Do a quick Google search of any football coach and you’ll find out see that coach has quite the lengthy employment history.
While some will have a more meteoric rise than others, most coaches start off at the bottom – usually at a college – and work their way up, accumulating a lengthy trail of stops around the country.
It’s no different for Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn.
Before leading the “Dirty Birds” to its first Super Bowl since 1999, the 46-year-old coach had stints with the Seattle Seahawks, University of Florida Gators, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins.
Yep, Quinn coached with the Dolphins.
After serving as San Francisco’s defensive line coach for two seasons (2003-2004), Quinn was brought on to Nick Saban’s 2005 Miami Dolphins coaching staff – also as the defensive line coach.
Quinn, who was 34 when he was added to Miami’s coaching staff, was put in charge of a defensive line that had an average age of 32 – including 36-year-old veteran Keith Traylor and 35-year-old Jeff Zgonina.
Even so, Quinn’s defensive linemen accounted for 33 of Miami’s 49 sacks in 2005. Jason Taylor led the team with 12 backfield takedowns that season. Taylor would also have arguably his best pro season under Quinn’s direction the following year – recording 13.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions for returned for touchdowns.
When Quinn joined his former Dolphins’ (2005) coaching staff mate Will Muschamp, at Florida, Taylor reportedly texted Muschamp ‘How the heck did you get Dan to join your staff? He is the best defensive line coach I’ve ever played for’.
High praise from a future NFL Hall of Famer.
Retired Miami Dolphins linebacker and current Miami Sports Radio 560 WQAM personality Channing Crowder’s first two years in the league coincide with Quinn’s time in Miami.
Though Crowder played linebacker, he knew Quinn had the mark of a good coach.
“It was surprising that Dan became a head coach – given how I remember him,” Crowder recalled.
“I remember we were playing Chicago in Chicago and it was a close game. I remember him coming over to the defense and saying ‘guys, this is what it’s about! If I could go out there and I could run down on one kickoff, you know what I would do?’ he kept saying it, trying to use that as the trigger. By the fifth time he said it, I remember big Keith Traylor – 36 years old, two Super Bowls in – turning to him and saying ‘get your ass knocked out’. You want to talk about the energy going out of a man.”
“[Quinn] was always the energetic dude. I never pegged him to be a head coach…because as a head coach you have to be level-headed,” Crowder said. “He was always the one saying ‘let’s go fight’ or ‘go out there and choke somebody…go show them who’s boss’. So to see him progress to become a head coach was awesome.”
After spending a couple of seasons in Gainesville, Quinn went all the way to the other side of the country to join Pete Carroll’s staff in Seattle. Quinn was given the full set of keys to an NFL defense for the first time in 2013 and all he did was turn it into one of the most dominant defensive units in the league.
In Quinn’s first season as DC, the Seahawks led the league in fewest points allowed, fewest yards allowed, and takeaways – becoming the first team since the 1985 Chicago Bears to accomplish the feat – en route to winning Super Bowl XLVIII.
Led by Quinn’s defense, Seattle made a second consecutive appearance in the Super Bowl in 2014, before falling to the New England Patriots.
Quinn’s defensive chops earned him the head coach job in Atlanta before the start of the 2015 season. Quinn harkened back to his time with the Dolphins when it was time to name his defensive coordinator – bringing in Richard Smith, as the two worked together in Miami in 2005 when Smith was the Fins’ defensive coordinator.
After going 8-8 during his first season, Quinn has seen his Falcons soar all the way into the NFL’s biggest game. Ironically, Atlanta isn’t riding on backs of its defense. The Dirty Birds rely on quarterback Matt Ryan and a potent offense to overwhelm teams.
Still, Sunday will mark the third time in four years that a team Quinn is associated with is making an appearance in the Super Bowl – and that’s impressive.