Washington Post (paywall)
[W]e don’t know whom Quinn — and, presumably, been-in-the-job-two-weeks general manager Adam Peters — will hire to design and run the offense.
Quinn has credentials, and in some sense they’re unassailable. He coordinated legendary, best-in-the-game defenses that helped the Seattle Seahawks win one Super Bowl and reach another. He was the coach of the Atlanta Falcons when they made the Super Bowl for only the second time in franchise history. He took a Dallas Cowboys defense that, before his arrival, was bottom five in the league in points allowed and in two seasons made it top five. That’s coaching.
[T]he situation that needs to be addressed correctly and quickly: offensive coordinator.
It’s my belief that the offensive leader for this franchise in the next few seasons is the fourth-most important person in the organization. He trails Harris because the new owner will make decisions on everything from who makes football calls to where a new stadium will be to how much to charge for beers. He trails Peters because the GM for once has the power to build a scouting and front-office operation and a roster that makes up for what it lacks in current talent with salary cap space and draft capital.
And he trails whomever Peters and his staff decide to take with the second pick in the draft because that player — Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, whoever — is going to be the quarterback on a rookie contract around which a competitive roster can be built. Because Jimmies and Joes win out over X’s and O’s, finding the right quarterback is more important — slightly more important — than finding the right person to develop him.
After that, though? Give me the offensive coordinator and place him above the head coach. That’s not a hard and fast rule. But it applies to this specific situation.
The Athletic (paywall)
Hiring coordinators and assistants doesn’t draw the same intense interest as the head coach choice, especially when drama exists in the process. Filling out the staff is arguably as crucial toward success.
Here’s a look at potential names for Washington’s offensive, defensive and special teams coordinator positions.
- Darrell Bevell
- Brian Griese
- Klint Kubiack
- Chip Kelly
- Mike LeFleur
- Tee Martin
- Frank Reich
- Brian Schottenheimer
- Aden Durde
- Ejiro Evero
- Leslie Frazier
- Al Harris
- Chris Harris
- Anthony Weaver
- Joe Whitt Jr.
Dan Quinn becomes the latest coach to try to turn Washington into something it hasn’t been in a long, long time: a consistent winner.
Why Dan Quinn, and what does he bring to Washington?
Keim: The most-used word during the Commanders’ search, publicly and privately, was “leadership.” Washington wanted a strong leader.
One NFL coach who worked with Quinn said he was as good as any coach he’s been around at setting the standard for an organization. Another coach labeled him one of the best in the NFL. So he has numerous fans in the league.
What’s the first thing Quinn must address in Washington?
Keim: Finding a top offensive coordinator. While Quinn’s downfall in Atlanta was his defense, the offense needs to be addressed first in Washington. The Commanders will likely select a quarterback with the second pick in the 2024 draft, so it’s imperative that Quinn has a well-developed offensive plan.
That means not only the coordinator but also the quarterbacks coach. He’ll also need to have a good succession plan in place in case his coordinator excels and quickly leaves for a head-coaching position. Washington currently has Eric Bieniemy as the offensive coordinator and Tavita Pritchard as quarterbacks coach. Both are under contract for 2024.
Finding a quarterback is second on the to-do list. Since parting ways with Kirk Cousins after the 2017 season, Washington has started 12 different QBs, including eight in Rivera’s four seasons. The last Washington quarterback to be the primary starter for more than three seasons was Mark Rypien from 1989 to 1993.
What are you hearing around the league on the hire?
Graziano: The sense I got over the past week or so was that Washington liked Mike Macdonald a lot and that he may well have been the Commanders’ top choice. (Yes, even ahead of Lions OC Ben Johnson.) But I also kept hearing that Washington liked Quinn a lot and that his previous head-coaching experience matched what the team was looking for in an overall organizational leader. So obviously once Macdonald ended up in Seattle, it felt like Quinn would get the job unless the Commanders decided to open it up to new candidates.
How would you grade this hire?
Tannenbaum: A-minus. Quinn is an experienced coach who has been to a Super Bowl, and he made the Cowboys’ defense immeasurably better over three seasons as their defensive coordinator. It’s a solid move.
Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)
Taking a closer look at the evolution of new Commanders head coach Dan Quinn’s defensive system
Quinn has quite the background of impressive mentors. He served as Nick Saban’s defensive line coach in Miami back in 2005 but he’s most well known for his work under Pete Carroll in Seattle, where he served as defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014, leading the famous “Legion of Boom” unit that powered the Seahawks to a Super Bowl win in 2014. Coming from that Seattle tree, Quinn is known for the Cover-3 system that spread around the NFL during the mid-2010’s. By the time he was fired in Atlanta, teams had adapted, so when Quinn went to Dallas, he had to adapt too.
