Dan Quinn: From Long Island and long shot to Atlanta’s lead man

Dan Quinn has worked his way up the coaching ranks, and now finds himself leading the Atlanta Falcons to a complete turnaround.

Jason Getz/Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

When Dan Quinn joined the Atlanta Falcons, fans knew they would be getting a hard-nosed, no-nonsense, brilliant defensive mind in the former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator. Months later and four weeks into the 2015 NFL regular season, it’s a safe bet that most wouldn’t have bet that Quinn would have led Atlanta to having the No. 3 scoring offense in the NFL at 34.3 points per game.

Quinn may be known as a defensive genius, but his ability to get the most of his players is what truly has helped the Falcons get off to this stellar 4-0 start, which has them tied for first place in the NFC South.

What you may not know about Quinn, though, is his incredible rise from being the defensive line coach at the likes of William & Mary, Virginia Military Institute and Hofstra, to taking over as the lead man in Atlanta.

After nine coaching jobs, Quinn is making the most of opportunity No. 10

Quinn played college football for Salisbury University (Salisbury State University at the time), playing on the defensive line from 1990 to 1993. Immediately after college, he found himself a coaching job with previously mentioned William & Mary as the defensive line coach. Between 1994 to 1996, he attempted to find a long-term home, which led him to Hofstra University.

Hofstra, located in Long Island, New York, would be the place where the ball really got rolling. From 1996 to 2000, he worked the ranks from d-line coach up to defensive coordinator in his final season. From there, Quinn made possibly one of the biggest coaching moves in recent memory, as a jumped from Hofstra, an FCS school who no longer even has a football team as of 2009, to the NFL, with the San Francisco 49ers.

After taking the role as defensive quality control coach in 2001 with the 49ers, it was a whirlwind of moving and shifting roles from 2001 to 2014. Quinn’s resume reads as follows:

1994: William & Mary (defensive line)

1995: Virginia Military Institute (defensive line)

1996-1999: Hofstra (defensive line)

2000: Hofstra (defensive coordinator/defensive line)

2001-2002: San Francisco 49ers (defensive quality control)

2003-2004: San Francisco 49ers (defensive line)

2005-2006: Miami Dolphins (defensive line)

2007-2008: New York Jets (defensive line)

2009-2010: Seattle Seahawks (assistant head coach/defensive line)

2011-2012: Florida Gators (defensive coordinator/defensive line)

2013-2014: Seattle Seahawks (defensive coordinator)

2015: Atlanta Falcons (head coach)

After being with Hofstra from 1996 to 2000, Quinn stayed in the same role for more than two seasons just one time moving forward in his coaching career. The closest to staying in one place for him was being with the Seahawks in 2009-10, leaving for a season to go to Florida, then returning to Seattle in 2013 as the defensive coordinator.

It’s been a long road for Quinn, and one that likely included plenty of loading up of U-Haul trucks. In the end, though, it all seems to have paid off.

Quinn’s crazy 2015 offseason

Right as it seemed as though Quinn had found a home with Seattle, he had also jumped onto the radar of many teams for their head coaching vacancies. There were seven teams in need of a head coach heading into the 2015 offseason, and while Quinn had drawn some type of interest from almost each team, few were willing to wait for him and the Seahawks to finish up their Super Bowl run.

Quinn was a wanted man, but few teams wanted to risk heading deeper into the offseason without having a head coach locked in.

The one team who was willing to wait was the Falcons, who had decided to fire head coach Mike Smith after six seasons. Atlanta was fresh off a season where they ranked No. 27 in the NFL in points allowed per game at 26.1 and No. 32 in total yards allowed with 6,372. To say that the Falcons needed a defensive-minded head coach would have been the biggest understatement of offseason.

Atlanta was led by an offense that featured Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and veteran Roddy White. Their passing game had all the weapons, while they also had a young, intriguing running back in Devonta Freeman at the time.

The offense wasn’t the same pressing need that defense was, not by a long shot. In all honesty, the Falcons may have had the most intriguing job opening in the NFL, but Atlanta sat back and watched as teams snatched up new head coaches.

Then, less than one full day after the Seahawks lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, the Falcons made the move and signed their man. Quinn put pen to paper on a five-year deal, showing that this was the plan for both him and the Falcons throughout the entire process.

The incredible turnaround in Atlanta

While we aren’t going to crown the Falcons as Super Bowl champs just yet, there’s plenty of praise that should be directed towards Quinn and what he’s done with this team. Atlanta has gone from one of the worst defense in the NFL, to recently outscoring the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans 67-0 during a stretch between the two games, according to ProFootballTalk.

Currently, the Falcons have allowed 23.3 points per game, ranking them No. 15 in the NFL. Their most recent performance, a Week 4 victory over the Texans, included a 42-0 start through three quarters, with three fumble recoveries, two defensive touchdowns and one interception.

It’s safe to say Atlanta’s defense may be heading towards glory days if things continue trending in this direction.

It was a long, crazy ride for Quinn, but there’s plenty of reason to believe that Quinn has found his first long-term home. If the 4-0 start to the 2015 season is any indication, Atlanta’s new head coach can unpack his U-Haul and put down roots for good.