Dan Quinn

LB K.J. Wright Interested In Playing For Cowboys

It’s been relatively quiet on the K.J. Wright front, but that could be because the free agent linebacker is eyeing one particular team. The veteran told Mike Fisher of Sports Illustrated that he wants to play for the Cowboys.

“Dallas has certainly always been on my list of ‘dream teams,”’ Wright said. “With coach Dan Quinn there, and with other aspects of that team and that defense, I do think it’s one of the teams I fit in with.”

The connection makes sense. As Wright pointed out, new Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn held the same role in Seattle in 2013 and 2014, with Wright starting 29 games for the Seahawks during that span. Further, Dallas could use some reinforcement at linebacker. Sean Lee has missed 16 games over the past three years, and Leighton Vander Esch was limited to only 10 games in 2020.

Even though Wright will be 32 years old by the start of the 2021 campaign, he’d still provide Dallas with a reliable and consistent option at the position. Wright graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 8 overall off-ball linebacker last season; he was the only player to post double-digit totals in tackles for loss (11) and passes defensed (10). He has started 140 of the 144 career games he has played since the Seahawks drafted him in the 2011 fourth round.

Back in February, the veteran linebacker revealed that he wouldn’t be taking a discount to stick around Seattle, but it’s uncertain if that sentiment would apply to the Cowboys.

I do way too much on the football field to take a discount,” Wright said. “It makes absolutely no sense. If you want to win all these championships and look good on Sundays, you’ve got to compensate your guys that are making plays.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys To Hire Dan Quinn As DC

The Cowboys have found their new defensive coordinator. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports (via Twitter) that Dallas has agreed to a deal with former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn. Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News reports (via Twitter) that it’s a three-year deal for the 50-year-old.

Quinn made a name for himself when he served as the Seahawks defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014. He played a major role during the ‘Legion of Boom’ era, making a pair of Super Bowl appearances (winning one). He was hired as Falcons head coach in 2015, and he collected 29 wins during his first three years at the helm, including an NFC-winning campaign in 2016. He didn’t finish above. 500 during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and he was let go by Atlanta following an 0-5 start to the 2020 campaign.

Since his firing, there have been rumblings that Quinn should be a popular name for defensive coordinator openings. There were whispers that he could head back to Seattle to help the Seahawks’ struggling defense, and there was speculation he could head to the 49ers if Robert Saleh gets a head coaching job.

Instead, he’ll be heading to Dallas on Mike McCarthy‘s staff. Following a disappointing 2020 campaign where the defense ranked 28th in scoring, the Cowboys let go of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan last week. We learned of Dallas’s interest in Quinn earlier today, with Falcons secondary coach Joe Whitt and Panthers defensive passing game coordinator Jason Simmons also mentioned as candidates for the vacancy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Meet With Dan Quinn

Dan Quinn interviewed for the Cowboys defensive coordinator job over the weekend, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Quinn is the third known candidate to discuss the job with Dallas, following Falcons secondary coach Joe Whitt and Panthers defensive passing game coordinator Jason Simmons.

[RELATED: Cowboys Fire Mike Nolan]

The Falcons fired Quinn after his team’s 0-5 start, but he’s been building momentum lately as a DC candidate. Quinn, of course, led the Falcons to the Super Bowl just a few years ago. Before that, he made his name as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator during the ‘Legion of Boom’ era. Winning Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seahawks was the highlight of his career. His Falcons defenses, on the other hand, didn’t impress.

The Cowboys fired Mike Nolan last week, but head coach Mike McCarthy is staying put. If McCarthy wants to go back to a 4-3 base, Quinn would be a sensible choice.

The Cowboys could certainly use a fresh look. Last year, their D ranked 28th in scoring, 23rd in DVOA, and 31st against the run. In total, they surrendered 473 points — the highest total in the franchise’s 61-year history.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Quinn, Staley, Chargers, Pollack, Bengals, Simmons, Whitt, Cowboys

Hope you’re all enjoying Sunday’s three-game wild card slate, here are a new batch of coaching updates to pass along:

