The Washington Commanders are hiring Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as their next head coach, per Ian Rapoport. Quinn had ties to the Seattle Seahawks and their head coach opening, but they instead opted for Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. Seattle had the chance to bring in a familiar face with plenty of experience but pivoted for an up-and-coming defensive coach. Did Washington make the right move going after an older defensive-minded coach to take over for Ron Rivera?
Who is Dan Quinn
Outside of a two-year stint as the defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators from 2011 to 2012, Quinn has been in NFL coaching circles since 2001. He initially came up with the San Francisco 49ers as their defensive quality control coach. After serving in that capacity for two years he was promoted to their defensive line coach. In 2005, Quinn was brought on as the defensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2005 and then held that same position with the New York Jets from 2007-2008.
Quinn then landed in Seattle as the assistant head coach from 2009-2010 and then returned after his brief stint at Florida as the defensive coordinator in 2013. After two years, he was hired as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons and was in that position from 2015 until he was fired in 2020. Quinn has been serving as the defensive coordinator for Dallas for the past three seasons and has been a big part of why they are considered one of the best defensive units in the league.
What the hire means for 2024
Washington is under new ownership and is heading into its first full season after the move from Dan Snyder. Quinn is the type of coach who you know what you are getting from him, and he is more likely to have that win-now mentality. He was expected to be a top coaching candidate until the first-round playoff exit that saw the No. 7-seeded Green Bay Packers put up 48 points on Quinn’s defense. Still, instead of landing back in the same role with Dallas, Quinn will now turn his attention to coaching against them twice next season.
Washington certainly needs a boost to its defense heading into 2024. They allowed the most points per game, most yards per game, most passing yards per game and sixth-most rushing yards per game in the league. Granted, the Commanders did trade away their two best defensive linemen, Montez Sweat and Chase Young, so the defensive dip was expected to happen.
Should they have gone with another defensive coach?
The transition from the defensive-minded Rivera to the defense-minded Quinn sort of feels like that Spiderman meme where the two Spidermen are pointing at each other. While the defense struggled mightily, it wasn’t like the offense was firing on all cylinders. Washington’s offensive unit scored 19.4 points per game, which was the eighth-fewest in the league. The Commanders had the ninth-fewest yards per game and the sixth-fewest rushing yards per game but the 18th-most passing yards per game.
Washington owns the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. The consensus of mock drafts has them taking a quarterback and it likely is Drake Maye out of the University of North Carolina. All eyes will be on if the defensive-minded Quinn can develop a rookie quarterback or at least capitalize on playmakers Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Brian Robinson Jr. in the offense. His offensive coordinator hire will be highly scrutinized. In Atlanta, Quinn had Kyle Shanahan help put together a Super Bowl caliber offense. He will likely need another top end OC to help him boost this group.
The Commanders finished the 2023 season 4-13 and in last place in the NFC East. Dallas finished 12-5 and took home the Division title. I think Quinn is a fine hire if they were wanting to go with someone on the defensive side of the ball. Still, it feels like Washington should have gone with someone with a more offensive background. Maybe they had Ben Johnson of the Detroit Lions and Bobby Slowik of the Houston Texans as their top candidates, and both declined by signing extensions with their current teams. Quinn should help get their defense back on track, but I don’t think this hire automatically makes Washington a contender in the division, and they will still be chasing Dallas and the Philadelphia Eagles.