Dan Quinn just finished speaking as the Washington Commanders' head coach for the first time. Here are five takeaways from his introductory press conference.
1. Washington was the perfect fit.
This isn't the first time Quinn has been involved in a coaching carousel since he left the Atlanta Falcons. He's been considered as a candidate with other organizations over the past two seasons, but he turned down those opportunities to stay with the Dallas Cowboys.
Quinn couldn't pass on Washington, though. Why? Because the situation fit everything he was looking for.
"I was looking for specific markers," Quinn said. "Because if I wasn't going to find them, then I wasn't going to do it."
Quinn's approach to looking for a head-coaching opportunity was different from when he was hired by the Falcons. He knew exactly what he wanted from his next job, and much of that centered around having the right vision with the owner and general manager. He found that in Managing Partner Josh Harris and general manager Adam Peters, and once he took the franchise' historical mark on the NFL into account, Quinn knew it was the right spot for him to be.
"It was the one that was like a flashing light to me that said, 'This is the moment. This is the one,'" Quinn said.
Quinn fit the qualifications that Peters and Harris were looking for as well, and Peters said he knew "almost right away" that Quinn would be a good coach for the organization.
"Every time we spoke with Dan, it became more and more clear that he was the guy," Peters said. "We interviewed him twice, and it's like both times we were speaking the same language."
2. He already has some evaluations on the roster.
Quinn hasn't spoken with his new players yet, but as someone who saw the team twice each season, he's got an idea of what the roster has to offer.
There are a couple of groups that stood out to him.
"Man was I impressed with the inside of the defense, with the defensive tackles and knowing it starts up front on both sides," Quinn said.
The defensive line standing out to Quinn isn't surprising. He was a defensive lineman himself at Salisbury University, and obviously he's been a defensive coordinator for years. On that note, most of his attention over the past few years has been on how to stop the Commanders' offense, and it sounds like one of his biggest priorities was figuring out how to stop Washington's skill players.
"You have to have elite players on the edge for the matchups," Quinn said. "When they come, that's when you gotta go attack ... This receiving group really had skill, and they would test you and push you and try to find matchups."
Now, Quinn's job is going to involve finding paths for those receivers to succeed, rather than limiting them. He's still going to have ties to the defense, but Quinn feels like he's at his best when he's able to be the presence that ties the team together. That means helping out on both sides of the ball.
"The essence of a head coach is to put it all together," Quinn said. "It's the chemistry, it's the messaging, it's the play style, it's the attitude, it's the swagger. That's my number one job; to make sure all of this comes together."
3. Why Kliff Kingsbury and Joe Whitt Jr.
Quinn has already gotten to work on filling out his staff. Earlier this morning, he hired Kliff Kingsbury as his offensive coordinator and Joe Whitt Jr. as his defensive coordinator. While he will provide insight on both sides of the ball, Quinn said the coordinators will be the ones calling the plays.
When asked why he landed on those two coaches, Quinn provided detailed answers. He and Kingsbury have known each other since their days in college; Quinn was the defensive coordinator at Florida when Kingsbury was the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, so they knew each other's styles well. Quinn admired how Kingsbury attacked defenses in the passing game, and he kept Kingsbury's name in the back of his mind in case he got another chance to be a head coach.
Quinn also views the reasoning behind the hiring of Kingsbury as similar to when he brought in Kyle Shanahan to be his offensive coordinator in Atlanta.
"He was hard to go against," Quinn said of Shanahan. "He would stretch the field horizontally and vertically, and going against Kliff, those same feelings, you had. This is gonna be tough."
Kingsbury is known for working well with quarterbacks, but Quinn is also impressed with his overall approach to coaching.
"He's not just a guy who's going to be with the quarterbacks the whole time, so I want to make sure I'm clear on that."
With Whitt, Quinn has a working relationship with him that spans years. During that time, Quinn has seen Whitt's attention to detail and philosophy improve. Whitt values players who know how to tackle and take the ball away, and it's not a coincidence that the Cowboys have excelled at forcing turnovers since 2021.
"Joe has been exceptional at that though his career," Quinn said.
4. 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."
5. He credits his success to the players he's been around.
It's hard to find a player who didn't enjoy working with Quinn. Several of them have sung his praises since he was named the head coach, with NFL alums like Commanders analyst Logan Paulsen praising the culture that Quinn can build.
Quinn returned the favor, saying that he wouldn't be in the situation he's in without all that he had learned from players.
"The reason I got into coaching was the players," Quinn said. "Teaching has been part of what I've done my whole life, and that connection with people and players specifically is what I've done."
Obviously, Quinn is a competitor who loves to win. That's an expectation that comes with being a coach at any level. But what he loves more than anything is helping a player reach goals that they didn't think were possible. Changing a player's life and making sure they can get to a second or third contract is a significant part of the job that Quinn doesn't take lightly.
"Lives can change because of the impact we can make for one another," Quinn said.
Quinn said he's been part of 78 teams in his life. That's why being a quality teammate that helps improve the people around him means so much to him. Now that he's officially getting to work in Washington, he can't wait to start doing that with his new players.
"When you get it really good, and really tight," Quinn said of building a team, "that's when the magic happens."