The next Falcons head coach should be … Dan Quinn
FOX Sports South writers Knox Bardeen and Jay Clemons have disparate opinions on which head-coaching candidate should be tapped — in the very-near future — to lead the Atlanta Falcons. To view Clemons’ take on Atlanta’s much-ballyhooed search for Mike Smith’s successor, click here.
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons just finished the second week of their search for a new head coach. Week 3 could be a very telling.
When the Falcons released Mike Smith from his contract, team owner Arthur Blank offered no timetable to find a replacement. He’s willing to move as slow as necessary to make the right choice, and the NFL playoffs provide another speed bump as many of the coaches on Atlanta’s wish list are still in action (NFL rules prohibit teams from outside the playoff picture to hire away coaches on teams that are still maneuvering for a Super Bowl).
This is the case for what should be the top option for the Falcons: Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Quinn has been the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks for the past two seasons, both of which his team put the NFL’s best defense on the field. Prior to that, Quinn was the defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators from 2011-12, and was with the Seahawks from 2009-10 as the defensive line coach.
It’s no secret that Quinn excels up front, along the line of scrimmage. He was a defensive lineman in the early 90s at Salisbury State, and the entirety of his 19 years in coaching has been on the defensive side of the football, most of which as a line coach. Where he excels is finding ways to get the most out of his players by featuring their skill sets.
On many occasions, Quinn has said one of the best lessons he’s learned from Seattle head coach Pete Carroll is how to feature players. Quinn’s mantra is to take the talented guys on a roster and let them do what they do best.
He’s also extremely creative when it comes to getting the most out of his players.
In 2010, Quinn was instrumental in moving then-defensive tackle Red Bryant to defensive end. The move helped Seattle defend the run, and gave some of Seattle’s speed rushers more space to make moves and get after the quarterback. Getting outside to the five technique also made Bryant a full-time starter, instead of a part-time interior lineman.
Quinn is a tactician along the defensive line. His ability to move players around like pieces on a chess board would benefit the Falcons tremendously with the players already on Atlanta’s roster. His knack for evaluating talent could also help the Falcons when it comes to free agency and the draft. Quinn knows what his defensive line needs, and knows what to look for.
One of the biggest areas within this Atlanta defense that as a whole needs a lot of work, is the defensive line, both in stopping the run and getting pressure on an opposing quarterback.
It’s easy to point a finger at Quinn’s results with Seattle and say something to the tune of that heralded unit was No. 1 in the NFL before he arrived. And that’s every bit the case. But when Quinn returned to Seattle in 2013, the defense improved from allowing 15.3 points per game the year prior, to 14.2 in his first season as coordinator.
Seattle also improved from 19th in the league in sacks with 36 to eighth with 44.
That’s the kind of improvement that needs to happen in Atlanta. Quinn’s shown he can get those results.
Quinn also gets a lot of credit in Seattle for putting the building blocks in place in 2010 for the Seahawks rise to power on the defensive side of the football. The team drafted Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in 2010, and Quinn was never shy about singing the praises of Chancellor’s upside (he was a fifth-round pick), even when the safety was just a special-teams player.
Being able to see talent and then get the most out of it makes Quinn a valuable commodity. It’s especially important to a team like Atlanta that hasn’t done well of late adding tools along the defensive line.
When you see a Quinn-created defense, nothing really pops out from a scheme standpoint. He isn’t known for elaborate looks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Quinn’s defense is fast and physical, but it isn’t overly complicated. You may only see two to three different variations in a game, which allows the defense to move faster and get aggressive when needed.
Seattle relies on basic defensive schemes and talented players to get the job done. Quinn puts the unit in great situations to succeed, and doesn’t depend on heavy blitz packages to get pressure on the quarterback.
His ability to evaluate talent, coach it up and then get the most out of his players on the field on game day, makes Quinn a perfect choice for the Falcons. But there’s a problem with hiring Quinn.
To hire Quinn, the Falcons will have to wait until the Seahawks are bounced from the playoffs. That might not happen, as Seattle looks good enough to make it to the Super Bowl. If Atlanta waits that long, it may have to pass on other options like Todd Bowles.
And if the Falcons do wait, they won’t be the only suitor. The New York Jets are very much in the hunt for Quinn’s services, and they’re prepared to press hard to hire him. Quinn was on staff with the Jets from 2007-08, and he grew up close by in Morristown, N.J.
If Atlanta waits to enter serious talks with Quinn, there’s a risk that he could choose the Jets. The Falcons would then have to fall back on another candidate. All the good coaches currently on the Falcons’ list might already be gone.
To get Quinn, that’s a chance the Falcons will have to take.