Dan Quinn Leaves Cowboys Behind and Joins Division Rival To Become Head Coach

The Commanders have hired former Cowboys DC Dan Quinn as their new head coach, keeping Quinn in the NFC East after a three-year stint in Dallas.

The Washington Commanders have a new head coach. On Wednesday, Washington agreed to hire former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as its next HC, culminating their coaching search by adding one of the most experienced candidates in the 2024 NFL hiring cycle.

Quinn, 53, served as the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach from 2015-2020, leading the club to a Super Bowl appearance after the 2016 campaign. He will replace former Washington head coach Ron Rivera, who was fired in January after four seasons with the Commanders.

Why Dan Quinn Is the New Commanders Head Coach

New Commanders owner Josh Harris has completed Washington’s decision-making structure by bringing in former San Francisco 49ers executive Adam Peters as Washington’s general manager before hiring Quinn as head coach.

Peters had long been viewed as one of the NFL’s top GM candidates and repeatedly turned down interview requests during previous offseasons. Quinn was in a similar position among potential head coaches, having rejected opportunities during the 2022 and 2023 offseasons to stay in Dallas.

Quinn garnered interest from the Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, and Tennessee Titans this year but was still available for the Commanders, who became the last of eight NFL clubs to hire a new head coach this cycle.

The Cowboys’ defense ranked No. 1 in cumulative EPA per play (-0.087) during Quinn’s stint in charge, finishing top five in DVOA in each of his three seasons in Dallas. He helped develop 2021 first-round pick Micah Parsons into one of the league’s most feared pass rushers, but Quinn’s work with the Cowboys’ less-heralded players might’ve gotten him more notice.

When star CB Trevon Diggs went down with a torn ACL midway through the 2023 campaign, Quinn immediately had slot defender DaRon Bland ready to play outside.

He got safety Malik Hooker’s career back on track after the former first-round pick’s injury-riddled tenure with the Indianapolis Colts. And reserves like DE Dorance Armstrong, LB Markquese Bell, and S Donovan Wilson consistently thrived under Quinn’s tutelage.

MORE: 2024 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

With Peters and Quinn in place, the Commanders hope to complete an about-face over the next several seasons. Washington was one of the NFL’s true laughingstocks during former owner Daniel Snyder’s reign, but Harris and his new managers could give the Commanders a chance to re-insert themselves in the postseason mix as early as next season.

Washington owns the No. 2 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, allowing the club to select either USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye as its potential franchise quarterback.

Wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson offer an intriguing starting point, while the Commanders can use their league-leading $74 million in cap space to bolster their offensive line and defense.

Few NFL teams need as much work on defense as Washington, and Quinn will have his work cut out. The Commanders allowed 518 points in 2023, 55 more than the next-worst Arizona Cardinals.

Washington traded pass rushers Montez Sweat and Chase Young at the deadline, while CB Kendall Fuller and S Kamren Curl are pending free agents.

Quinn can build around outstanding defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, but the Commanders’ defense needs stars, depth, and everything in between.

Grading Washington’s Dan Quinn Hire

Nearly every report suggested that Detroit Lions OC Ben Johnson was the Commanders’ No. 1 head coaching candidate this offseason. But Johnson withdrew from consideration in late January, forcing Washington to look elsewhere.

Quinn becomes the third second-chance head coach hired during this cycle, joining new Atlanta Falcons HC Raheem Morris and Jim Harbaugh, who returned to the NFL this offseason to coach the Chargers.

Retread HCs often get a bad rap in the NFL, but there are reasons to believe Quinn could be even more successful during his second time around.

MORE: Washington Commanders 2024 NFL Mock Draft

Quinn isn’t a static thinker. Pigeonholed as a Cover 3-only play-caller after his run with Seattle and Atlanta, Quinn morphed his defense upon joining the Cowboys. While Cover 3 was still his primary coverage in 2023, Quinn deployed Cover 1 (man coverage) on 31.3% of Dallas’ plays, the third-highest rate in the league.

Intellectual curiosity should be a requirement for any NFL head coach, and Quinn is willing to learn. Aside from changing his stripes as a play designer, Quinn has shown an affinity for analytics, often asking the Cowboys’ research team to investigate opponent tendencies.

Quinn will need to find a similarly creative offensive coordinator to run the other side of the ball and develop a rookie signal-caller. He hired Kyle Shanahan as his first Falcons OC in 2015 — if Quinn can get that lucky again, the Commanders could be a playoff team next season.

Grade: B

Who Else Did the Commanders Interview?

  • Eric Bieniemy, OC, Commanders
    • Interviewed week of 1/14
  • Aaron Glenn, DC, Lions
    • Interviewed on 1/20
  • Ben Johnson, OC, Lions
    • Interviewed on 1/19; second interview was scheduled for 1/30
  • Mike Macdonald, DC, Ravens
    • Interviewed
  • Raheem Morris, DC, Rams
    • Interviewed on 1/18; second interview was scheduled
  • Bobby Slowik, OC, Texans
    • Interviewed on 1/21; second interview on 1/23
  • Anthony Weaver, associate HC/DL, Ravens
    • Interviewed on 1/11; second interview on 1/29

As the 2023 NFL season comes to a close, the 2024 NFL Draft is on the horizon. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!

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