Now, Cover-3 is a base zone coverage that every team in the NFL will use to varying degrees, so of course Quinn still uses it in Dallas and we will likely see plenty of Cover-3 and all its variations here in Washington in the near future.
Here’s an example of Quinn’s Cowboys running Cover-3 from this past season. The basics of Cover-3 is that it’s a three-deep, four-under zone coverage. That means the deep section is split into thirds, typically with a single deep safety in the middle of the field and the two outside corners sinking back to cover the outside thirds. Then the remaining four coverage defenders will split the underneath part of the field into quarters.
On this play, we see the Cowboys drop into Cover-3 with the strong safety responsible for the flat to the left side of the offensive formation. Lions quarterback Jared Goff looks to hit a quick out to his tight end in the flat, but because the safety is in zone coverage instead of man coverage, he’s able to play with vision on the quarterback rather than focusing purely on his man. With that vision, he can see the quarterback setting up to throw quickly and thus can break on the route immediately. The safety does a great job undercutting the route and intercepting the pass.
Coverage is only part of a good defense and every coach will tell you that coverage and pass rush go hand in hand. A big part of the reason Quinn shifted to using so much man coverage in Dallas, having previously relied so heavily on zone, is how he looked to create a pass rush. The Cowboys have an elite talent in linebacker Micah Parsons and frankly, calling him a linebacker feels like it’s selling him short because he’s almost positionless with how much he can do. Parsons has rare quickness, speed and bend that makes him an absolute nightmare for any offensive lineman to try and block. So instead of just putting him at defensive end and letting him rush, much like Rivera and the Commanders did with Chase Young and Montez Sweat, Quinn built an entire rush plan around getting Parsons as many one-on-one matchups as possible.
To make that happen, Quinn used a lot of man coverage to help free up an extra rusher, or at least the illusion of one. Quinn consistently wanted the offense to believe they were getting five rushers to try and force the protection scheme into blocking Parsons one-on-one.
On this play against the Rams, the Cowboys actually end up only rushing four, but they have the threat of five thanks to playing man coverage so frequently. With Bell lining up as a dime linebacker up in the box, the Cowboys are presenting three potential threats to the left side of the offensive line, forcing them to account for him. Because of that, the center is force to slide his way instead of sliding to Parsons on the other side of the line. This creates a one-on-one matchup for Parsons against the right guard. Parsons is simply too quick and explosive for a right guard to block and he’s immediately into the backfield pressuring the quarterback. The quarterback does a nice job stepping up to escape the initial pressure, but Parsons then comes back and lands a hit from behind, forcing a fumble that the Cowboys recover.
[T]he comparisons to Ron Rivera fall apart once you get past the defensive minded head coach that has previous experience as a head coach. Quinn, in my eyes, has far more about him schematically and is willing to adapt. Obviously, the coaching staff he hires will be critical to his success, but the same goes for any head coach. Quinn’s experiences around the league and in various systems should have enabled him to build a lot of connections and probably means he can build the best staff out of the candidates Washington had available to them. The offensive coordinator hire will be critical, especially if the team is planning on drafting a quarterback with the second overall pick.
“I told you guys, the day after the Dallas Cowboys game, the final game of the season, that I was told by someone in the Dallas Cowboys organization that Dan Quinn wanted this job and was very eagerly anticipating a call from the Commanders. He got it the next morning and wanted this job in the worst way.”
“Yelling into his microphone, Russell continued, “Boy Wonder, Ben Johnson did not want the job! The hell with him! Mike Macdonald didn’t want the job! The hell with him!”
“Dan Quinn wanted the job! (He) was aching to be the head coach of the Washington Commanders! And yet, some of you are already poo-pooing that, like you got a piece of discarded trash! People, adjust your prism. That’s absurd.”
Dan Quinn has been named the new Washington Commanders head coach, and ESPN thinks that his first order of business needs to be hiring a new offensive coordinator.
Could Quinn and Washington really move on from Bieniemy after one season?
Under Bieniemy last season, Washington had the 25th-ranked offense (19.4 points per game), and was 15th for passing yards (245.5/g), 27th for rushing yards (93.6/g), and 25th for points (329).
That doesn’t bode well, but the Commanders were going through a host of changes last season and had Sam Howell, who prior to Week 1, had just a single regular season start to his name.
Given Washington’s draft hand, a quarterback is likely to be taken. Whether that be Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels, the Commanders have a couple of ways to go.
But first, they must figure out if Bieniemy is the one to get the most out of the offense next season. If he is, then great, but if they deem he isn’t, then Bieniemy will be one-and-done in the nation’s capital.
