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Quinn’s Command: Debunking the Doubt Around Washington’s New Coach

Photo Credit: Joe Glorioso - All-Pro Reels
Photo Cite: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Commanders_Reveal_%2851859529815%29.jpg
Photo Credit: Joe Glorioso – All-Pro Reels Photo Cite: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Commanders_Reveal_%2851859529815%29.jpg
By  Andrew Lavella—

Dan Quinn’s hiring around the NFL has been a polarizing move with many thinking the Commanders once again messed up their head coach hire.

CBS analyst Cody Benjamin writes,”Perhaps his experience will help ground a rebuilding team, but this hardly registers as an inspiring, innovative move, D+ grade.” 

He’s not alone in this line of thinking either; all around the NFL world, people are slating the Commanders for an uninspiring move. However, to me, that’s an ignorant and poorly thought-out idea. While Quinn may yet fail, the overplayed idea that he has no chance of turning around the Commanders is simply wrong.

Dan Quinn’s resume alone should be able to dispel his doubters. He started his career by coaching one of the best defenses of the 21st century in the Legion of Boom, then moving on to coach the Atlanta Falcons from 2015-2020 with a 43-42 record. Now, that record suggests his doubters may be correct to question him; however, it must be remembered that the Falcons team he inherited went  4-11 and then 6-10 before he arrived. Then just two years later they played in the Super Bowl, where they led 28-3 before falling in one of the most infamous comebacks of all time.

Many have used that exact fact against him, and yes, it is a dark spot on his resume; however, his tenure as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator has given him ample time to become a better coach. Recently reported by John Keim of ESPN Quinn has made a point of interviewing his old players and asking them what he could’ve done better as a coach. This is unheard of in the NFL and should be a clear sign of his intent.  

Also, while with the Cowboys, he led them to the 3rd best EPA and the 5th best overall yardage defense. 

With his resume established, why is he a good fit for the Commanders? Of the 57 Super Bowls to date, 36 have been won by a coach in his first HC job, but 21 have been in their second or third. The trend in recent years has been that more often than not the winning coach is on his second or third job. Now, Belichick and Andy Reid skew that a bit; however, the point stands with 18 of the last 28 Super Bowls being won by coaches in their second job. Many have ranked the Commanders across the coals for hiring a coach who’s not necessarily innovative or new, but the Commanders, if anything, are smart to hire a coach with experience.

The Commanders are in desperate need of some defensive help with the worst defense in both EPA and overall ranking based on yardage conceded, so Quinn’s defensive-minded style should instantly help out there, but more than anything, Quinn provides a foundation for a new franchise quarterback. With no defense and a rookie, he can struggle, but having a solid defense behind a rookie can ease the pressure they are under and allow them to flourish.

My only major gripe with the hiring is the fact that he hired Kliff Kingsbury as the offensive coordinator. Now, that worry can be eased if they go get Caleb Williams. Then the move will be perfect for his development as Williams’ will run the same offense for two years from college to the pros, which many QBs cannot say. However, if the Commanders elect not to trade up for Williams and instead take another QB, I think the hire will be unproductive. Kingsbury runs a fairly simple “air raid offense,” with many of his teams starting the season brilliantly, but as tape piles up, they become predictable and collapse. The most evident instance occurred when the Cardinals began the 2021 season with a strong 10-2 record, only to swiftly collapse to 11-6 and suffer a first-round playoff exit.

There are two keys as to how Quinn will be looked upon in the future. First, did he and his crew pick and develop the right QB? That is steps one, two and three of truly becoming a successful franchise; missing at the top of the draft, especially at two where they sit, is how a head coach gets fired. Secondly, will his ability to get the culture right as the Commanders look to move into a new era? In the culmination of the Rivera era, it was easy to see the team give up as the losses piled up. That doesn’t happen in teams with a proper culture; look at Detroit win, loose or tie, the Dan Campbell run Lions are going to give you everything they got week in and out. 

As a whole, though, I think the Commanders are very smart to go get a proven head coach who can remedy defenses. With the right QB picked in the draft, I think this has all the right signs of becoming a brand new Commanders organization with Dan Quinn spearheading the charge into their future. So as a Commander’s fan looking to the future, give Quinn some time before writing him off.

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    Carol CorganFeb 15, 2024 at 4:00 pm

    Well done, Andrew. I’m going to run your take past my Washington obsessed son out in LA!

    Reply