  • Dan Quinn’s star faded fast after taking the Falcons to the Super Bowl just a few years ago, and he was fired after starting 0-5 this season. His national reputation took a hit, but he’s apparently still fairly highly regarded in league circles and might not be out of a job too long. Quinn’s name is popping up frequently as a potential defensive coordinator for coaches interviewing for head coaching gigs, Peter Schrager of NFL Network is told (Twitter link). Quinn, of course, rose to prominence as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator for a couple years during their dominant ‘Legion of Boom’ era, and won Super Bowl XLVIII with Seattle. His defenses were never anything special during his time in Atlanta though, and it was Kyle Shanahan’s offense carrying the team during the peak of their success.
  • Speaking of defensive minds, Rams DC Brandon Staley is turning into a hot name this cycle, and after his defense just dominated Russell Wilson it’s not hard to see why. The Chargers are one of the teams interested, and he’ll interview with them today, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. But interestingly, Breer writes that if Los Angeles doesn’t hire an offensive mind, the new coach will “have to have a very detailed plan for that side of the ball and the quarterback.” 49ers DC Robert Saleh is also in contention for this job, so that would obviously apply to him as well. Clearly, the Chargers want a bright offensive mind to pair with Justin Herbert. We’ve heard Herbert loves current offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, but Breer’s tweet certainly doesn’t make it sound like he’s all that likely to return.
  • Zac Taylor survived for another year, but the Bengals fired a few assistant coaches this week. Now, they’ve found one of the replacements. Cincy has hired Frank Pollack to be their new offensive line coach and run game coordinator, the team announced. Pollack spent the past two seasons as the Jets’ offensive line coach, and had the same role with the Bengals in 2018 under Marvin Lewis. Before that he was he Cowboys’ O-line coach, and obviously those units had a great deal of success. For what it’s worth, Bengals players are “thrilled” with the hire, Jay Morrison of The Athletic writes. “It’s exciting,” center Billy Price said. “I’m glad to have him back. I’m really, really, really, really glad to have him back.” Running back Joe Mixon also said he was “super excited” to have Pollack back in the fold.
  • The Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan earlier this week, and the search for his replacement is in full swing. Dallas interviewed Jason Simmons and Joe Whitt Jr. today for the position, a source told Calvin Watkins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Simmons is currently the passing game coordinator for the Panthers, while Whitt is the passing game coordinator for the Falcons. Both candidates have plenty of familiarity with Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. Whitt was on Green Bay’s defensive staff from 2008-18, rising the ranks from quality control coach, while Simmons started with the Packers in 2015 as an assistant special teams coach. Neither has been a DC before.

Coaching Rumors: Crennel, Quinn, Fitzgerald

The Texans fired head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien last month following an 0-4 start, and interim HC Romeo Crennel has righted the ship a bit. Under Crennel’s watch, Houston is 2-2, and while those two wins came against the lowly Jaguars, the Texans came within an eyelash of toppling the Titans in Week 6.

Crennel, 73, has been viewed as a placeholder for 2020, but he could retain the gig through the 2021 season, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes. COVID-19 restrictions will probably not permit a traditional in-person search this offseason, so teams hiring a new HC could be committing a boatload of money to a person they have never even met. As such, the Texans might stick with Crennel next season and seek their long-term answer the following year. If that happens, VP of football operations Jack Easterby may continue serving as GM.

Of course, the team has been connected to Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, who is a favorite of QB Deshaun Watson. Bieniemy is widely expected to secure a head coaching job this offseason regardless of travel restrictions, so if Houston wants him, it might need to take a leap of faith. And John McClain of the Houston Chronicle says the Texans will indeed hire a new GM and HC at season’s end, while fellow Houston Chronicle scribe Aaron Wilson says the search remains active (Twitter links).

Now for more a few more coaching rumors:

  • The Falcons parted ways with HC Dan Quinn earlier this season, but it doesn’t sound like Quinn will be out of work for long. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, several teams have made it known that they would like to have Quinn on their staff in 2021, and coordinators who might become head coaches next season have tapped Quinn as their first choice for defensive coordinator. La Canfora says Quinn could rejoin the Seahawks given Seattle’s defensive struggles this year, and he could also end up as the 49ers‘ DC if Robert Saleh gets a head coaching job.
  • Given the financial toll that the pandemic has taken on college athletic departments, top college coaches have become increasingly receptive to a jump to the NFL, as La Canfora details in a separate piece. Names like Lincoln Riley, Jim Harbaugh, and Brian Kelly, who frequently come up in offseason coaching rumors, will again be at the forefront of the discussion in 2021.
  • Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald has drawn interest from NFL teams in the past, and as of January 2019, he indicated he was not interested in NFL opportunities. However, COVID-19 might make him more receptive to an HC job in the pros, and his hometown Bears could come calling. La Canfora says Bears ownership is high on Fitzgerald, and if Chicago moves on from Matt Nagy, Fitzgerald might be on the top of the team’s wish-list.

