia his dismissal from the Broncos staff.

Meanwhile, in a related story, the Falcons participated in National Signing Day last week, at least obliquely. Roquan Smith, one of the nation’s top linebacker prospects, announced on national television that he would attend UCLA.

Moments later, word emanated that the man who recruited him there, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, would be leaving UCLA to become linebackers coach with the Falcons. Ulbrich’s move was officially announced on Sunday, well after he allegedly informed Smith that he hadn’t signed anything yet.

Smith had spent the previous weekend on the UCLA campus, where no one uttered a single word about Ulbrich’s possible egress.

This piques interest on two levels. Quinn and Ulbrich had worked together in Seattle. Certainly something was brewing prior to Super Bowl weekend. Second, the head coach at UCLA, possibly spearheading the cover-up, is Jim Mora.

Now consider the sad story of running back prospect Matt Colburn. South Carolina’s Mr. Football gave a verbal commitment to Louisville last June. On Monday, Louisville revoked its scholarship offer. Apparently head coach Bobby Petrino decided that he needed to bestow Colburn’s scholarship upon a defensive back.

“I feel short-changed,” Colburn told the Louisville Courier-Journal. His coach went further. “It’s not right,” coach Tom Knotts told goupstate.com. “He won’t be able to recruit my school anymore. They’ve known about these three defensive backs wanting to go to the NFL for weeks now. To use that as an excuse doesn’t hold water with me.”

Now, what do Mister Mora and Mister Petrino have in common?

Right! Both were hired as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons by Blank.

Quinn may turn out to be a fine coach. But first, he’s going to have to overcome some enormous credibility issues — not of his making.

Denton Ashway is a contributing columnist for The Times. His column appears weekly.

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