My apologies for linking to an ESPN video, but it's only 1:17 and at least it's not being forced upon you. In this flick, Adam Caplan says that Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is considered "the number one guy" around the league for teams looking to hire a new head coach. Be prepared to lose him, even if the Seahawks do go to the Super Bowl next month.
This should not come as a surprise, really. Quinn was on just about every team's list and has interviewed with the 49ers, Bears, Jets, Falcons, and Bills. I'm not sure if any other person has interviewed for all five of those teams, let alone more than two. The fact that the Raiders are the only team to not interview Quinn is probably another feather in his cap.
Even though Quinn would probably lose a job opportunity or two if Seattle wins their next two games (ironic, idn't it?) it doesn't mean that one of those teams wouldn't wait the extra couple of weeks for him. It also doesn't mean that another job won't become available.
In 2009, the Kansas City Chiefs fired Herm Edwards on January 23rd and hired Todd Haley, then the offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, right after his team lost the Super Bowl. Of course, some teams will be sweating it out if they can't be sure Quinn will be their next head coach when the season is over.
While Quinn has talked to five different clubs, he can't make any kind of deal with any of them, not even a handshake, until the Seahawks season is over. That would be a violation of the NFL's tampering agreement. Funny enough, the Jets, who are supposedly very hot on Quinn, just tampered with Darrelle Revis last month. While it looked like Doug Marrone was a safe bet to take over in New York, he reportedly bombed the interview.
How weird. The head coach that left the Buffalo Bills high and dry (allegedly) wasn't the perfect candidate for a head coaching gig.
But it appears that Quinn's interviews are going better than James Franco's and at this point it might be an upset if he doesn't get a job. Where should he go?
In Quinn's best interest
Let's identify Gus Bradley's biggest problem when he took the job in Jacksonville: He tried to replicate what Pete Carroll and John Schneider did, which is rebuild a roster devoid of hope, and that's nearly impossible to do. The Jaguars had a hopeless situation at quarterback, because by then everyone knew Blaine Gabbert was a plain crapper.
What they had was the number two pick (in a draft nobody liked), Justin Blackmon, Paul Posluszny, and cap space. That's pretty much it. And I know I'm leaving out a few good players and a few other considerations (like playing in a weak division) but he was given a setup so bad that a 7-25 record isn't enough to get him fired because "we all knew things were this bad to begin with."
(That's a quote from me by the way. From right now.)
So if Quinn does have his pick of those five teams, what should he look for?
- A team that isn't the worst team in the league. Why start from the bottom? You're not Drake.
- A good quarterback situation. Even though Carroll didn't have that, most coaches would agree that it's best to have that position settled immediately. Sean Payton was given Drew Brees. Mike McCarthy was given Aaron Rodgers. Mike Tomlin was given Ben Roethlisberger. John Fox was given Peyton Manning.
- A few talented players on defense. Maybe one or two elite ones, even.
- Sane management.
What do these available jobs have?
49ers: The quarterback situation isn't "figured out" necessarily, but it's not a question who the starter is in 2015, and Colin Kaepernick wasn't long ago considered to be a very good QB. They have these other guys under contract next season:
Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Vernon Davis, Anthony Davis, Justin Smith, Anquan Boldin, Joe Staley, Antoine Bethea, Eric Reid, Chris Borland.
Though they have to make some moves to get under the cap, it's probably not that hellish of a situation. V. Davis had a really bad year and it wouldn't be hard to envision him re-working his deal as to not be released a la Zach Miller last year. They'll need to move some things around if they want to keep Frank Gore, and I wouldn't be surprised if Gore would do whatever it takes to return to San Francisco. Though that could depend on what coach they hire. Justin Smith may also retire or stay depending on the coach, but given Quinn's background, I would think Smith wants to find out what he's about.
So the QB situation is fine and the roster is talented, with the potential ability to make one or two big additions, but of course we all know that management isn't sane. Not only that but the NFC West is going to continue to be one of the hardest divisions to win, and nobody knows that better than Quinn.
What else is out there?