Falcons Fire Dan Quinn, Thomas Dimitroff

The writing was on the wall, but it’s official now. The Falcons have fired both their head coach Dan Quinn as well as general manager Thomas Dimitroff, the team announced Sunday night.

It was clear to just about everyone that Quinn was going to be fired any week now, but the firing of Dimitroff was less widely speculated on. With the house cleaning, team president and CEO Rich McKay will takeover running the football operations for now, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweeted. Quinn is now the second head coach to be shown the door after Bill O’Brien was let go by the Texans earlier this week.

It’s been a remarkable fall from grace for a head coach who was moments away from winning a Super Bowl less than four years ago. It’s been all downhill since then, and that NFC championship team fell apart rapidly. They managed to go 10-6 the following year but were 7-9 in each of the past two, and of course started this season 0-5.

Quinn’s seat was scorching hot last year, but he managed to save his job temporarily as the Falcons closed the season strong. The Falcons are now in a very interesting spot as a franchise, as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones aren’t getting any younger at 35 and 31 respectively. Those guys likely have a couple of high level years left, but a new regime may be interested in looking toward the future.

Quinn developed a reputation as a defensive guru during his time with the Seahawks, but during the Falcons’ most successful times it was always the offense carrying the team. Quinn’s defenses became progressively worse, making the situation untenable.

He coordinated Seattle’s legendary defenses in 2013 and 2014, winning Super Bowl XLVIII with the team. Dimitroff was the Patriots’ director of college scouting before owner Arthur Blank hired him to be Atlanta’s GM in 2008. His first draft pick was none other than Ryan, and his firing ends one of the longest recent front office tenures.

No interim coach has been announced, but at 0-5 there’s very little hope of a postseason berth. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, recently a head coach with the Bucs, would be a natural candidate. With Ryan, Jones, and Calvin Ridley there’s still plenty of talent at the skill positions, but the rest of the roster is in need of a major overhaul.

Quinn finished his run at a nearly even 43-42 through five-plus seasons as the Falcons’ head coach. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on all the fallout, and if you clink the link to the team’s announcement at the top you can read quotes from Blank and McKay on the firings.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Falcons, Quinn, Freeman, 49ers

Falcons coach Dan Quinn managed to save his job by rattling off some wins down the stretch last year. If his team has a repeat performance in 2020, he won’t be so lucky. It’s the consensus of just about everyone that Quinn will be fired if Atlanta doesn’t get things turned around next year, and Falcons owner Arthur Blank more or less confirmed as much in recent comments to the media. Blank wouldn’t divulge the exact number of wins he was expecting, but he did say “yep,” when asked if making it back to the postseason was the standard he was setting, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “I can definitely say that’s right.”

Blank went on to say some nice things about Quinn and the team’s turnaround in the second half of the season, but it’s clear that Quinn will be on a short leash. Just about everyone thought he was a goner before the Falcons finished the year 6-2, so perhaps he’ll pull a rabbit out of his hat once again. The former Seahawks DC fired both of his coordinators after a lackluster 2018 campaign, and it didn’t help much right away. Matt Ryan is already 34 and Julio Jones is 31, so Blank’s impatience makes a lot of sense as he wants to capitalize on the core that took his team to the Super Bowl just a few short seasons ago.

Here’s more from the NFC as we head into the weekend:

