Falcons hire Quinn to lead turnaround

The team reached a five-year deal with Dan Quinn, formerly the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, to replace Mike Smith as the head coach, the team announced on Monday.

“Dan is a talented football coach who has a deep and diverse history in the game, which will serve us well,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. “As we got to know Dan during the interview process, it became clear that he has a definitive plan for our football team and what it will take to win on a consistent basis.”

On Dec. 29, Blank fired Mike Smith, who was the winningest coach in franchise history. After posting five consecutive winnings season and reaching the playoffs in for of those season, the Falcons went 10-22 over the past two campaigns.

Quinn, who has 20 years of coaching experience, felt the timing was right to become a head coach.

“I don’t know if there is a moment that just comes down on you, but I know that is something that I wanted to do, lead a bigger group for a long time,” Quinn said. “That is really part of the reason I wanted to become a defensive coordinator in hopes that one day I will have the opportunity to become a head coach.”

That day has arrived.

Quinn is set to be introduced to the public on Tuesday.

“I am grateful for this opportunity, and I am excited to be the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons,” Quinn said. “This felt like the right fit from the beginning. …My goal is to build upon the foundation that has been laid here and to play a physical brand of football as we build a championship caliber team.”

The Falcons reached the NFC championship game after the 2012 season, before dropping back near the bottom of the pack in the NFC with records of 4-10 in 2013 and 6-10 in 2014.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll is a strong supporter of Quinn.

After Gus Bradley became the head coach in Jacksonville in 2013, Carroll felt that Quinn was the man for the vacant coordinator spot.

Quinn had been with the Seahawks under Jim L. Mora (2009) and then Carroll (2010) before becoming the defensive coordinator at Florida under Will Muschamp for two seasons (2011-12).

Under Quinn, the Seahawks led the league for fewest points allowed per game with 14.4 in 2013 and 15.9 in 2014.

“He has done an incredible job with us,” Carroll said. “He has made an impact.”

Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive end Cliff Avril also praised Quinn.

“They are getting a great coach,” Wagner said.

Avril worked daily with Quinn, who’s a defensive line coach by trade.

“DQ is awesome,” Avril said. “He’s a coach you can go and talk to at any time if you have any concerns about any plays or how your position is supposed to be played or whatever.”

Quinn, 44, a native of Morristown, N.J. dazzled the franchise in his initial interview and had a second interview with the Falcons after Seattle’s appearance in the NFC championship game.

In 2013, Quinn’s defense led the NFL in average points, yards and passing yards allowed, as well as takeaways and interceptions, and then body-slammed the highest-scoring offense in NFL history during a 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

In Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., Quinn’s unit couldn’t hold a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against the New England Patriots and the great Tom Brady. While Quinn had to juggle his secondary because of injuries, Brady completed 13 of 15 passes for 116 yards and two touchdown passes to wrestle back the lead in the fourth quarter.

Seattle’s bid for back-to-back Super Bowl titles died on a wayward pass from Russell Wilson that was intercepted in the end zone by New England’s Malcolm Butler.

Quinn is coming to a situation with some degree of front-office upheaval.

In the last three-plus weeks, the Falcons have been unavailable to clarify who will make final personnel decisions in the draft and free agency, or who will have final say over the 53-man roster, following a franchise restructuring that was announced Jan. 7.

In addition to the front-office upheaval, the Falcons are being investigated by the league for piping fake noise into the Georgia Dome over the past two seasons.

The Falcons used Jed Hughes, of the corporate search firm Korn Ferry, to assist in the process.

The team is known to have interviewed eight candidates. Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was the only other candidate to have a second interview with the Falcons.

In addition to Quinn, Austin, the Falcons also interviewed Todd Bowles, Rex Ryan, Keith Armstrong, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Andrew Gase and Doug Marrone.

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