Falcons: The best quarterback situation of any of the six teams and it's not even close. While Matt Ryan isn't great, he's good enough to win a Super Bowl and he's not going anywhere. Other players not going anywhere:
Julio Jones, Sam Baker, Roddy White, Desmond Trufant, Harry Douglas, William Moore, Jake Matthews, Tyson Jackson, Ra'Shede Hageman. The roster isn't deep but guess what? There's $24 million in cap room.
Atlanta also picked eighth overall, seven spots higher than the 49ers. They could grab a defensive player there, or in typical Falcons fashion, trade up for a better defensive player. It's also the worst division in football, so there's a good chance that Altanta could go from 6-10 to 12-4 next season with even an average defense. There's a lot of room to work with and a good QB. On top of that, Arthur Blank gave Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff a lot of wiggle room.
It's got to be the best landing spot for anyone. I'm not even going to do the rest.
Jets, Bills, and Bears all have a nightmare quarterback situation. If the Bucs job becomes available, then perhaps the lure of Marcus Mariota and the fact that they have Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David and Mike Evans is enough to make it a better job than Atlanta. (Tampa has $30 million in cap room.)
Who steps in for Quinn?
Then the situation switches to Seattle, where Pete Carroll has to name a new defensive coordinator for the second time in two years. Last time he went outside of the organization and grabbed Quinn from Florida, but Quinn had coached for the Seahawks under Carroll just two years earlier. So it wasn't that far outside of the organization.
(I'd be interested to know if there's ever been a case of a guy going from a coordinator in college to a head coach in the NFL in three years or less. It's fairly shocking.)
I'm just spitballing here, if you're looking outside of the organization:
- Todd Wash, defensive line coach in Jacksonville. He coached for Carroll from 2011-2012. Sen'Derrick Marks has become one of the best defensive tackles in the league and the Jaguars had 45 sacks as a team this season. If he wants someone who "understands" how Carroll likes to generate a pass rush, then Wash has to be at the top of that list. Carroll is a defensive back guru, but has hired a linebackers coach and a defensive line coach to be his two coordinators in Seattle.
- Robert Saleh, linebackers coach in Jacksonville. Saleh was the Seahawks "Defensive Quality Control" coach from 2011-2013. He was with the team for their Super Bowl run, unlike Wash. He's only 35, but many in-house candidates are younger than 40, as well. I don't know much about what his job entailed in Seattle though, so it's curious that he left the number one defense to be a positional coach for the Jags, so I assume it was a step up, meaning he might not be ready to take over the whole defense.
- DeWayne Walker, defensive backs coach in Jacksonville. Walker is 54 and never been a defensive coordinator in the NFL, but he was Carroll's first hire at USC, after working for him in New England. He moved up after one year to coach DBs for the Giants and then the Redskins before coaching UCLA's defense from 2006-2008. He was head coach at New Mexico State from 2009-2012 and is now working for Bradley. He might be preferential to in-house candidates because of his experience.
Who could possibly understand Carroll's philosophy better than Walker?
- Jerry Gray, defensive backs coach in Minnesota. Gray was Carroll's DB coach in 2010 before leaving to take a job with the Texas Longhorns. He was the Titans defensive coordinator from 2011-2013 and obviously did not do that great. But Tennessee's defense wasn't always the worst under Gray and he could be expected to do a lot better with a lot of talent.
Bradley's defense wasn't good under Jim Mora and until they had Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, among other names.
- Rocky Seto, defensive passing game coordinator. Seto has been with Carroll since the very beginning at USC and has never left his side. He was Carroll's defensive coordinator for the Trojans in 2009 but given a new title when Carroll left that job for the Seahawks. He was not given the job when Bradley left in 2012, but clearly this is one of Carroll's favorite people in the world. Is he ready now?
- Kris Richard, defensive backs coach. Richard played for Carroll at USC and was drafted by Seattle in the third round of the 2002 draft. He was hired by Carroll at USC in 2008 when his playing career ended and has helped turn Thomas, Sherman, and Chancellor into three of the best players in the NFL. He hasn't done a bad job with Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, and others either.
- Ken Norton Jr, linebackers coach. The most notable name to fans because of a 13-year playing career that included three Super Bowls and three Pro Bowls, Norton has been with Carroll since 2004, including a stint as assistant head coach in 2009. He was also passed over in favor of Quinn in 2012.
- Marquand Manuel (defensive back assistant) and Travis Jones (defensive line) are longshots.