  • We heard earlier this week that Falcons running back Devonta Freeman could be on the chopping block, and Blank certainly didn’t do anything to quash that story. “Well, I love him, too,” Blank said of Freeman in McClure’s same piece. “But this has nothing to do with love. It has to do with building a roster. The salary cap is not unlimited.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, and that doesn’t bode well for Freeman’s chances of sticking on the roster. “Sure, I love what [Freeman] brings to the team. I also know we’ve drafted well and we’ve got some really good backups now today. We’ll see how all that works out,” he continued. Freeman has three years left on the five-year, $41.25MM pact he signed with Atlanta a couple years ago, and he seems increasingly unlikely to be back with the team in 2020. As of right now, it looks like the team will be moving on. The Falcons can save around $3MM against the cap by releasing him, but they’d still be taking a significant dead cap hit by shedding his expected $6.5MM salary.
  • 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander tore a pec in November, and was expected at the time to miss the remainder of the season. He improbably battled his way back with remarkable speed, and ended up being activated off injured reserve for San Francisco’s playoff run. Not only was Alexander dealing with the pec issue, he also played in the playoffs and the Super Bowl with a significant bicep injury that required surgery, sources told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapsheet reports that Alexander underwent the procedure on his bicep Friday, and will make a full recovery for the 2020 season. The 49ers signed him to a big contract last offseason, and he’s one of their leaders on defense. This kind of grit shows why. Alexander has been bit by the injury bug recently, as his 2018 season in Tampa was cut short by a torn ACL. Hopefully he can stay healthy this year as San Francisco gears up for another run.

Falcons To Keep Dan Quinn, Thomas Dimitroff

The Falcons will be making lots of changes this offseason, but they won’t be in the hunt for a new head coach or general manager. On Friday, the Falcons announced that they’ll retain both Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff in 2020. 

However, they have made one significant change – secondary coach and assistant head coach Raheem Morris has been named as the Falcons’ new defensive coordinator. The move will go into effect immediately after the Falcons’ season finale.

Quinn and Dimitroff will return next year, though they’ll both report directly to Falcons CEO Rich McKay, who will continue to report to owner Arthur Blank. Blank, per the press release, “will retain oversight of the football operation.”

The decision to keep the duo doesn’t come as a huge surprise, given their late season success. The Falcons were disappointing on the whole, but they are riding a three-game winning streak heading into their season finale against the Buccaneers.

Quinn’s seat starting heating up back in November, when the Falcons got off to an atrocious 1-7 start. At the time, Quinn’s defense ranked near the bottom of the league in just about every defensive category, with nearly 400 yards of total offense allowed per game. Things have turned around recently – the Falcons held the Saints to nine points in a Week 10 win and capped the Niners at just 22 points en route to a December upset.

In the 2016 season, Quinn led the Falcons to the Super Bowl, though their painful collapse cost them their first Lombardi Trophy. His club followed up with a 10-6 mark in the following season, but they’ve been on a downhill slide ever since. In 2020, Quinn will return for a sixth season at the helm, giving him an opportunity to right the ship.

Dimitroff has served as the Falcons’ GM since the 2008 season with mixed results, though he is responsible for drafting team pillars including Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, with the latter coming to Atlanta via a king’s ransom of picks. He’ll stay for a 12th season as Falcons GM, though more changes could be coming to the front office:

Every year we evaluate all our football operations and this year I have asked Rich to work closely with Thomas and Dan over the next couple of weeks to conduct a top-to-bottom review, inclusive of structure, processes, resourcing and personnel to identify whatever changes are necessary to enable us to compete consistently at the highest level,” Blank said in a statement. “In my time as owner, and particularly since 2008, we have been one of the winningest teams in the NFC ranking fourth in wins and across the NFL, tied for seventh in wins, and that remains the only acceptable result for us now and in the future.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: Gipson, Quinn, Thomas, Ryan

Texans safety Tashaun Gipson is expected to return to the lineup this week, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Gipson has missed the team’s previous two games after sustaining a back injury in Week 7. Houston has won both games without their starting safety, but set to go up against the Ravens and their dynamic offense, the team hopes to be as close to full strength as possible.

Here’s some more notes from the NFC and AFC South:

  • Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has relinquished defensive play-calling duties, according to Darin Gantt of NBC Sports. It appears that assistant head coach Raheem Morris and linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich are now responsible for sharing the duties. Given Atlanta’s atrocious start to the season defensively, it makes sense that the staff decided to make a change. While the team remains just 2-7 on the season, they are coming off their strongest performance of the season in a dominating 26-9 victory against the Saints.
  • Two AFC South rivals could be welcoming back some depth in the coming weeks. Texans tight end Jordan Thomas and Jaguars linebacker Jake Ryan have both returned to practice for their respective teams, according to Howard Balzer. Both players were placed on the injured reserve with a designation to return earlier this season. They will now be allowed to practice for up to 21 days before they must be added to the 53-man roster or must return to the injured reserve for the remainder of the year.