The New York Jets have wiped the slate clean. Woody Johnson’s purge has left a vacuum in Florham Park. After six years, the echoes of Rex Ryan’s bombast have quickly faded away. A fresh, new voice is expected to lead Gang Green into battle come 2015. However, this presumed paragon of change may not be so unfamiliar. Enter arguably their top head coaching candidate: Dan Quinn.
Dan Quinn has been a popular fella since the end of the 2014 regular season. Four NFL teams have fired their head coaches. Three of those four – the 49ers, the Falcons, and the New York Jets – have requested to interview Seattle Seahawks DC Dan Quinn.
Of his current suitors, the New York Jets may prove to be the most familiar situation for the highly touted Quinn. The 44 year old defensive coordinator is a Morristown native, a mere five miles (or 13 min drive) from the Jets’ facilities.
Quinn even spent time with the Jets under Eric Mangini. He was the Jets defensive line coach during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
The connections don’t end there. Quinn’s agent is former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum. If talks progress, Tennenbaum will likely sit across the table from one of his successors.
These familiar ties are nice but there are tangible, football related reasons for the Jets pursuit of Quinn too. He has a diverse coaching history working with some extremely talented defenses and in developing personnel:
Quinn started his NFL coaching career as a defensive quality control assistant with the 49ers in 2000. He became the Niners’ defensive line coach in 2002, a position he also held with the Miami Dolphins, the Jets and the Seahawks under Jim Mora from 2009 to 2010. Quinn was Florida’s defensive coordinator for two seasons before returning to the pros with Seattle.
At every stop Quinn has helped his players reach their full potential. He has coached many familiar names, including: Andre Carter, Jason Taylor, Mike Devito, Shaun Ellis, Sione Pouha, Kris Jenkins, Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Cory Redding, and Chris Clemons. In the college ranks he helped develop current up and coming pros like Dominique Easley (DL), Sharrif Floyd (DL), and Matt Elam (S).
I would be remiss, however, to ignore his lack of success with infamous (Jets) draft busts Dwayne Robertson and Vernon Gholston. That being said, he only had one year with each.
When he returned to Seattle to take over for Gus Bradley, Quinn walked into a defensive coordinators paradise. Untapped studs in Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, KJ Wright, and Bobby Wagner were waiting in the wings. While they were all clearly talented, Quinn brought out the best in this unit and molded them into something great. How great? Historically so.
After a dominating season Bleacher Report and Football Perspective took in depth looks at just what made the Seahawks defense tick. Sports Illustrated did the same after Seattle bludgeoned Denver in the Super Bowl.
I highly recommend each of those reads but (SPOILER ALERT) none of them mention Quinn…and they don’t have to. They list the players who were the faces of such greatness – as do tales of the ’86 Bears and 2000 Ravens. Yet, they had Buddy Ryan and Marvin Lewis to bring it all together.
All of that being said, success as a coordinator doesn’t necisarily coorespond to success as a head coach. There are certain intangibles – leadership, management, delegation, organization, motivation (to name a few) – that most great head coaches have. According to those closest to him, Quinn fits the mold:
“Dan is a fantastic person to deal with,” Carroll said. “He’s a great communicator. He’s a gifted ball coach. He gets it. He has great sense for the game and all of that. I love working with him. Communicating with Dan is flawless. We realized that in the first year when he and Gus were here doing stuff.”
“I just came to know him quickly and he’s an easy guy to be around. He’s done so many things right here – handling the transition to the coordinator’s job; handling a bunch of guys that have a pretty good opinion of themselves about what they’re capable of doing; and molding a bunch of young guys into a great unit in every phase. And he works beautifully with the staff, too.”
Added Wagner, “I like his energy. I like his passion. I like the freedom that he gives his players and the trust he gives us. You hear about guys being a players’ coach, but with coach Quinn he really is a guy you can talk to, relate to and he understands you. He does a good job of that.”
Sounds a little familiar doesn’t it? For better or worse.
This Friday, the Jets start the new year off right. Woody Johnson and hired-hands Ron Wolf and Charley Casserly travel to the Pacific Northwest to interview Dan Quinn.
With the Seahawks on a playoff bye, the Jets have until Sunday to interview Quinn. If they miss the deadline they would have to wait until the Seahawks playoff run comes to a close (per NFL rules), which (thanks in part to Quinn) will not likely be soon.
As an aside, just because the Jets were quick to meet with Quinn doesn’t mean they plan to hire a head coach before a general manager. They are just taking advantage of the opening. In fact, they are also scheduled to interview Seahawks director of pro personnel Trent Kirchner and assistant head coach Tom Cable while there.
This will be an arduous but thorough process. There will be more interviews to come, with coaches and managers you will love and those you will loathe. However, from what we know of Quinn and the Jets interest in him, this first interview may be the most influential.