While there were certainly twists and turns in the road, anyone truly surprised with how the story played out wasn’t paying attention.
At his introductory news conference last month, Washington Commanders general manager Adam Peters flat-out said the franchise’s next head coach wouldn’t be limited to an offensive- or defensive-minded specialist, but rather “the best leader for this organization.” Apparently, a large chunk of the fanbase either didn’t get the memo or willfully chose to ignore this message.
While many (myself included) clamored for a young, innovative coaching candidate such as Detroit’s Ben Johnson or Baltimore’s Mike Macdonald, these words from Peters should have been a strong indicator of just how seriously Dan Quinn was being considered. And look, I get it, Quinn is the human equivalent of wool pajamas. There’s nothing sexy about this hiring. But he might end up being exactly what the franchise needs at this time.
Quinn is not the next Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan. But he is universally respected by damn-near every person he has worked with during his extensive NFL coaching career. And the 53-year-old has been preparing for this possibility since he was fired five games into his sixth season as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 2020.
“When I left Atlanta, it was during the middle of the season,” said Quinn. “And so, you have time to reflect. It’s lonely, it’s disappointing, it’s depressing. But you don’t want to just rinse and repeat. You want to make sure: How do I take this, change it and then make sure you get to prove it again? And so that was the silver lining in this. I’m a better version of me today than I was three, four or five years ago.”
In addition to Quinn, Washington announced the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury as offensive coordinator and Joe Whitt Jr. as defensive coordinator. Kingsbury has a proven track record of working with young, talented quarterbacks — including Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech, Kyler Murray in Arizona and Caleb Williams at USC. This addition makes a ton of sense for the Commanders, who have the second overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and six selections in the top 102.
On that note, if Washington is convinced that Williams is the best possible quarterback available and is willing to give up the necessary draft capital to land him, they can at least take solace in knowing that their franchise quarterback and offensive coordinator will be on the same page from the jump. But if they ultimately stay at No. 2 and select North Carolina’s Drake Maye or LSU’s Jayden Daniels, their rookie quarterback will still be in capable hands.
Fun, but ultimately random fact: Kingsbury was New England’s sixth-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. That same season, Peters began his NFL career with the Patriots as an assistant scout.
Whitt Jr. comes from Dallas where he worked alongside Quinn as a secondary coach and defensive passing game coordinator. For three seasons, the dynamic duo were typically found in close proximity in the coach’s booth during a game. As a Dallas defender causes a turnover, Quinn usually brought big energy and ample enthusiasm while Whitt Jr. was much more stoic and subdued. While Quinn was fist-pumping and high-fiving, Whitt Jr. had his head down, already focused on the next play. These two know each other well and complement one another nicely.
Also worth noting: Since taking over the Dallas secondary in ’21, Whitt’s unit led the league with 59 interceptions. Last season, Dallas’ pass defense ranked fifth in passing yards allowed per game (187.4) and recorded 17 interceptions, tied for eighth most in the NFL. Some suggested Whitt Jr. could become the new Dallas defensive coordinator if Quinn was hired elsewhere this offseason, but that obviously didn’t happen.
Instead, the duo arrives in the nation’s capital with hopes of restoring glory to a once-proud franchise. It won’t be easy, but they’re looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m going to give myself a little grace and allow one swear word here because I’ve done a pretty good job so far,” Quinn said. “I haven’t had any, and I swear a lot. But there is nothing I enjoy more than doing hard shit with good people.”