Dan Quinn’s hiring closes a head-coaching cycle in which mostly defensive minds got jobs
With the Washington Commanders hiring Dan Quinn as their new head coach on Thursday, the 2024 head-coaching cycle has come to an end.
There were eight NFL head coaches hired following the end of the 2023 season. The only offensive coordinators hired were Dave Canales and Brian Callahan by the Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans, respectively. Jim Harbaugh is the new man in charge of the Los Angeles Chargers, but the other five openings went to defensive guys.
For the fourth consecutive season, the league’s combined points per game average has declined. Since Patrick Mahomes nearly broke the NFL with his 2018 debut, opposing defenses have become laser-focused on limiting big plays to as close to zero as possible.
the decline in offense has been impossible to ignore. Freakishly athletic pass rushers such as Micah Parsons and Montez Sweat are part of the reason, but so are the schemes that these defensive coaches are drawing up. The Baltimore Ravens do not have an elite pass rusher, and still held the Chiefs to only six total first downs in the second half of the AFC title game. After two seasons as defensive coordinator for the Ravens, Mike Macdonald is now the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
As points become more of a premium, the coordinators on the other side of the ball are proving to be just as valuable as the “geniuses” that diagram offenses.
Podcasts & videos
The Burgundy Zone: The Process featuring Louie Tee!!!
️The Commanders got their guy -- or did they? Dan Quinn is Washington's new head coach. Why league sources love the hire, and where questions are warranted. Thought on the Ben Johnson drama, potential coordinators, Rivera comps and mailbag questions. https://t.co/APwiQSGtde— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) February 2, 2024
Dan Quinn Hired as Head Coach of the Washington Commanders | My Thoughts - BnG Sessions Podcast https://t.co/UUobjCjXyB— The BnG® (@PhilipHughesNFL) February 1, 2024
Happy two-year anniversary of 2.2.22!— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) February 2, 2024
Episode 754 - In-depth analysis & discussion of #Commanders hiring Dan Quinn.
Breakdown of #Orioles' trade for Corbin Burnes
Guest: @SunJeffBarker. Great intel on sale of O's & what it means for #Nats/MASN dispute.https://t.co/1UQDCdn1U0
This 2020 article seems relevant at the momenthttps://t.co/aQdxHwGQhn— Bill-in-Bangkok (@billhorgan2005) February 2, 2024
NFC East links
Bleeding Green Nation
Domino effect in the NFC East.
1) The Dallas defense could get worse.
Here’s how the Cowboys ranked defensively under Quinn:
2021: 4th in DVOA, 8th in opponent offensive points per game, 3rd in EPA per play, 1st in takeaways per game, 19th in defensive spending
2022: 4th in DVOA, 9th in opponent offensive points per game, 2nd in EPA per play, 1st in takeaways per game, 26th in defensive spending
2023: 5th in DVOA, t-11th in opponent offensive points per game, 4th in EPA per play, t-14th in takeaways per game, 10th in defensive spending
2) The Commanders could have made a more intimidating hire.
If I’m the Eagles, I would’ve been nervous about the Commanders landing Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson or Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. They’re obviously both unproven at the head coaching level ... but that’s the point. Those might be high upside hires.
Quinn seems like a “safer” hire that raises the Commanders’ floor but leaves questions about Washington’s ceiling.
Washington is still a bit of a looming giant (no NFC East pun intended) since they have the No. 2 overall pick and the most cap space in the NFL to work with. It’s possible that new general manager Adam Peters will get them going in the right direction. Maybe they’ll knock the offensive coordinator hire out of the park.
Blogging the Boys
This one cuts both ways.
McCarthy...is now a lame duck head coach fighting for his job. The odds are good that he will not be offered a new deal after the 2024 season. We may not be happy that the cause for that would be one more disappointing performance, but if the head coach is not able to get the team back to at least the NFC championship game, it makes no sense to give him a few more years to try. That means that the new defensive coordinator is very likely to be looking for another job after a major housecleaning.
That may keep some of the more commonly mentioned former head coaches like Mike Vrabel and Ron Rivera from having interest in the job. Having just been cut loose themselves, they are more likely to want a more stable situation where they would have at least a couple of years to get their scheme working well to show what they can still bring to the table, and maybe set themselves up for another crack at a head coaching gig. Beyond the professional implications, there is also the prospect of having to relocate again after just a year for anything but another promotion.
Another way to fill the vacancy would be to promote from within. The current defensive assistants are mostly also in the last year of their contracts, and moving up to the coordinator job would come with a nice pay bump. Additionally, it would be a way to showcase their abilities to set themselves up for the future. They would not be nearly as great a threat to replace McCarthy, plus they already have a working relationship with him.
