Washington Post (paywall)
Dan Quinn is fired up. He thought he might never be a head coach again. He worried the NFL was too focused on offensive coaches, too consumed with finding the “young and shiny.” But now he’s here, 53 years old and ready to “kick a—,” he said, ready to “get rocking,” ready to mold his new team’s “explosive and physical” identity, ready to lead the Washington Commanders through what he hopes will be a swift “recalibration.”
“Nothing I enjoy more than doing hard shit with good people,” Quinn said during a nearly hour-long news conference Monday at team headquarters.
Seated between Commanders managing partner Josh Harris and General Manager Adam Peters, Quinn essentially introduced himself as Dan Quinn 2.0. He said that, after the Atlanta Falcons fired him in 2020, he conducted a thorough review — a “360,” he called it — of his approach. He said he is older and wiser, and he touched his goatee, joking that the “chrome” was a symbol of what he has learned.
Washington Post (paywall)
Quinn telegraphed his first PG-13 word soon into his nearly 50-minute question-and-answer session with reporters. The next several just flowed through his responses, like “kick a—” and “competitive a—” and “work our a—es off.”
But there’s one curse word that Quinn won’t say: rebuild.
You want to make NFL coaches blush in embarrassment, start dropping that seven-letter word. They might make you throw money into the swear jar and then wash your mouth out with soap. It’s the most censored word in NFL circles, at least publicly.
Quinn said, “I’m really, honestly glad you brought it up. I know it’s a big topic. I would say this is a recalibration. Finding our north again. And that starts with our identity of our club. So, [you] will not hear me say the word ‘rebuild’ at all. This is about accessing what we have, how do we add to that and how quickly we can accelerate this process together.”
The Athletic (paywall)
New Washington Commanders coach Dan Quinn said Monday that Eric Bieniemy, who just completed his first season as the team’s offensive coordinator, will not be on the team’s staff moving forward.
“I had a good visit with him. I think he’s an excellent coach,” Quinn said. “We’re not going to work together here. I wanted him to know I respect the work that he’s done. I wish EB nothing but the best.”
In Washington, multiple sources said players chafed under Bieniemy’s leadership, but, more than that, the offense continued a years-long struggle. The Commanders ranked 25th in scoring and 24th in yards. They were worse in both areas compared to the previous season.
But in 2023 Washington also started quarterback Sam Howell, who entered with just one start the year before as a rookie. The Commanders also had a revamped offensive line that wasn’t considered a strength, which team officials privately acknowledged.
However, one team source said late in the year, the issues were compounded by Bieniemy’s desire to throw the ball — Washington led the league with 636 pass attempts this season.
Not that the offensive struggles were new: Washington has now ranked 20th or worse in both yards and points for six consecutive seasons.
Enter Kingsbury. Quinn coached against Kingsbury when he was a defensive coordinator at Florida in 2012 and the latter was the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M. The Gators won 20-17. They later met at an awards show and, Quinn said, “hit it off.”
Quinn said he hired Kingsbury for the same reason he hired Kyle Shanahan for a similar position with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015.
Dan Quinn was introduced as the Commanders’ new head coach on Monday. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
“He was hard to go against,” Quinn said. “He would stretch the field horizontally and vertically, and going against Kliff, those same feelings you had: This is going to be tough, matchup formation, speed shots down the field, aggressiveness, boldness. As a coach you were writing down some names, this is something in your future, if I get that shot, this is somebody I would want to talk to.
Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)
Taking a closer look at what the Commanders offense might look like under new offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury
The concerns around Kingsbury’s offense stem from his system in college. Kingsbury used the popular “Air Raid” system in college, which involves spreading out the defense with three and even four wide receivers and trying to attack down the field. There’s very little running game, lots of bubble screens and everything is run almost exclusively out of the shotgun. There’s also very little huddling as the offense looks to use tempo to play fast and exploit defenses that aren’t ready for the snap.
In the NFL, however, Kingsbury’s offense was quite different. In fact the offense in his last year in the league back in 2022 was much more conventional than the system he used in college. That’s not to say he changed everything, some of the traits like heavy shotgun usage and up-tempo periods carried over, but Kingsbury was also wise enough to know he needed to add more to his system for it to be successful at the NFL level.
One of the main concerns surrounded his run game, as there was very little running in the Air Raid system in college. The Cardinals ran the ball plenty during Kingsbury’s four years and were actually pretty efficient at it too. It certainly helped to have an athletic quarterback like Kyler Murray that could add on to the run game and create issues for the defense from a numbers perspective, but the Caridnals run game was more than just Murray. They deployed a gap scheme rushing attack with some fun twists to change things up.
Here’s a package of clips looking at some different run schemes the Cardinals used under Kingsbury. There were of course plenty more, but this should give you an idea of the types of schemes to expect in Washington this year.
The former Cowboys DC won Washington over with natural chemistry and strong intentions. Plus, the Chargers’ chase for Jim Harbaugh, Baker Mayfield’s future and more.
Quinn, it seemed, scored highly in every category and was different in that he’d been a head coach before. (Morris was the only other candidate who could say that.) In the first interview, Quinn took the group through the 360-degree review he did of his time as Falcons head coach; he told Washington he’d even hired people to do a deep dive into what he’d done right and wrong. Quinn explained how he’d taken the information he got back to heart and worked on it, showing real self-awareness and humility.
