Former Maryland football coach DJ Durkin, who was fired last fall in the aftermath of offensive tackle Jordan McNair’s death, will serve as a guest coach for the Atlanta Falcons at their training camp, the team announced.
The Falcons announced Sunday that Durkin will be in camp, which began Monday in Flowery Branch, Ga. Durkin worked with Falcons head coach Dan Quinn at Florida, where Durkin served as linebackers coach from 2010 and 2012 and Quinn was the defensive coordinator for two of those seasons.
Durkin’s presence last December at Alabama as the Crimson Tide were preparing for the College Football Playoffs was met with so much criticism that coach Nick Saban was forced to explain his decision was simply to help in Durkin’s “professional development.”
The 41-year-old Durkin, who coached at Maryland for two seasons, was placed on administrative leave by athletic director Damon Evans weeks after McNair’s death from heatstroke. After briefly being reinstated, Durkin was fired Oct. 31.
“I would hope people would understand and know me well enough that nothing’s more important than team,” Quinn told reporters Monday when asked about Durkin. “The fact that I know this coach firsthand, and I know what his character is, and then the due diligence that goes with that, I would certainly hope that anybody covering the team or the fan base would know that I always have the team’s best interests in mind and would never put anybody into a space that would be otherwise."
Durkin’s 10-day stint with Atlanta will end when the team departs for Canton to play in the Aug. 1 Hall of Fame game against the Denver Broncos. His guest coaching role was included in a team announcement about three other coaches joining the team during training camp as part of the Bill Walsh fellowship program.
“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.”
Since Maryland President Wallace D. Loh announced that Durkin’s firing was without cause, the university still owed him the remainder of his five-year contract, which according to a copy of the contract paid him more than $2.5 million annually.
Durkin could not be reached for comment Monday.