That has a fly in the ointment. There are reports that Quinn plans to take one of the top names from his former staff with him to Washington.
Name I heard that Quinn had told other teams he'd bring as DC: Dallas secondary coach/pass game coordinator Joe Whitt, Jr. Nothing official.— John Keim (@john_keim) February 1, 2024
Al Harris has also made comments in the past about following Quinn. Aden Durde is another name that has been floated as a possibility, and we just don’t know if Quinn also wants to take him, or what Durde’s own plans are. He has drawn interest from other teams as well, and may have the same motivation to go somewhere that offers more stability. For the coaches currently under contract, the team could not let them go if it was a purely lateral move. The danger with that is having a disgruntled man that could disturb the working environment.
NFL league links
Pro Football Focus
76. WR Curtis Samuel, Washington Commanders
Potential landing spot(s): Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins
Bears star wideout D.J. Moore is very close friends with Samuel from their shared time with the Carolina Panthers, and perhaps there’s something to be taken about Moore’s influence in Chicago from the Bears hiring Moore’s former wide receivers coach at Maryland in Chris Beatty, though Beatty has had several college and NFL stops and is certainly a deserving candidate regardless. Samuel offers a skill set the Bears seemingly tried to acquire in drafting Velus Jones Jr. — he can carry the ball out of the backfield and also rack up yards after the catch from slot and wide alignments.
Miami adding another inside/outside athlete that continues the track speed trend would be a fun third option alongside Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Mike McDaniel would surely take advantage of Samuel’s ability with the ball in his hands near the line of scrimmage, weaponizing plenty of pre-snap motion and diverse formations/alignments, and he can also still win over the top on occasion.
108. WR D.J. Chark, Carolina Panthers
Potential landing spot(s): New York Jets, Washington Commanders
Chark has struggled to consistently separate going on a few years now and had some ill-timed drops in 2023, but the idea here is New York gets a bit of a Corey Davis replacement as the contested-catch player out wide with Aaron Rodgers willing to take shots deep.
116. WR Josh Reynolds, Detroit Lions
Potential landing spot(s): Atlanta Falcons, Washington Commanders
We must not let a tough outing in the NFC Championship Game from Reynolds distract us from the fact that he had a great season in Detroit, as he was always rock solid as a No. 3 receiver out wide who does well to find the soft spots in zones and can win at the intermediate levels. Reynolds was also an asset in the Lions’ run game.
126. QB Jacoby Brissett, Washington Commanders
Potential landing spot(s): Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots
Brissett once again played good football in 2023 after an underrated strong 2022 campaign over the first 11 games for the Cleveland Browns, stepping up in Week 15 and earning a 92.0 PFF grade with 124 passing yards and two touchdowns on just ten passing attempts. It was unfortunate Brissett got hurt in Week 16 as it appeared he may have been the starter the rest of the way in Washington.
The Raiders no longer have a head coach and general manager with Patriots connections, but Brissett makes sense nonetheless. In New England, Brissett of course has a ton of connections, and he could serve as a great bridge to the future in the place where he got his career started.
Washington Post (paywall)
The NFL has been analyzing the XFL kickoff model and will consider it this offseason, along with other potential modifications, after a season in which league officials attributed a sharp drop in concussions suffered on kickoffs mostly to a lack of returns under a temporary rule change.
There were eight concussions suffered on kickoffs this season, according to the league’s annual injury data. That was down from 20 concussions suffered by players on kickoffs last season, NFL health and safety officials said.
That 60 percent reduction was almost entirely attributable, those officials said, to the drop in the number of kickoffs returned after the NFL enacted a rule for this season allowing the ball to be placed at the 25-yard line — in what amounts to a touchback — on a fair catch inside the 25-yard line.
“That play is neither safer nor more dangerous,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy. “The lesser frequency of the ball being returned on that play led to the decrease in injuries.”
“We’ve spent a fair amount of time analyzing the current kickoff,” Miller said, “and understanding why there are certain injuries in certain ways, the mechanisms of those injuries. … We have analyzed the XFL rule, which you know is a bit of a departure from ours. … We’ve analyzed that rule to see whether or not there’s things that we can learn from there. There will be a number of other options that we’re taking a look at, at the behest of the [competition] committee.”
XFL kickoff rule: Kick from the 30. The ball must clear the 20-yard line in the air for the kick to be considered legal. If it doesn't, the receiving team gets the kick 15 yards from the kickoff spot. pic.twitter.com/G5bWHi44Hw— Brandon Kornblue (@KornblueKicking) February 19, 2023