The final quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl won’t go down as a highlight of Dan Quinn’s tenure as Seattle’s defensive coordinator. But everything else suggests the Falcons have made the right choice for their next head coach.
Quinn officially will be named the Falcons’ head coach Monday after agreeing to a five-year contract, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter. The agreement comes the day after the Seahawks lost to New England in the Super Bowl Sunday.
Quinn’s hiring had been apparent for the past three weeks. The Falcons passed on other candidates because they believed he was Quinn was the best choice to revive a franchise that has missed the playoffs and gone 10-22 in the last two seasons and ranked among the worst defenses in the league (27th and 32nd). Team officials were willing to wait for Quinn, even after Seattle defeated Green Bay for the NFC title, ensuring the the Falcons would have to wait at least two more weeks to hire him following the Super Bowl.
Owner Arthur Blank ultimately made the decision to hire Quinn. But others in the organization also had him atop their list. If the Falcons believed a few weeks ago they were not going to get Quinn, they likely would have opted for Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (later hired by the New York Jets), Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin or former Jets coach Rex Ryan (hired by Buffalo).
It’s believed New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was the fifth choice, even though he is close with general manager Thomas Dimitroff and assistant GM Scott Pioli.
Quinn is expected to have final say on the 53-man roster.
Seattle had the best defense in the NFL for the second straight season. He comes to a team that had the 32nd ranked defense, which says less about the coaching of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and former coach Mike Smith than it does the personnel on the roster and the flawed attempts to create a pass rush with no legitimate pass rushers.
Can Quinn have an immediate impact? He thinks so. When I asked him last week whether, all things being equal with personnel, a new head coach can significantly improve a team, he responded: “You see it around the league each year that guys can have an impact right away. There’s so much more that goes into it than just coaching. Connecting with players. Defense is where my background lies, but the head coach orchestrates a bit of everything. The head coach is really where we get the vibe thing.”
Here’s the good news for Quinn: Tom Brady and New England aren’t on the Falcons’ schedule next season.
Brady was intercepted twice but threw four touchdown passes in the Patriots come-from-behind 28-24 win over Seattle Sunday. He completed 13 of 15 passes in the fourth quarter, two of those for scores. In Quinn’s defense: 1) Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time; 2) The Seahawks’ defense started three injured players in the secondary and lost two key players during the game, nickel cornerback Jeremy Lane (broken forearm) and defensive end Cliff Avril (concussion).
Tharold Simon, Lane’s replacement, was burned often in coverage, and Seattle struggled to get a pass rush late on Brady, at least in part from losing Avril.
Quinn’s philosophy is to use only a handful of defensive plays. That’s easier to do when a team is talented. Nolan felt he had to resort to smoke-and-mirrors. But Quinn said the other day that the simplicity of Seattle’s scheme, “allows you to be kind of be freed up, mentally. It allows you to even play faster. There’s not another check. There’s not another alert. We think you’re able to play even faster when you don’t do as many schemes. For us, one of things we say is it’s not what we play or what we call, it’s how we play it.”
New coaches come with no guarantees, and Quinn never has been a head coach before. But he was universally liked and respected by his players and there’s no reason to believe he can’t make the jump.
Here’s a few comments from some Seahawks’ defenders in the days leading up to the game. I’ll have more about Quinn Tuesday, when the Falcons hold an introductory news conference.
— Safety Kam Chancellor on Quinn’s role in the defense’s consistency (Sunday notwithstanding): “If your d-coordinator is being consistent with who he is and what he brings to the defense, then the guys that are under him, that follow him, are going to be consistent. We get nothing but realness from D.Q. We get himself, we get his heart. When we hear it, we feel it. You have no choice but to be consistent if you’re following a leader like that.”
— Linebacker K.J. Wright on whether Quinn’s ready to be a head coach: “No doubt. I thought he was going to leave last year with how good he was. Being able to put two No. 1 defenses together, that’s special. Most teams need a defensive-minded coach because defense is what wins you football games and what wins championships. He can bring a nice presence to teach defense, teach fundamentals. Just put a good defensive coordinator around him and offensive coordinator around him and you’re going to win football games.”
— Cornerback Richard Sherman: “He’s a great coach. He’s a great man. I think he’s going to be a fantastic head coach because he relates to his players extremely well. He’s a guy that’s not close-minded in his approach. He’s very approachable. He’s a great leader of men. I think all those qualities will allow him to be a great head coach. Obviously, personnel dictates certain things. But I think whatever team he goes to he’ll have fine personnel and they’ll do a great job.”
•A writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
— MyAJC: Tom Brady takes the air out of critics in Super Bowl — AJC: Short takes: Brady rallies Pats but Seahawks bungled ending — AJC: LIVE: Finally after ‘DeflateGate’ and chatter, a Super Bowl — AJC: Another possible embarrassment for Falcons: Fake crowd noise — MyAJC: There’s no confusion about pecking order on Super Bowl teams — AJC: Dan Quinn could have final day on 53-man roster — MyAJC: Blank speaks but remains vague on Falcons’ restructuring — MyAJC: Tiger Woods’ problems aren’t just physical anymore — AJC: Is it Tiger time … or is Tiger Woods’ time over? — MyAJC: LeGarrette Blount walked out on team — and straight to Super Bowl — AJC: Georgia’s Lockette playing for third straight Super Bowl team — MyAJC: Dan Quinn says he’s ready for next challenge (with Falcons) — AJC: Lynch goes into interview Beast Mode again (surprise!) — MyAJC: Great or not, Patriots’ legacy is forever tarnished — AJC: Seattle players say Quinn will be ‘great head coach’ for Falcons — AJC: Brady says ‘feelings got hurt’ by accusations (really?) — MyAJC: Hawks are closest team to rare Atlanta sports title — AJC: Matt Ryan doesn’t believe deflating footballs is the norm — MyAJC: Al Horford finally past injuries and frustration with Hawks — AJC: Stall, lie, cheat — it’s the Patriots’ way, and perfectly timed — AJC: DeflateGate: It’s time for NFL to forfeit games for cheaters — MyAJC: Walsh-Montana still top Belichick-Brady on coach-QB mountain — AJC: Seattle’s Super Bowl only delays Falcons’ hiring of Dan Quinn — AJC: Oddsmaker says Braves’ win total will be ‘low 70s’ (with reader poll) — MyAJC: Braves’ moves carry Coppolella’s fingerprints