Dan Quinn is discovering that a lot has changed the past two seasons

Posted Jan 31, 2013

It’s only been two seasons since Dan Quinn left Seattle to run the defense at the University of Florida, but a lot has changed with the Seahawks’ unit he was just hired to coordinate.

Dan Quinn’s first order of business when he finally started settling into his lake-view office this week was to get caught up on what he missed the past two seasons.

It could take a while, because so much has changed from the time the Seahawks’ new defensive coordinator was the team’s defensive line coach in 2010. As he was completing his review of video from the just completed 2012 season the other day, the defense he was analyzing was wearing new uniforms and included only five starters from the 2010 unit – ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, tackle Brandon Mebane, linebacker Leroy Hill and free safety Earl Thomas.

Things not only have changed while Quinn was the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida, it’s been change for the better.

That 2010 defense ranked 27th in the NFL and the Seahawks’ average margin of defeat was 21 points while going 7-9 in their first season under coach Pete Carroll. The 2012 defense that Quinn is inheriting from Gus Bradley, who left this month to become head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, ranked No. 4 in the league in average yards allowed, led the NFL in points allowed and the team’s five losses during the regular season were by a combined 24 points.

“Part of the fun in coming back here, as opposed to another club, was the connections that are here,” Quinn said, sitting behind the desk of his office at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “That first time here with Pete, that was one of the more enjoyable seasons I’ve had coaching.”

In addition to Carroll, there also are linebackers coach Ken Norton, Jr., defensive backs coach Kris Richard and defensive passing game coordinator Rocky Seto on the defensive side of the ball from Quinn’s first stint with the Seahawks.

“You can’t say enough about those guys, who I held in high regard the last time I was here,” Quinn said.

But the defense he will coordinate is younger, faster, more athletic, more physical and more aggressive than the one the Seahawks had in 2010.

Exhibit A: Thomas, a rookie starter in 2010 who now is an All-Pro and also has played in the past two Pro Bowls; and Kam Chancellor, who has taken over at strong safety for veteran Lawyer Milloy after being tutored by the former Pro Bowler during his rookie season.

Exhibit B: The corners are now manned by 6-foot-3 Richard Sherman, who also was voted All-Pro this season after intercepting eight passes in his first full season as a starter; and 6-4 Brandon Browner, who played in the Pro Bowl in 2011 in his first season as a starter. Their physical presence on the outside allows the Seahawks more freedom to devise schemes involving the linebackers and linemen.

Exhibit C: Bobby Wagner, the middle linebacker who led the team in tackles as a rookie and also had three interceptions and a couple of sacks; and K.J. Wright, the 6-4 strong-side ’backer who was second on the team in tackles in his first full season as a starter.

It’s this new wave of talent, as well as his familiarity with Carroll’s defense, that makes Quinn’s return to the Seahawks not only a logical move but one he has been waiting to make.

“For me to be able to come back to a place where I know the organization, I know the people and a number of the players, it couldn’t have lined up any better,” Quinn said. “I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Because Quinn is now ready and prepared for the opportunity. That’s why he went to Florida, so he could be a coordinator before returning to the NFL in that capacity. His previous experience in the league had been as the defensive line coach – with the San Francisco 49ers (2003-04), Miami Dolphins (2005-06), New York Jets (2007-08) and Seahawks (2009-10).

“I had to do it, because that transition for me was something I wanted to do,” Quinn said of returning to the college game to get a taste of what life as a coordinator is like. “The first year there was hard, but it was worthwhile to go in and get it going in the right direction. And I had a blast coaching this season.”

Quinn’s first task after being hired on Jan. 17 was to attend Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala., with the rest of the Seahawks’ coaching staff. Then, it was back to Gainesville for a few days to take care of some unfinished business at Florida.

So it’s too early in Quinn’s return for him to be discussing just what he plans to do to make this already good unit even better. But Carroll has said that his top priority is improving a pass rush that was improved this season from what it had been in his first two seasons – whether it’s done with personnel, scheme or a combination of the two. And before Bradley left, he had said fixing a run defense that went from allowing an average of 84. 9 yards in the first eight games to 121.3 in the final eight games was a matter of tweaking a few details and stressing fundamentals.

“Dealing with those things will come in time,” Quinn said.

For now, he is staying busy getting reacquainted with those people and things he already knows, and getting caught up on all those things that have changed.