Dan Quinn never really wanted to leave the Seahawks. But he also really wanted to be a defensive coordinator.
That’s how Quinn, the Seahawks’ assistant head coach/defensive line coach in 2009 and D-line coach in 2010, ended up at the University of Florida the past two seasons as the Gators’ coordinator. With Gus Bradley entrenched as the Seahawks’ D-coordinator, the college game provided Quinn the opportunity to run his own defense.
But when Bradley left in January to become head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Quinn was the no-brainer replacement for the Seahawks. And this week, he’ll begin his first training camp as a defensive coordinator in the NFL.
“I’m really excited,” Quinn said through a smile as he sat in his lake-view office at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “Just knowing the organization – what we stand for, what we’re about – that was exciting, too.
“I couldn’t be more fired up to be part of it.”
And in the role that prompted him to leave the Seahawks in the first place.
While at Florida, Quinn didn’t just prove something to himself, he proved to the football world that he is indeed worthy of being a coordinator at the highest level. The Gators’ defense ranked among the Top 10 in the nation in both seasons under Quinn – eighth in 2011 and fifth last season, when Quinn’s crew allowed an average of 286.7 yards and 14.5 points.
The Gators played an aggressive style that Quinn plans to unleash now that he’s back with the Seahawks – where he inherits a unit that last season yielded the fewest points in the NFL and also ranked a franchise-best No. 4 in average yards allowed.
“That’s just my nature and the way I coach,” he said of being aggressive – a term he prefers to gambling. “I had an opportunity to do that Florida. I like that. I like that as a position coach and I like that as a play-caller.
“I like making the offense have to deal with us, too. I like them to have to know they have to deal with us. I just want to play with an aggressive mindset.”
The Seahawks’ defense that Quinn inherits isn’t the same group he left after the 2010 season. Ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant are still here, as is tackle Brandon Mebane. But it remains to be seen who will win the starting three-technique tackle spot in the base defense that opened when Alan Branch was allowed to sign elsewhere in free agency – as well as that same spot in the nickel line that was vacated when Jason Jones also left in free agency. Quinn also has to determine who will start at Clemons’ Leo end spot as he completes his rehab following knee surgery. Among the candidates to fill these vacancies on the line are free-agent additions Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett and draft choice Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams.
At linebacker, K.J. Wight and Bobby Wagner have become starters the past two seasons in Quinn’s absence, while Malcolm Smith has the inside track to be the starter on the outside opposite Wright. In 2010, the starting linebackers were David Hawthorne, Lofa Tatupu and Aaron Curry. All are gone. In the secondary, cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner and strong safety Kam Chancellor were not starters in Quinn’s first stint. But they have replaced 2010 starters Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings and Lawyer Milloy.