DALLAS — Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will always be appreciative of the opportunity that the Atlanta Falcons gave him.
Owner Arthur Blank and general manager Thomas Dimitroff hired the Seattle Seahawks DC to be the franchise's 13th full-time head coach ahead of the 2015 season. Quinn was coming off a productive two seasons prior where the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2013 and came a yard away from repeating as champions in 2014.
"I have great memories from there and I always will and I think a lot of the really cool things that we accomplished there — and there were a lot of them — versus how it ended, and I think that’s an important declaration," Quinn told reporters on Nov. 8.
How it ended for Quinn was ignominious. Despite leading Atlanta to a Super Bowl appearance in 2016 and a wild-card win the following year, the Falcons finished 7-9 each of the next two seasons. In 2020, Atlanta started 0-5, and both Quinn and Dimitroff were out.
"I’ll certainly be forever grateful to Arthur to give me the opportunity there and to all of the players I had the privilege to coach," said Quinn, who compiled a 43-42 record in Atlanta.
Quinn used the surprise sabbatical to take a look at what he had been doing wrong and what he had been doing right throughout his time in the NFL. The Pete Carroll understudy looked at film from, not only his Atlanta days, but from his time with the Seahawks to see where he could improve so as to not make the same mistakes when he inevitably returned to the NFL.
"I think when you have a chance to do that, it’s important to look at anything from the other point of view," said Quinn.
Although as formidable, at least through eight games, as some of his other defenses, the Cowboys are more diverse in their coverages than Quinn's units with Seattle and Atlanta.
Said Quinn: "For us, I’d say we’re certainly more versatile now. We relied heavily on three-deep zone and it had been good for us for a good long while. Having the ability to change is important. Everything is good, but nothing lasts forever in that spot. What was good then, now it’s got to have a new tweak and a new change and you’re always kind of evolving. I would say the versatility with the defense now, with the variety of coverage that we play, and making the quarterback have to read that after the snap, that’s a big deal."
The Cowboys are 13th in points allowed (192), tied for fourth in yards per play (6.0), and tied for fifth in takeaways (14). However, the defense has not generated a turnover in two consecutive games, the first such drought of the season, and Dallas is coming off a 30-16 beating at the hands of the Denver Broncos.
"You guys saw the performance [Sunday]," said Quinn. "So, there is no time to take a stroll down memory lane."
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