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Commanders fans grade the hiring of Quinn, Kingsbury and Whitt

Survey results!!

ASHBURN, VA FEBRUARY 28: Washington Commanders Head Coach Dan Photo by Michael A. McCoy /For The Washington Post via Getty Images

In this week’s Reacts survey, we asked Hogs Haven readers to grade the hiring decisions at the head coach and both coordinator positions.

The decisions to hire head coach Dan Quinn, offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and defensive coordinator Joe Whitt got surprisingly similar report cards.

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In each case, right around 30% of respondents awarded an “A” grade, while about half awarded a “B”, and about 15% gave the hires a “C”. No more than 5% of respondents gave any of the hires a lower grade.

Dan Quinn

The hire of Quinn, in particular, seems to be the ‘safe’ play when compared to the potentially riskier move of hiring a younger and less experienced candidate. Quinn represents the “anti-Sean McVay” move — the decision not to chase the next hot young offensive coordinator as so many teams have done since the Rams hired McVay in 2017 at the age of 30.

On the ‘plus’ side, Adam Peters had said that he was looking for a leader, and Dan Quinn certainly seems to fit the bill. We have heard testimonials from former players, former bosses, and former coaches from different teams and different time periods speaking out in the wake of the hiring, each extolling Quinn’s leadership ability. Quinn also has a Super Bowl win as a defensive coordinator and an NFC Conference Championship as a head coach on his resume, showing that he is capable of winning on the field. His performance as a defensive coordinator is impressive, having had success in both Seattle and Dallas in the past decade.

On the other side is the Falcons’ 4th-quarter collapse to lose in their only super bowl appearance of this millennium, and Quinn’s seeming lack of on-field success without Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator.

But identifying and hiring good staff is also part of Quinn’s accepted skill set, and so his decision to hire Kingsbury and Whitt to run the offense and defense respectively are interesting choices that have been generally well-received, but — especially in the case of Kliff Kingsbury — with some reservations.

Kliff Kingsbury
Kingsbury had limited success as an NFL head coach. He won 5, 8 and 11 games in his first three seasons, with his team, the Cardinals, losing in the wildcard round in his only playoff season of 2021. In early 2022, Kingsbury was reportedly rewarded with a 6-year contract extension, but following a dismal 4-13-1 season, he was fired, finishing his only NFL head coaching stint with a 4-season record of 28-37-1.

We all know, of course, that head coaches and coordinators do different jobs, and while Kingsbury’s tenure in Arizona may have ended in disarray, his offensive success is what landed him the job in Washington.

Joe Whitt
Whitt had made it clear, even when Dan Quinn was still employed in Dallas, that he wanted to be wherever Dan was. While he had history with Mike McCarthy, the Cowboys head coach, Whitt was on Quinn’s Atlanta staff, and followed him to Dallas when Quinn was hired as the defensive coordinator in 2021. Now, he has followed Quinn again, this time to Washington, where Whitt will be the DC.

As a first-time coordinator, it feels like Washington fans are simply taking it on faith that Whitt is the man for the job. Dallas certainly had a much better overall defense and secondary than did the Commanders, and if Quinn credits much of that success to Whitt and trusts him, then Washington fans seem ready to believe in him.

Position coaches and the Special Teams coordinator

In the latter part of the week, after most people had voted in the survey, there was more news about Washington’s coaching staff.

Brian Johnson, who was the Eagles offensive coordinator in 2023, has joined the offensive coaching staff. His exact title hasn’t yet been announced, but it is anticipated that he will be involved with the quarterbacks, perhaps as the passing game coordinator. The sticking point on his job title is that the current QB coach, Tavita Pritchard, is remaining with the team. In much the same way as Kingsbury’s struggles as head coach of the Cardinals doesn’t necessarily dim his prospects for success as OC in Washington, the fact that Brian Johnson was fired from the Philly staff at the end of the ‘23 season doesn’t really diminish what he’d done in his career to get to that position. Many people have looked at the pairing of Kingsbury and Johnson as a sign that Quinn is putting together an impressive staff on the offensive side of the ball, though there has been some concern expressed about whether Kingsbury, Johnson and Pritchard might mean that a young Washington quarterback may end up with too many competing voices in his ear.

Jason Simmons is a name that is probably less familiar to Washington fans. He is from the Raiders coaching staff and the defensive side of the ball. He was the defensive passing game coordinator in Vegas and will reportedly have a similar role in Washington.

Larry Izzo is reported to be taking over from Nate Kaczor as the Special Teams coordinator. Kaczor had originally joined Jay Gruden’s coaching staff, but was kept on when Ron Rivera arrived in town. He hasn’t survived a second coaching change. Izzo was the Seahawks ST coordinator, and an undeniably successful one. He seems to be available due only to the fact that the Seahawks changed head coaches this offseason, pushing aside longtime head coach Pete Carroll in favor of former Ravens defensive coordinator Peter Carroll.

Izzo was a 3-time super bowl champion as a player with the New England Patriots, and his special teams units in Seattle were ranked 5th, 4th and 8th in DVOA, respectively, over the past three NFL seasons.

Final thoughts

I get the feeling, reading through comments on Hogs Haven, listening to podcasts, and scrolling through what used to be Twitter, that Washington fans were a bit stunned early on by the way the coaching search ended, and that the early response to Dan Quinn was muted because his hire felt like something of a consolation prize; his hire wasn’t the expected result, and his age and NFL history were very much the antithesis of what fans had been gearing up for.

As the days have passed and a bit of the shock has worn off, I get the sense that fans are warming up to the hire, and that this process is being helped along with every component that gets added to the 2024 coaching staff.

While fans are certainly not dancing in the streets, I think that a level of positive acceptance is already taking root, and some quiet optimism is beginning to develop. We may not have gotten what we were told to expect, but the coaching staff appears to be shaping up nicely.

With veteran free agency starting in just over 4 weeks, it’s time for attention to turn to the roster as we begin the next promising era of Washington football.

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