Dan Quinn was one of the hottest names in the offseason coaching cycle heading into the 2022 NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator took the team from 23rd in defensive DVOA to second in just one offseason.
Quinn obviously isn’t the only reason for Dallas’ defensive evolution. However, the circumstances surrounding their evolution and his own personal schematic growth have given the coach a second lease on possible head coaching life, should he decide to take it.
Dan Quinn’s Defensive Evolution
We cannot and will not understate the value of Micah Parsons. But we also shan’t forget that Parsons is effectively playing a different position than he did in college. Quinn and the Cowboys’ scouting department saw the potential value he had as a pass rusher, and they drafted arguably the best defender in the NFL.
But coaching is about putting players in the best position to succeed, and Quinn has done that since arriving in Dallas. While he continues to lean on his middle-of-field-closed principles, he’s become far more multiple since arriving in Dallas.
In his final full season calling the Falcons’ defense, Atlanta faced 583 total targets. Quinn ran either Cover 1/3 on 407 of them (69.8%). In 2021, Dallas ran Cover 1/3 on 343 of 606 targets (56.6%). Coach Chris Vasseur sat down with yours truly to break down all the different looks Quinn was giving offenses on passing downs early in the season.
Dallas ranked second in the NFL in defensive DVOA and third in EPA in Quinn’s first season as their defensive coordinator. Through Week 13, Quinn’s defense ranks first in EPA and DVOA.
Potential Salary Cost Could Keep Quinn in Dallas
After Quinn pulled his name from the 2022 coaching cycle, Jerry Jones told the Dallas Morning News that Quinn received a multi-year extension to remain the team’s defensive coordinator. That extension almost certainly came with a substantial pay raise, considering the respect and admiration Quinn has in the locker room.
He’s almost certainly making an NFL head-coaching salary already. Why would Quinn leave an outstanding situation for similar pay and all of the responsibility?
While the Cowboys’ defensive production probably won’t remain toward the top of the league forever, Quinn has been around the block. He can be incredibly picky about what situation he’d consider as a head coach.
The money it would take for Quinn to consider a head job would probably take some franchises out of contention before talks ever get going.
Dan Quinn’s Coaching History
Quinn comes from humble beginnings as a coach in the college ranks. He started as the defensive line coach at William & Mary for a season in 1994 before heading to VMI to do the same a year later. In 1996, he became the defensive line coach for the now-defunct Hofstra football team. In 2000, he finally became a defensive coordinator.
Quinn has spent the next decade in professional football. He began as a defensive quality control coach for the 49ers in 2001 and 2002. For the two subsequent seasons, he coached San Francisco’s defensive linemen. After two multi-year stints coaching the DL for the Dolphins and Jets, he became the assistant head coach and defensive line coach for the Seattle Seahawks.
Quinn once again received an opportunity to call plays on defense for the Florida Gators in 2009 and 2010 before becoming the Legion of Boom’s defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014.
He then led the Atlanta Falcons to Super Bowl 51 as their head coach. But we won’t talk about the result!
Teams Expressing Interested in Quinn
As of Jan 20, two teams have expressed interest in Quinn becoming their head coach. The Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos have both requested interviews with the former Falcons head coach and current Cowboys defensive coordinator.
Both franchises are casting a wide net, but Quinn was expected to have a few teams interested in hearing what he has to offer. The Colts and Broncos are both coming from offensive-minded head coaches, but neither has committed to an opposing strategy for their next hire.
The Broncos make sense because Russell Wilson and Dan Quinn spent time together in Seattle, but Quinn would need to bring an All-star offensive staff to help cure the Broncos’ offensive woes. Meanwhile, Indianapolis is a wild card in all this. There’s no telling what direction Jim Irsay will eventually go.