NFL Head Coaching Search: How Dan Quinn missed out on Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears HC jobs

Dan Quinn was a top name when the NFL head coaching search began, but he'll return as the Cowboys' DC following the Broncos and Bears hires.

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was perhaps the hottest name when the NFL head coaching search cycle began. But after Quinn missed out on both the Denver Broncos’ and Chicago Bears’ openings — which went to Nathaniel Hackett and Matt Eberflus, respectively — Quinn’s camp leaked word that he will return to Dallas for a second season.

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Dan Quinn won’t be an NFL head coach in 2022

How could that have happened? For weeks, many believed Quinn was the favorite in Denver due to his long, close relationship with Broncos general manager George Paton. And once that job went to Hackett Thursday morning, Quinn believed he was getting the Bears job, league sources told PFN Insider Aaron Wilson.

Neither happened. We sense that Quinn knew that since the Bears and Broncos were no longer an option, he would not get a head coaching job this cycle. With no offer in hand, he decided to return to the Cowboys. Dallas is poised to have all three of their top coaches — Mike McCarthy, Quinn, and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore — back in 2022. After their playoff loss to the 49ers, there appeared a chance all three could be gone.

So what happened in Denver? Quinn’s friendship with Paton wasn’t enough for the Broncos to hire a third straight defensive mind as their head coach. Hackett is an intentional, drastic change in the opposite direction after five years of Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio.

The Broncos finished in the bottom 10 in scoring in each of the last five years. But Hackett convinced Paton that things would be different under his stewardship.

Insight into the Chicago Bears’ surprise decision to hire Matt Eberflus

Once Paton and Broncos ownership made that call, Quinn’s focus shifted to Chicago. He was one of at least 10 options to replace Matt Nagy. But those hopes were ultimately undermined by the Bears’ decision to hire Ryan Poles as general manager. Poles and Eberflus are both represented by Athletes First agent Trace Armstrong, who is one of the most influential under-the-radar powerbrokers in all of football.

Armstrong not only convinced the McCaskey family to take a chance on Poles, but he also persuaded them to make Eberflus part of the package deal.

That power play meant that Quinn — who led the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl just five years ago — was somehow the one left standing when the music stopped. He will remain a coordinator even after a cycle in which nine teams needed a head coach.

Quinn is held in high regard by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. And while McCarthy is in place, another disappointing season could convince Jones to replace McCarthy and look in-house for his replacement.

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