The Seattle Seahawks lost Super Bowl XLIX to the New England Patriots for heartbreaking fashion. For most within the organization, the next few weeks and months will be a time to step away and recover. For defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, he has a whirlwind awaiting.
Quinn will be formally announced as the next head coach of the Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday. Quinn is taking over for Mike Smith, who reached the NFC Championship game in 2012 before suffering through consecutive losing seasons. Quinn has never been a head coach before at any level, working as an assistant in the college and professional ranks since 1994.
Quinn broke into coaching as a defensive line coach with William & Mary in 1994 before taking the same position with VMI in 1995. Quinn then moved to Hofstra from 1996-2000, working with the line and then becoming a defensive coordinator during the last year.
In 2001, Quinn came to the NFL as a quality control coach with the San Francisco 49ers. In 2003, Quinn was promoted to defensive line coach for two seasons before going to the Miami Dolphins from 2005-06 in the same role. The New Jersey native then went home, coaching the line with the New York Jets from 2007-08 under Eric Mangini. Quinn then joined the Seahawks in 2009 as an assistant head coach and defensive line coach before returning to college in 2011, working at the University of Florida as defensive coordinator.
Finally, Quinn made his way back to Seattle in 2013, remaining as defensive coordinator for the past two seasons.
Quinn, 43, will have his work cut out for him defensively in Atlanta. The Falcons lack any top-end talent on that side of the ball, ranking last in yards allowed and 27th in points against. The largest problem for Atlanta is a complete lack of a pass rush, only amassing 22 sacks. The Falcons checked in next-to-last in that category and not surprisingly surrendered the most passing yards. Kroy Biermann led Atlanta with 4.5 sacks, an unacceptable statistic.
The good news for Quinn is a solid offensive base with quarterback Matt Ryan and receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. Atlanta also plays in a terrible division, which the Carolina Panthers won in 2014 with a 7-8-1 mark. The Falcons could be primed for a quick turnaround if Quinn and the front office can shore up the porous defense.
Atlanta also must hit on its first-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Falcons are picking eighth after a 6-10 season, and are expected to go defense. The Falcons must find a talent, maybe a pass-rusher such as Shane Ray from the University of Missouri or Vic Beasley out of Clemson.
Quinn will have his chance to prove he’s a top coach in the NFL. His first challenge is to forget the pain of Super Bowl XLIX and jump head-first into Atlanta’s issues.