The Music Has Stopped …

The Washington Commanders had the last coaching vacancy in this round of “coach shuffling” until yesterday when they announced the hiring of Dan Quinn – – most recently the defensive coordinator of the Cowboys.  Like all other fanbases, the Commanders have a “negative element” in their fanbase who can never be satisfied; if the team were to win two Super Bowls in a row and lose the next one, some fans would consider that team to be a failure.  So, I was not overly surprised to see a small element of the fanbase react on one of the fanboy websites with this comment:

“… just another defensive retread like RR (Ron Rivera).”

I don’t know what that commenter thought the Commanders had to sell to a “hot prospect” in the coaching market.  In the NFL, a really good foundation for a team is the presence of:

  • A franchise QB
  • A solid offensive line – – to keep that franchise QB healthy
  • An offensive playmaker – – AND – –
  • At least an average defense

The Commanders have an offensive playmaker (Terry McLauren).  Other than that, they are – to be polite – woefully inadequate.  Yes, they have cap room and the second overall pick in the draft.  But cap room must be spent wisely and the last time the Commanders had the overall #2 pick they spent it on Chase Young who – to be polite – is a mediocre defensive lineman at best.

So, why would any “hot coaching prospect” with multiple potential suitors want that job?

There is another aspect to this hiring that I find interesting.  For the last couple of years, the Washington Post decried the fact that Eric Bienemy never got a head coaching job.  Most if not all of the paper’s columnists took up Bienemy’s cause to the point that they tried to imagine any reason for his lack of success in getting a head coaching job other than systemic racism among NFL owners.

Last year, the Commanders hired Eric Bienemy as their offensive coordinator.  He was on their staff for the whole year and was reportedly interviewed for the head coaching job – – which he obviously did not get.  This morning, Barry Sverluga’s column in the Post says that the Commanders now need to hire a “top offensive mind” to complement Dan Quinn’s defensive expertise.  In that column, Sverluga never considers Bienemy as that guy – – yet he was one of the folks decrying Bienemy’s failure to get a head coaching job prior to his arrival in DC.

NFL history is replete with excellent assistant coaches specializing in either offense or defense who washed out as head coaches.  Here are a bunch of examples off the top of my head in alphabetical order:

  • Rod Marinelli
  • Josh McDaniels
  • Matt Patricia
  • Richie Pettibon
  • Buddy Ryan
  • Rex Ryan
  • Arthur Smith
  • Steve Spagnuolo
  • Charlie Weis

Josh Harris has been around the Commanders for all last season; he got to see enough of the team and the coaching staff to decide to fire Ron Rivera and start a major reconstruction of the roster.  At the same time, he also had the opportunity to observe and watch Eric Bienemy do his job – – and when it came time to make the call for a new head coach, Josh Harris passed on Bienemy.  Make of all this what you will, but here is my take:

  • Eric Bienemy is a good – – not great – – offensive coach. 
  • In Kansas City he benefited from close association with a very innovative offensive-minded head coach (Andy Reid) and had outstanding offensive talent on the field to execute the plays that were called (Mahomes, Kelcie, Tyreek Hill …) 
  • In Washington, he was the sole “offensive-guy” on the staff and had significantly less on-field talent to execute his plays. 
  • When in the “Chiefs’ environment” Bienemy went to the Super Bowl. 
  • When in the “Commanders’ environment”, Bienemy went 4-13.

Dan Quinn has been a very successful defensive coordinator for the Seahawks and the Cowboys in his career.  His previous head coaching gig was with the Falcons for five-and-a-third seasons; his overall record there was 43-42-0 with two playoff appearances and one Super Bowl appearance.  With apologies to the fanboy I quoted above, Dan Quinn looks to be to be a perfectly adequate selection as the Commanders’ head coach who has a significant challenge ahead of him in gutting the current roster and finding improvements almost everywhere on the team.  He is a “retread” only in the sense that he has had a head coaching job in the past from which he was fired.  Then again, so did Bill Belichick – – and he worked out OK in New England.

As this NFL coaching version of “Musical Chairs” comes to a close, Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll and Mike Vrabel do not have jobs in the NFL.  Raise your hand if you saw that coming…

I have made it clear that I believe Dan Quinn has a difficult task ahead of him.  So let me close today with this observation by John Madden that may have relevance to Quinn’s situation:

 “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “The Music Has Stopped …”

  1. Incredibly, Dan Quinn had three coaches on his 2016 Atlanta Falcons that went on to become head coaches in the NFL:
    Kyle Shanahan: San Francisco 49ers;
    Mike McDaniel, Miami Dolphins;
    Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers.

    1. TenaciousP:

      The 2011 Redskins’ coaching staff had:

      Kyle Shanahan
      Matt LaFleur
      Bobby Slowik
      Sean McVey
      Jim Haslett

      And that team posted a record of 5-11 putting them last in the NFC East. Successful coaches need good players …

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