Since he was hired as the Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn has been the focus of the media in Atlanta. We've seen him in press conferences, we've read dozens of articles detailing his career, but I wanted to hear more about Quinn's background from the team he came from.
I reached out to our friends at Field Gulls, the official Seahawks at SB Nation, to find out what Quinn brought to last year's Super Bowl champions. Danny Kelly, Editor-in-Chief for Field Gulls, was kind enough to take the time to answer some of my questions. Here's what he had to say about Seattle's former defensive coordinator.
1) How did Quinn help shape the defense in Seattle? Can you explain the scheme he runs a bit/do you think he'll try to do the same things in Atlanta?
Danny Kelly: "Quinn was a holdover from Jim L. Mora's staff when Pete Carroll started in Seattle in 2010, and the fact that Carroll retained him for his staff says a lot to me about his talent as a coach. One of the hallmarks of Quinn's first year as DC in Seattle was that he moved DT Red Bryant from the inside, where he was foundering, out to defensive end on the strong side, and Bryant's presence on the outside there really galvanized the run defense, allowing Carroll to accomplish (relatively) his first goal on defense, which is stuffing the run and making an offense one-dimensional.
The "Quinn" defense is a 4-3 under front seven with a three-deep secondary and a movable chess piece in the strong safety. Typically, the strong safety comes down into the box and for the most part "stacks the box" with eight defenders. This is to achieve the first goal of stopping the run on base downs. His scheme can switch between that "under" front to an "over" front, and at times they've used 3-man fronts which we called "Bear" fronts. Quinn's shown that he's adaptable to the personnel they have, and has experience running both 3- and 4-man fronts both in Seattle and at Florida.
I'd characterize Quinn's defenses as aggressive and attacking. After stopping the run, the next goal is to affect the quarterback, whether that's from a solid pass rush, excellent coverage downfield, or both. He's more aggressive with blitzing than Gus Bradley was here in Seattle. He does more with personnel groups than Bradley did. Michael Bennett was a key cog in Quinn's scheme, moving from the outside on base downs to the inside on nickel downs. Turnovers are huge. Don't get beat deep. Swarm to the football. Maximum effort on every snap. Speed closing to the ball, fundamental tackling. I'm looking forward to what he's able to do with Atlanta's pieces on defense."
2) The Seahawks defense was loaded with talent during Quinn's tenure. What was his role in the dominance they showed? Was it more of just having great players, or was it really great coaching?
DK: "I have no idea, to be honest, because at the highest level, this is definitely Pete Carroll's defense. But, I would guess that a fairly major part of Seattle's success has been because of the excellent coaching by Carroll's staff. Many of Seattle's stars on defense started out as mid- to late-round picks. Quinn and Pete Carroll developed Richard Sherman (5th round), Kam Chancellor (5th round), Byron Maxwell (6th round) and Jeremy Lane (6th round) into an elite group (Earl Thomas was a 1st rounder, obviously). I personally liked Quinn's aggressiveness and creativity more than Gus Bradley's very vanilla style, so there's something to be said of the stamp that Quinn put on Seattle's defense. Quinn definitely seems like a guy that can get the most out of certain talents that his individual players have.
I know that Quinn is a very good defensive line coach too, so don't be surprised if some of the guys on Atlanta's line start producing at a higher rate. Quinn is a guru on hand use - he teaches boxing and MMA techniques that stress violence in the hands, and obviously that's a big part of pass rushing and getting off of blocks."
3) What kind of coach is Quinn? How does Quinn interact with his guys?
DK: "He's a players' coach. Affable, somewhat charismatic. He's extremely well liked, as far as I can tell. He's hands on when it comes to coaching players up. He's not the "act tough" type of guy, he's more just a genuinely tough person. He expects a lot from his players, I think, but isn't the type that yells at you or tries to intimidate. He's not going to give a speech, as far as I know, he's more of a calming influence that stresses proper technique and maximum effort at all times.
He'll get guys to play hard this way. He'll require it. I know that sounds like something every coach would probably say, but based on Carroll's system, he will absolutely get guys playing harder and faster, particularly in practice, which will transfer to the field."
4) Quinn is looking to imitate some of what Seattle does with its coaching staff. Do you like that setup?
DK: "For sure. A big part of Carroll's program is to delegate to high-energy coaches. It starts at the top, but position coaches are responsible for making sure they're squeezing every ouch of effort about of every single drill and meeting. Messaging is important, positive talk, teaching fundamentals. I don't know how important some of the titles of different coaches are - what's important is that they're all representing the tone that Quinn wants to set."
5) Do you think he's ready to take over a team like Atlanta, and how do you think he'll fare as a head coach?
DK: "Yes, I think he's ready. It's always hard to know how a guy will handle all the minutia that goes into being the head coach, but he seems like he's very well organized, is a hard worker, pays attention to detail, and he has experience on the sidelines and up in the box, calling plays. I'm expecting that he'll transition nicely and that the defense will be very strong.
I like the staff that he's put together so far a lot, and that's obviously a very important thing as well. He's going to try and bring the identity that Seattle has established to Atlanta, and I obviously believe in that based on what has happened with the Seahawks over the last three seasons."
We've recently discussed if Quinn is an ideal fit for the Falcons, and after reading what Danny had to say about him, I can't help but think he is. Quinn has already impressed fans with his charisma in his press conferences. He seems like a down-to-earth guy who can develop a good rapport with everyone in the Falcons organization.
Obviously the Falcons still have several areas to address on defense, but given Quinn's background with developing young players, I'm excited for his potential here. Atlanta has struggled in the latest era to develop draft picks, while the Seahawks have excelled in that process. Quinn will hopefully bring a change we've been waiting for.
Thanks again to Danny for helping out. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@FieldGulls), as he is always providing great articles on the Seahawks and the NFL in general. Field Gulls also has plenty of breakdowns of Xs and Os from Quinn's defense over the past year that you can view here.
Thought's on any/all of Danny's comments?