The Seahawks have hired back former defensive line coach Dan Quinn as their new defensive coordinator, replacing Gus Bradley, who was named the Head Coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars this morning. Quinn has coached defensive line for the 49ers ('03-04), Dolphins ('05-06), Jets ('07-08), and Seahawks ('09-10), and spent the last two years at Florida as their defensive coordinator/defensive line coach. Obviously, Quinn knows the defensive line, and with the issues that Seattle had with their pass rush and run defense this season, this is an exciting hire.
Quinn worked with Pete Carroll closely in 2010 to create this odd-front 4-3 with the Elephant/LEO end, developed by Bill McPherson when Carroll was with the Niners back in '95-96. "We mixed the concepts of one-gap football and two-gap football in a very unique way in San Francisco," Said Carroll, on that process, harkening back to 1995-1996. "And we played great defense."
Carroll tucked many of those concepts away while he was at USC, but with Dan Quinn, he revived them once he returned to the NFL. "We made some scheme adjustments to the style that was here in years past, and really the style that I've been playing in college, and I flipped it all the way back to when I was at San Francisco," Carroll explained, back in 2010. "[That] was the last time we've played this formula of defense."
"Danny Quinn [had] a big role in that because of his crossover to the days when he was at San Francisco. We were both affected by a guy there - Bill McPherson, a coach that was there for us. And Mac taught us some stuff. Now we brought the expertise to at least be able to explore it." Carroll, working with Quinn, found that moving Red Bryant to defensive end was a better fit, and also helped him to identify Chris Clemons as a target for their LEO position. Both of these moves helped the Seahawks to achieve some of the things they wanted to, modeled after that old San Francisco defense.
"To me, that was the ultimate package," Carroll said prior to this season, of the 49ers defense back in 1995-1996, "and we've been able to get back to it now. It's taken us three years, really, to get to the point where we can incorporate the ideas. So, we're doing all of the things that we liked there. I thought [that San Francisco defense] was the most comprehensive package of defense that I've been around. I was not able to do that at SC. I was the defensive coordinator and putting the whole thing together at SC, but our guys just couldn't handle it. It was just too much stuff, and it was too much for the coaches. So we did variations of stuff. It worked out great, but in college, we weren't capable of doing all of that. Guys couldn't learn and couldn't teach it the way we needed to."
The NFL, of course, is different, and though the Seahawks had a great year defensively, there are obviously weak spots, and it's exciting to wonder if Quinn could be a nice addition, help shore up the defensive line issues, create more pass rush, and identify players in the Draft and/or free agency that fit what he wants them to do.
Carroll is a defensive backs guru. Ken Norton obviously knows linebackers and has done an amazing job finding players that work in this system (Norton was All-Pro in that vaunted '95 49ers defense, under Pete Carroll!!), Tom Cable has improved the function of the offensive line unit, and now hopefully Dan Quinn will work his magic on the DL. That's the hope, anyway.
The choice to go with Quinn too makes sense from a continuity standpoint - no power struggle, no introductions to staff, and the team can just pick up where they left off, but obviously hopefully make some key changes. Quinn knows the Seahawks' program - he was hired by Jim L. Mora as DL coach and Assistant Head Coach, and after Mora was fired, Quinn joined Gus Bradley as one of the few coaching staff members that carried over to the new regime. Staying on in those circumstances speaks wonders of the type of guy that Quinn really is -- Pete was looking to change the culture of the program, so Quinn had to have blown him away.
So, Quinn has been with Carroll, knows the Win Forever program, and from what I gather, the players gushed about Quinn as he left to coach at Florida much in the same way they're now gushing about Bradley as he heads to Jacksonville. He's well liked, respected, and importantly, innovative. The defenses he's coached at Florida have been very good over the past two seasons, and many speculated that Quinn highly recommended Jaye Howard for the Hawks in last year's Draft. Howard didn't do much this season, but here's to hoping he can get some production from his former pupil next year.
Andy Hutchins, writer for Alligator Army, the SBN Florida blog, offered this on the Dan Quinn departure:
Dan Quinn came to Florida as a guy with NFL experience and Xs and Os knowledge that Will Muschamp liked, and he's leaving Florida as a guy who was ready to be an NFL defensive coordinator. Quinn was responsible for working with Muschamp on the design of the defense, and also worked with the defensive line, especially the defensive ends. Florida runs a hybrid 3-4 with a BUCK linebacker, but has played patient, disciplined football under Muschamp & Quinn more often than it has attacked like some teams do from the 3-4. The Gators very rarely blitzed, and notched 58 sacks in 26 games under Muschamp/Quinn, 11 coming in their two bowl games. That number was significantly up from Florida's dismal 2010 (21 sacks), but down from the defense's 2006-09 heyday.
Florida's defense improved significantly under Muschamp and Quinn despite that, though, with pressure that didn't translate to sacks helping the Gators cover for a developing secondary. In 2012, Florida was second nationally in pass efficiency defense, fourth in yards per attempt, sixth in completion percentage, and tied for second in pass touchdowns allowed, all despite seeing more than 34 pass attempts per game. Florida also held opponents to 2.98 yards per carry, good for sixth nationally; the only other SEC team to allow fewer than 3.00 yards per carry was Alabama (LSU was right at 3.00), which led the country in the stat. Accounting for strength of schedule, however, there's a strong case to be made that Florida's 2012 defense wasn't just great, but historically so, and among the best defenses of the spread offense era in college football (Link).
How much credit for that unit should go to Muschamp and not Quinn or vice versa is hard to figure, because they worked well together and rarely discussed specific responsibilities with the media, but Muschamp's fire and Quinn's calm also complemented each other nicely, as witnessed by every Florida beat writer having kind things to say about Quinn today. Quinn was always coveted by both Florida and the NFL, and was always a flight risk, but this move makes sense for him. Florida will miss him dearly, but few will wish him anything less than great success.
Hutchins' description meshes well with what I assume Quinn and the Seahawks will run in 2013 -- a defense that relies on the front-four to provide pressure and a defense that isn't overly reliant on blitzing. As much as we might hate that, I just can't see Seattle going to an attacking, vulnerable on the back-end blitzing-style of defense. They will retain that Pete Carroll maxim of 'keeping everything in front of you'. Bend but don't break. The thing we'll all hope for is better production from the front four in getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, whether it's from creative scheming or better players.
All in all, it's an interesting hire, and one that I'm optimistic about.