3. Dan Quinn, DC, Dallas Cowboys
I’m here to make friends today, I guess.
The Denver Broncos are allegedly going to take a “big swing” on this next head coaching hire, and among the names mentioned in the “big swing” category recently were Jim Harbaugh, Sean Payton, and Dan Quinn.
Quinn might be the top candidate available, depending on who you ask in Broncos Country these days. For whatever reasons, people seem to think that the veteran defensive coordinator and former Atlanta Falcons head coach will come in and John Fox this bad boy into four straight division titles.
I see the parallels between Dan Quinn and John Fox (which nobody has specifically pointed out, that’s something I’m doing on my own) and there’s both good and bad to that. What John Fox inherited was a very young team at the time that needed his (and his staff’s) veteran presence. That translated to a 4-12 team becoming stabilized and winning enough games to win the AFC West in 2011 with Tim Tebow as the primary starting QB.
Then came Peyton Manning, the division titles, the Super Bowl appearance, and the fallout of 2014 where it became apparent that Fox simply wasn’t the right coach to put the Broncos over the top. The team then fortuitously turned to Gary Kubiak in 2015.
Why do I say all that? I say all that because those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Dan Quinn is a fine coach and a fine defensive coordinator. Unfortunately, his track record as a head coach is very concerning.
He helped get the Falcons to the Super Bowl after coordinating a dominant defense in Seattle. This fact cannot be ignored. But it can be slightly diminished. Quinn was able to hire Kyle Shanahan to his staff in Atlanta, and Shanahan was arguably the primary catalyst for that team’s success, along with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones at their peak.
In the years after Shanahan took the job with the 49ers, Quinn’s Falcons quickly became irrelevant. They boasted a top 10 defense in 2017, which fell to 25th in 2018, 23rd in 2019, and 31st in 2020. Some of that has to do with personnel, of course, but Quinn was involved in that side as well.
His teams started extremely poorly from 2018-2020, including a 1-7 start in 2019 that was salvaged by Quinn passing off defensive coordinator duties to Raheem Morris (currently with ATL) before the team finished 6-2, earning DQ another season. Only he would be fired after an 0-5 start in 2020. He ended his time in Atlanta with an overall record of 43-42 and by the end of it all, his teams were known for blowing fourth quarter leads.
The result was the same (a loss) but there were some notable and significant differences for the Denver Broncos in their first game post-Nathaniel Hackett.
I’m not trying to say Quinn is a bad coach, but if the Broncos are swinging for the fences, I think there are better options out there.