All eight of the open head coaching positions are now filled. The Commanders are moving forward with Dan Quinn. The Cowboys’ defensive coordinator will change jobs in the NFC East and land his second HC gig, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.
Based on Quinn’s past and the job market, his Washington landing is a moderate surprise. Quinn enjoyed two stints with the Seahawks, the second of which as their DC on both 2010s Super Bowl teams. He emerged as the first candidate on Seattle’s radar when Pete Carroll was pushed out, but the Seahawks went in a different direction by hiring Mike Macdonald. Although the Washington process featured some late curveballs, the team is hiring one of its original candidates.
A regular on the 2022 and 2023 coaching carousels, Quinn has been selective since re-establishing his value in Dallas. The three-year Cowboys DC was close to becoming the Broncos’ head coach in 2022 but bowed out of the 2023 HC market early, opting to keep going in Dallas. A year later, the former Falcons HC has committed to trying his hand as a sideline leader once again.
This hiring period produced five defense-oriented HC hires, though it did not include opportunities for Bill Belichick or Mike Vrabel. The Commanders saw their presumed favorite for the position — Lions OC Ben Johnson — inform them he was no longer interested in HC jobs this year. That came as Commanders brass flew to Detroit for scheduled interviews with both Johnson and Lions DC Aaron Glenn. Hours after the Johnson news, Texans OC Bobby Slowik — who had interviewed twice with the Commanders — made a pledge to stay in Houston. These developments, however, did not prompt Washington to expand its search by including Belichick or Vrabel.
Quinn, 53, certainly brings familiarity with the Commanders. The Cowboys went 5-1 against their rivals during Quinn’s three-year run calling the shots on defense. Quinn will join a team that has considerable offseason resources and one with a changing reputation, with Josh Harris replacing unpopular owner Dan Snyder last year. The Commanders will enter this offseason holding the No. 2 overall pick and possessing — as of now, at least — an NFL-leading $73MM-plus in cap space.
Harris will pair Quinn and longtime 49ers exec Adam Peters, with the pair replacing a Ron Rivera-run power structure. That said, GM Martin Mayhew is expected to stay on; though, he will likely not have the GM title much longer. Hired as the team’s president of football operations, Peters will control the roster; Quinn will report to Peters. The two will be tasked with reviving a franchise that has not strung together consecutive 10-win seasons since the early 1990s.
While some expected Peters to align himself with an offense-oriented HC, the exits of Johnson and Slowik from this race effectively prevented that from happening. Although the Commanders interviewed OC Eric Bieniemy, he was not viewed as a serious candidate for the job. (Though, it will be interesting to see if Quinn considers Bieniemy to stay on as OC.) That left only defense-geared candidates, and Macdonald’s Seattle commitment further narrowed Washington’s options. In Quinn, however, the Commanders are hiring one of the league’s top defensive coordinators and a coach who experienced great success early during his Falcons stay.
During Quinn’s time in Dallas, the Cowboys’ defense awakened after the 2020 unit allowed a franchise-record 473 points. Spurred by the arrivals of Quinn and Micah Parsons in 2021, the Cowboys dropped that total by 115 despite the NFL expanding its season to 17 games. Dallas finished in the top seven in scoring defense during each of Quinn’s three seasons calling plays. While Quinn’s defense faceplanted during a shocking loss to the Packers in the wild-card round, his body of work once again generated extensive interest on the coaching carousel.
In Atlanta, Quinn went 43-42. Joining the Falcons after coaching in two straight Super Bowls as the Seahawks’ DC, Quinn had the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. That 11-5 team had the Patriots dead to rights, up 28-3 late in the third quarter. But Quinn’s defense — one missing top cornerback Desmond Trufant — could not stop a Tom Brady-piloted comeback that effectively sent the Falcons into a tailspin. Quinn led the team back to the playoffs in 2017 but failed to produce a winning record over his final two full seasons, being fired early during the 2020 campaign.
Quinn interviewed for the Commanders, Seahawks, Titans, Panthers and Chargers’ jobs. Going through his second interview with the Commanders on Monday, Quinn became the pick over Bieniemy, Glenn and Ravens D-line coach Anthony Weaver. The field had thinned for the Commanders, and the team has plenty of work to do to start the Peters-Quinn era.
With the incoming power brokers having no ties to Sam Howell, Washington should be considered likely to draft a quarterback second overall. The team going defense with this hire will help address one of the NFL’s weakest units. The Commanders finished last in both scoring defense and yards allowed in 2023, leading to Jack Del Rio‘s firing and Rivera’s ouster. Harris drove the team to trade both Montez Sweat and Chase Young on deadline day, and while those moves gutted the pass rush, Del Rio’s unit had struggled throughout. The Commanders do still roster upper-echelon defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne; though, Allen has said he is not interested in being part of a rebuild.
Washington, which has not finished a season with a winning record since finishing 8-7-1 in 2016, has plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball. But the future suddenly looks much brighter compared to where the team stood during most of the Snyder era. With that wreckage in the team’s rearview mirror, Harris’ new hires will be tasked with restoring the reputation this franchise lost decades ago during Snyder’s woeful run as owner.