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Broncos head coach candidate: Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator

The Denver Broncos will be setting up interviews this week. We don’t have a list yet, but we’re running through as many candidates as possible.

Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Dan Quinn first got his coaching start at William & Mary (surprising how many coaches have started off at W&M over the years) as their defensive line coach in 1994. Like Brian Daboll, Quinn was hired by long-time coach Jimmye Laycock. From there, Quinn took the same job at Virginia Military Institute in 1995 and worked with Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin, who was VMI’s Wide Receivers coach that year.

Quinn then left to coach at Hofstra, taking their defensive line coach position in 1996 under long-time coach Joe Gardi. Gardi had spent a decade in the NFL with the Jets before leaving to coach Hofstra from 1990 till 2005. It was there at Hofstra that Quinn learned how to operate like an NFL coach and his time there defined his approach to coaching. After spending a few seasons as their Defensive Line coach, Quinn was promoted to Defensive Coordinator in 2000. There, Quinn coached two particularly notable players that unknowingly would help catapult him into the league: 49ers cornerback Lance Schulters and the 49ers’ third-round pick in 2000, quarterback Giovanni Carmazzi.

Steve Mariucci, the then-Head Coach of the San Francisco 49ers, hired Quinn after hearing about him from his players. Quinn came to San Fran as a Defensive Quality Control coach. In San Fran, Quinn was responsible for scouting both opponents and the team as well as assisting with the defensive line.

Mariucci was fired in 2002, but Quinn was retained and promoted to Defensive Line coach with the 49ers under new Head Coach Dennis Erickson and Defensive Coordinator Jim Mora. The 49ers failed to do much under Erickson, and the staff was let go.

Quinn rebounded quickly, landing on Nick Saban’s staff with the Miami Dolphins. Quinn was once again the Defensive Line coach there for the 2005 and 2006 seasons. In 2005, Quinn helped the Dolphins rank first in the AFC and second in the NFL with 49 sacks. The 2006 Dolphins totaled 47 sacks, third in the NFL. Working with Jason Taylor, Quinn helped Miami finish with the 11th and 3rd-ranked defenses against run per DVOA. It was in Miami that Dan Quinn crossed paths with now-Broncos General Manager George Paton.

Quinn was hired by the divisional rival New York Jets for the same role in Eric Mangini’s second season in 2007. Also notably on this staff was Bills’ Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll, who coached Quarterbacks. He worked for Mangini for two years until the staff was let go. The Jets improved from 31st in 2007 to 7th in Rushing Defense DVOA in 2008 under Quinn.

Quinn reunited with Jim Mora with the Seattle Seahawks in 2009. Mora named Quinn his Defensive Line coach and also promoted him to Assistant Head Coach. Quinn worked under Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley at this time. However, Mora was fired and new Seahawks’ Head Coach Pete Carroll kept Quinn on staff as his Defensive Line coach. After a year at Seattle, Dan Quinn left to go be the Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line coach at Florida under Will Muschamp. There, Dan Quinn coached defensive linemen such as Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd, Lerentee McCray, Jonathan Bullard, and Dante Fowler. After an 11-2 finish in 2012, Pete Carroll offered to make Dan Quinn his Defensive Coordinator in Seattle, and history was made.

In Seattle, Dan Quinn helped orchestrate the Legion of Boom. A Cover-3 heavy defense, Dan Quinn helped maximize elite defensive talents in Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, KJ Wright, and Bobby Wagner. In 2013, the Legion of Boom under Dan Quinn allowed the fewest points and yards in the league while leading the NFL in takeaways. The 2012-2015 ‘Legion of Boom’ defense is the only team to ever top the DVOA Defensive rankings for four years in a row. Seattle went to two Super Bowls with Quinn, beating the Peyton Manning-led Broncos in Super Bowl XLVII but falling short of beating the Patriots the following year in Super Bowl XLIX.

Due to this immense success, the Atlanta Falcons hired Dan Quinn to be their Head Coach in 2015 following that Super Bowl loss. It was actually Quinn’s success in Seattle that led to Kyle Shanahan seeking him out. Kyle Shanahan’s offense in Washington lost to Dan Quinn’s Seahawks in the playoffs in 2012. After guiding Washington to the sixth-ranked offense in DVOA led by Robert Griffin III, Shanahan found himself stifled by Quinn’s Seahawks in the Wild Card round. Washington posted just 203 yards of offense and was held under 100 yards passing. Quinn’s defense stuck with Shanahan, who found it “vexing”, and he reached out to Dan Quinn to be his Offensive Coordinator in Atlanta-to more or less study Quinn’s defense.

What a successful hiring that turned out to be. After an 8-8 2015 that saw Atlanta finish 22nd in DVOA, Atlanta exploded onto the scene in 2016. On their way to a Super Bowl, Shanahan’s offense was the #1 offense in the nation and propelled them all the way to a Super Bowl. Unfortunately, that Super Bowl ended in tragedy for the Falcons, as they infamously blew a 28-3 lead.

Kyle Shanahan left to go coach the San Francisco 49ers following that year. Quinn hired Steve Sarkisian to be his replacement. In 2017, the two worked together to get Atlanta to 10 wins and a playoff berth, but the Falcons lost to the eventual Super Bowl-winning Eagles in the divisional round. In the following year, the Falcons went 7-9. Following that season, the Falcons fired Sarkisian despite the defense finishing 25th in scoring and 30th in Defensive DVOA. Dan Quinn hired former Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter to be his new Offensive Coordinator, and the offense fell off from there. Ultimately after another 7-9 season in 2019 and an 0-5 start in 2020, Dan Quinn was fired from the Atlanta Falcons.

From 2015 to 2020, Dan Quinn’s Falcons blew 14 4th quarter leads. The Atlanta Falcons became the butt of many jokes, as his teams blew lead after lead under his tenure. The team committed numerous gaffing penalties and had some bizarre decisions on their way to collapse. Atlanta’s defense never finished top-10 in DVOA under Quinn. His final record was 43-42 with the Falcons.

Dan Quinn revitalized his career as the Defensive Coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys this season. Finishing with the 2nd-ranked defense by DVOA, Quinn retooled the Cowboys’ defense and helped them rebound from a bottom-10 finish in 2020. Quinn helped coach Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs into stellar seasons this year as well.

Dan Quinn has emerged as a strong candidate for the Broncos’ Head Coaching job. Personally, I would be very wary. Quinn’s reputation and resume sound awfully similar to Vic Fangio’s. He’s been a successful defensive coordinator and a brilliant mind everywhere he goes, but his game management skills have been poor and it cost his team. Unlike Fangio however, Dan Quinn had Matt Ryan as his quarterback. It should also be noted that the Broncos had arguably their best offensive performance of the season against Dan Quinn’s defense, despite being lackluster at best all season long.

Potential Offensive Coordinator hires: Mike McDaniel, San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator; Eric Yarber, Los Angeles Rams Wide Receivers coach

Potential Defensive Coordinator hires: Aden Durde, Dallas Cowboys Defensive Line coach; George Edwards, Dallas Cowboys Senior Defensive Assistant; Joe Whitt Jr, Dallas Cowboys Secondary coach/Passing Game Coordinator


Do you want the Broncos to hire Dan Quinn to be their next Head Coach?

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