Because of the enormity of the first Seattle Seahawks loss this week, the significance of the second has been overlooked.
Dan Quinn’s departure, to take over as coach of the Atlanta Falcons, had become a foregone conclusion, pending only the completion of the Super Bowl.
Quinn’s credentials as a defensive coordinator are the gold standard, helping shape the Seahawks into one of the top units in NFL history.
So it’s obviously a move that will affect two franchises. And it spurs a number of questions.
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Will his talents translate to a Falcons defense that was last in the NFL? Will the owner be patient enough, and give Quinn a loose enough rein to allow him the control he’ll need?
And from the Seahawks’ perspective, will this first major staff defection be a hiccup or a significant diversion?
At any rate, it’s impressive that Quinn gets the chance because the NFL needs to do a better job allowing assistants on playoff teams to interview/accept head coaching jobs. As it stands, assistants on bad teams have an advantage getting top positions over assistants on playoff teams because teams with vacancies tend to get impatient.
Quinn seemed worth the wait, as the Seahawks led the NFL in total defense and scoring defense the past two seasons.
Yes, he oversaw the traditional Pete Carroll defense, filled with gifted young veterans. And they also lead the league under Gus Bradley before Quinn took over when Bradley got the head coaching position at Jacksonville.
It could lead some to question Quinn’s influence. But don’t discount it. Richard Sherman provided a detailed and glowing scouting report on Quinn in an interview during Super Bowl week.
“He’s a great coach; he’s a great man,” Sherman said. “I think he’s going to be a fantastic head coach because he relates to his players extremely well.”
Sherman said there are limits to what a coach can do if there’s a shortage of talent. But sometimes that’s a case where the quality of the coach is even more important.
“He’s a guy that’s not close-minded in his approach,” Sherman said. “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.”
Quinn earned the trust of these guys right off because of his coaching chops. The impact of assistants, even coordinators, is often hard to detect.
Quinn’s scouting and preparation were obvious in a game at Houston two seasons ago, when he manipulated the defense in a way that led Texans quarterback Matt Schaub to throw a bail-out pass right into the hands of Sherman, who returned it for a 58-yard touchdown.
It displayed an impressive attention to detail. But surely the Falcons want more from Quinn than rebuilding their defense; they’re hoping he brings some of the Pete Carroll approach to team management and player relations that turned the Seahawks into a powerhouse the past three seasons.
They have to be hoping he’ll recreate a Pete Carroll atmosphere. Quinn certainly has seemed adept at dealing with players and media.
But this is a different situation. In Atlanta, owner Arthur Blank is far more hands-on than Paul Allen. During postgame press conferences, Blank sits in the front row, and has a fairly high media profile.
The situation is much better for Quinn, however, than it was for Bradley at Jacksonville.
It’s rare that a first-time head coach goes to a team with a Pro Bowl quarterback in his prime and a stable of wide receivers that includes Julio Jones and Roddy White.
But the defense is awful, and the offensive line and rushing game are in disrepair.
However, it only took a 7-8-1 record for the Carolina Panthers to win the NFC South last season, so the playoffs are not unreachable.
To sustain the continuity and momentum of the defense, staying in-house for a replacement seems smart for the Seahawks, who have several candidates on staff. Even if they’ve never held a coordinator position, they understand the schemes and personnel.
And they grasp the importance of the Seahawks culture.
That’s really what the Falcons are looking for from Quinn.
Somebody down there already has come up with a name for the success they hope the new head coach brings.
They’re calling it “Quinning.”