Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has revealed how rugby has influenced much of the defensive approach he brings to his sport, as the Falcons gear up for Sunday's Super Bowl encounter with the New England Patriots.
Quinn has led the Falcons franchise to their second ever Super Bowl appearance; their bow in America's greatest sporting showcase ended in a 34–19 defeat to then-defending champions Denver Broncos in 1998.
They face a side in Bill Belichick's Pats who have now reached seven in the intervening period, winning four of their previous six in the Belichick-Tom Brady era.
Fans predict a shootout between two free-scoring teams; in Vegas, the over-under on total points scored is 59. Many experts, however, predict a more abrasive affair, with both teams keen to keep the others' lethal quarterback off the field for as long as possible. To do so, both Quinn and Belichick will need to run the football and keep the clock ticking.
And Falcons head coach Quinn, who was defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks when they won the Super Bowl in 2014, believes his team's tackling technique can withstand New England's linear running game.
Speaking to the media, Quinn revealed how he's drawn inspiration from the mighty All Blacks throughout the Falcons' season:
I did read an interesting book last year about the New Zealand rugby team - the All Blacks- and the culture they've had, the winning they've had.
I've studied rugby from tackling, and it's been a driving influence on our leverage tackling - using our shoulder and keeping our head out.
And so my interest for rugby was already there, and then when I found out more about their culture and what they stood for - how they had long-term success for years and years. That book 'Legacy' was certainly one that left a big impression on me.
Someday, I will make that trip over there to see them compete and play - that's how strongly I felt about this just reading about them. I haven't had any interaction with them now, but it was definitely a book that captured me.
While it seems to be the first time Quinn has spoken openly about his admiration for the Kiwis' national rugby team, his history with the All Blacks goes back to his role as defensive boss at the Seahawks.
In 2014, head coach Pete Carroll and his soon-to-be Super Bowl-winning Seattle team advocated for the integration of rugby's 'arm-wrap' tackling technique to the NFL, in attempt to increase their players' safety in light of the league's ongoing concussion problem.
Carroll, and more pertinently his defensive lieutenant Dan Quinn, were reported to have studied the All Blacks in great detail - specifically their defensive strategies and 'angular velocity', i.e. arcing your approach into a side-on tackle, as opposed to the 'linear velocity' - the head-on collision more typical of onrushing NFL defences.
Months later, the indestructible Seattle defence wreaked havoc as the 'Hawks defeated the Broncos 43–8 at Super Bowl XLVIII - the largest margin of victory for an underdog in Super Bowl history.
It's believed Carroll and Quinn were initially inspired by the University of New Hampshire's tackling sessions earlier that year, which attracted coverage across America due to their taking place without helmets - a concept alien to NFL fans who were understandably relatively oblivious to rugby.
Indeed, a video exists of Carroll giving tackling lessons involving various rugby techniques, which in 2014 were utterly novel to American football. Through rugby-tinted glasses, you could be forgiven for believing the video was something born of the 1940s were it not shot in colour.
Nonetheless, Quinn's admiration for the All Blacks offers an intriguing insight into the standing with which they're held by some of the world's top sporting coaches, regardless of rugby's popularity in a given country.
The Kiwis, it seems, remain the standard-bearers for various side's chasing a portion of their greatness.