After the group compared notes, and without a set number of people they planned to invite back as finalists, the five decided they liked all seven external candidates enough to invite them back for second interviews. After some schedule shifting and moving, the team met with Morris and Slowik in Miami before the conference title games and, eventually, had Weaver and Macdonald set for Monday in Baltimore. Quinn was set for Tuesday morning in D.C., while Glenn and the group were set to fly to Detroit to interview Glenn and Johnson that afternoon, to best accommodate the coaches who were working the conference title games.
The format for the second interviews was also a little different. They’d start with Peters, Spielman and Mayhew, then hit a break, then go two hours with Myers and Harris joining in, before finishing up with Peters getting one-on-one time with the candidate.
Over the weekend, Peters went back through his background work. His former Niners colleagues Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch, Paraag Marathe and Jed York had been generous with their time in vetting candidates, and Shanahan and York had seen Quinn up close at opposite ends of the spectrum: York watched Quinn in his first NFL job, as the San Francisco 49ers’ DL coach from 2001–04, and Shanahan worked for him when Quinn was head coach in Atlanta. What struck Peters was the consistency in what everyone said.
And the polling that Peters, Spielman, and Mayhew did canvassing NFL contacts, from Dallas and Atlanta, and all those people in San Francisco who’d worked for Quinn with the Falcons, was just as consistent. But he wasn’t the only candidate who’d hit for that sort of average, which is why the group went into last week with an open mind—and a still wide-open search. As such, perception that Johnson was the heavy favorite rankled them, especially when it made some candidates leery about staying in the race.
Washington’s identity will be explosive and physical.
Quinn said having an aligned vision is about more than results on the field. It’s about having the right shared identity and attitude that permeates throughout the roster.
Quinn doesn’t want to put a lot of hard expectation on his first season as the head coach, but he does want Washington’s opponents to know how they’re going to play.
“Explosive and physical,” Quinn said.
On offense, that means creating plays that eat up yardage in chunks, whether it’s through a dominant run game or a dynamic passing attack that changes field position. On defense, Quinn wants to see “energy-generating” football. That could mean a fumble or a sack, but it could also mean an interception returned for a touchdown or a tackle that creates negative yardage for offenses.
Having the players to do that will be important, but regardless of who Quinn puts on the field, he wants them to be bold and aggressive.
“That’s part of what we do,” Quinn said, “and then train them to do it over and over again.”
Quinn hopes that approach will lead to Washington’s opponents thinking one thing: “Damn, this is gonna be hard today.”
It’s clear [Ben]Johnson’s withdrawal rankled the team and disrupted the search. The team maintains that it was committed to seeing the process through to the finish, which may have cost them an opportunity to land Raheem Morris or Mike Macdonald.
“Obviously the NFL has its own unique approach, its own unique rules,” Harris said. “It’s a very thorough process. Certainly, there are times where you’re allowed to talk to people, not allowed to talk to people. So what that does is it creates a longer process. It was very thorough.”
Regardless of how the process played out, the Commanders landed a fine leader in Quinn. Johnson showed his age through his behavior, but that’s no reason for a continued back-and-forth — particularly given how long this franchise has been playing in the mud.
Quinn, by the way, was sent home from his in-person interview last month with the Commanders on a commercial jet out of Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport — hardly the sort of treatment that would be expected of a frontrunner candidate.
That’s all water under the bridge, or under Gate 35X, now.
Harris and company sent the private jet to pick Quinn up when he was the final choice, and he’ll be given every opportunity to succeed or fail on his own merits in Washington.
Washington Post (paywall)
Since Cousins left after that 2017 season, at least a dozen guys have tried their hand at the game’s most important position for Washington. All have been either felled by injury, as was the case with Cousins’s immediate replacement, Alex Smith, or plagued by ineffectiveness.
In recently departed coach Ron Rivera’s four seasons alone, nine guys started at quarterback. They combined to lose 40 of 67 games and never had a winning campaign. Whatever happened to Garrett Gilbert, anyway?
So I don’t care much about who the coach is. It doesn’t seem to be the most important hire at this moment. Whether the next sideline boss was to be the latest hotshot, Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who decided otherwise, or a legend, Bill Belichick, who apparently didn’t excite enough of the new stewards at team headquarters in Ashburn, so what? That it will be Dan Quinn may be uninspiring, but he won’t make the ultimate difference.
What is most critical is to get a franchise quarterback.
Podcasts & videos
Ex-Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff gives Chris Russell a glowing job recommendation for Dan Quinn
Link for Livestream at 8 pm ET with @RealBramW talking Dan Quinn’s presser, staff moves and QBs in a discussion that will go on for 3 months and no one will get tired of. @ESPNRichmond https://t.co/3fVL9cdm4z— John Keim (@john_keim) February 5, 2024
NFL league links
Pro Football Talk
The NFL’s first game in Brazil will be the second game of the 2024 season.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed today that the league will play a regular-season game in Brazil on Friday, September 6, the day after the traditional Thursday night opener that will be hosted by either the Chiefs or 49ers.
“We’re going to do it on our Kickoff Weekend, which is an unusual approach,” Goodell said. “We’re actually going to do it on Friday night of our Kickoff Weekend.”
The Eagles will be the home team for the game, which will be at Corinthians Arena, home to Brazilian soccer team SC Corinthians, in São Paulo, Brazil. It’s the first NFL game in South America, and playing on a Friday night in Week One is also something the NFL is doing for the first time since 1970.