Rick Spielman's days as an NFL executive are mostly behind him. He traded the hustle and bustle of building rosters and evaluating players in a win-now league for living on an island in Santa Belt, Florida. That sure sounds like a tough life.
Putting the sarcasm aside, it was going to take a lot for someone to pull Spielman away from retirement. As it turns out, getting a call from Washington Commanders Managing Partner Josh Harris and former NBA Executive of the Year Bob Myers to be part of Washington's search for a general manager and head coach was enough to convince him.
"It was just an unbelievable honor," Spielman said. "And to see how thorough the GM process was, to see how thorough this coaching search was...it was as thorough as I've ever been associated with."
Spielman wasn't the prevailing voice in the Commanders' decision to hire Dan Quinn, but his opinions mattered to Harris, Myers and the team's search committee. As someone who spent two decades in NFL front offices, he was able to offer input based on his choices, both right and wrong, to help guide Harris and his fellow partners on who should lead the franchise going forward.
After seeing the process firsthand, and hearing Quinn's press conference, he's confident the Commanders made the right choice.
"There's no question," Spielman said. "Just off his press conference. He's a leader of men. I think that's exactly what Josh and [general manager] Adam [Peters] were looking for in a head coach."
Although Quinn was a strong candidate from the start of the process, he was not the only candidate that Washington was reportedly interested in speaking with. Unlike with the hiring of Peters, which took about a week, Harris and the committee felt that they could take their time and give several coaches serious consideration.
Washington was also competing with seven other teams looking for head coaches. Teams slowly started to find their guys, and eventually, Washington was the only team left without a head coach. Still, Washington remained patient, despite the angst of fans looking for them to finish their search.
Harris and his partners knew they had to find the right person, though, and they were willing to wait.
Asked if it's hard to build a play and then stick to it, Spielman said, "It's not, if you stick to the plan. It's just like anything, whether you're going through free agency, whether you're going through the draft, whether you're hiring another head coach, that you have to stick to your process, and regardless of the pressure coming from the outside, you know what's right. And Josh and Adam did a phenomenal job of sticking to the process to make sure they got this right."
Spielman and Quinn had crossed paths before and is familiar with his coaching style. He interviewed Quinn for a job when he was the general manager of the Minnesota Vikings. What stood out the most about Quinn was his ability to assess the mistakes that he made in his previous head-coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons. He didn't just acknowledge the mistakes; rather, he studied them to learn how he could grow.
"I think it's going to be great for the Commanders, great for the fans because of everything that he is as a coach now [comes from] what he's learned through the process and how he corrected himself on some mistakes that he did make."
Take a behind-the-scenes look at Dan Quinn's first day and the Washington Commanders' new head coach.
Quinn referred to the review of himself as "a 360."
"The lessons for me were, man, be right," Quinn said. "It's the players and the team and it came from a good place of trying to help and solve problems, but...keep the main thing, the main thing. I had some time to test that in Dallas, and so that was good for me to go and do that and go through that process because I'm a much stronger coach today than when I took over years back in Atlanta."
Quinn also had the backing of several players that he had coached from his time with the Seahawks, Cowboys and Falcons. All of them, from K.J. Wright to Commanders analyst and former tight end Logan Paulsen, praised his ability to create a strong work environment and build bonds with his players.
That might not have been a requirement for some teams, but it did matter to Spielman, Harris and the Commanders.
"It speaks volumes...when you have players comment on how important that relationship is and how Dan is," Spielman said. "It's more than just X's and O's. Dan brings a whole different element on relationships and ability to teach, on ability to evolve. And he was a perfect head coach for this situation."
Now with Peters and Quinn in place, the Commanders can get to work rebuilding, or as Quinn puts it, recalibrating the roster and turning it into a playoff-caliber franchise. There's plenty for them to do, both in terms of making decisions on personnel and a coaching staff. They've already made some progress on the latter, hiring Kliff Kingsbury and Joe Whitt Jr. as their offensive and defensive coordinators.
As someone who helped Harris hire Peters and Quinn, he isn't worried about how they will handle those obstacles.
"I would be nothing but excited if I'm a Commanders fan and I would be worried about the rest of the NFL and what's to come with the Washington Commanders," Spielman said.