Should Dan Quinn be the favorite as the Broncos next head coach?

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn against the Carolina Panthers at AT&T Stadium.
Oct 3, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn against the Carolina Panthers at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After relieving Vic Fangio of his head coaching duties this past Sunday, the Broncos are again on the hunt for their next head coach for the third time since 2015.

Immediately following Fangio’s firing, there have been plenty of names thrown out there as potential options but none with as much traction as Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

History

A big reason why this connection is being made is the history Quinn has with Paton. Not only were they both on the Miami Dolphins’ staff in 2005, but it has been widely reported that before Quinn took a head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015, Quinn had a strong interest in teaming up with Paton, having him serve as the general manager on a team like the Jets or Bears. Ultimately, Paton stayed in Minnesota but the interest between the two has clearly been there before.

Leading up to now, Quinn has had plenty of experience coaching and finding success in the NFL but his best accomplishment to this point is being the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks’ Legion of Boom defense, one of the best defenses in NFL history, and helping to construct it.

Having so much success during that time, he was only there for two seasons, 2013-2014, before gaining interest from other teams to be a head coach.

From there, Quinn took a job to be the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons where he had a mixed bag of results, starting off red hot than slowing down pretty substantially as far as wins and losses go. Being the head coach from the start of the 2015 season and being fired mid-year through the 2020 season, Quinn finished his tenure with a record of 43-42.

Looking at his career with the Atlanta Falcons, there were plenty of ups and downs. Through his first three seasons, Quinn had a record of 29-19, bringing his team to the playoffs twice and appearing in the super bowl in 2015, but through his final three seasons, he had a record of 14-23 before being fired after an 0-5 start in 2020.

After being fired from the Falcons, Quinn took the year off of football before being hired as the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys. While it has only been one season, the Cowboys’ defense has greatly improved under Quinn, jumping from having one of the worst defenses in the league last year to having one of the best this year.

Positives

There is no denying Quinn has had plenty of experience in the NFL, serving as the Falcons head coach for five and a half years. Matter of fact, Quinn is the only coach on Paton’s list of candidates to have been a former head coach.

Being that leadership is a trait Paton has stressed, Quinn has an advantage over the rest in that he is the only one to have taken that leadership role as the highest-ranking coach.

Along with that experience, Quinn is well regarded as a great person around the league. In fact, Kyle Shanahan said, “Dan Quinn is one of the best coaches I’ve been around. One of the best people I’ve been around. I’ve got as much respect for him as anyone I’ve ever worked with.”

Plenty of players and coaches seem to have a similar sentiment when describing Quinn.

From an X and O’s standpoint, the time away from football seems to have helped Quinn quite a bit. While his defense struggled greatly in Atlanta, he has transformed the Cowboys’ defense into being one of the best in the league and has shown a willingness to adapt to new schematic ideas, as opposed to clinging to what made him so successful in Seattle.

Figuring out how to best utilize players like rookie Micah Parsons has not gone unnoticed in his short time in Dallas.

While being a defensive-minded coach, shockingly, his offenses were the strong point of his teams in Atlanta. One cannot deny the talent that those Falcons teams had on the offensive side of the football but a massive piece in being a head coach is hiring the right people to coach the rest of the team. This is an area Quinn seems to have done well in.

Negatives

Every candidate on Paton’s list has had their downfall at some point and Quinn is definitely not above it.

A big concern for Quinn has to be that his defenses weren’t ever very good as a head coach. As a defensive mind that once led the great L.O.B. defense in Seattle, this, at the very minimum, has to raise an eyebrow. Turning around the Cowboys’ defense as he has definitely helps his case here, but the sample size of one year is pretty minuscule, especially when considering the level of talent they have on that defense.

Plus, it is also demonstrating his ability to lead a great defense as a coordinator. It doesn’t demonstrate his ability to oversee a great defense from the head coach’s chair, and again, that’s a large part of the concern.

While the offenses have been fine under Quinn, it still seems exceedingly risky hiring a defensive coach in hopes of turning the offense around. The Broncos’ defense is already good enough to compete, what really needs to be worked through is their offense. A Quinn hiring would make it that much more important that the Broncos nail the offensive coordinator position, much like Fangio.

This is even more of a prominent concern when looking at what happened to his team shortly after Shanahan left as his offensive coordinator to pursue a head coaching gig. Without the elite offense Shanahan provided, the Falcons fell off a cliff as an organization and have struggled ever since.

Quinn brought an offensive genius with him to Atlanta, and he might very well do the same in Denver, but that wunderkind was quickly stolen for a head coaching job, and Quinn was unable to adequately replace him. That same thing could happen with whatever intriguing offensive mind Quinn brings with him to Denver.

This is part of the issue with having a coach that takes the CEO approach rather than a play-caller. Being so reliant on their coordinators could be detrimental to the team if they show their worth and are hired on another staff. If they don’t show their worth, you’ve got bad coordinators and an even worse problem on your hands.

Conclusion

Quinn, at 51 years of age, has plenty of a track record for the Broncos to at least be intrigued, and at this point, he seems like the front runner.

Going all the way back to 2005 when Paton and Quinn were on the same Dolphins staff, they clearly have a good relationship to this point.

While acknowledging this, Broncos fans should hope that Paton enters the interviewing process with an open mind towards all of the candidates on his list, because Quinn is not a perfect candidate.

At the end of the day, Quinn is a big risk on his own. He is a one-time failed coach that has a very scattered track record. If the Broncos do hire Quinn, it is ever so important that they surround him with the necessary talent both on the field and inside the coaching staff in order to succeed.

If this is done, the Broncos can be a competitive team under Quinn’s leadership.

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