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Former Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn made an instant impact in Seattle this season.

Wednesday January 29, 2014Quinn Says Time at UF Helped Pave Way To Super Bowl with Seahawks

Former Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn made an instant impact in Seattle this season.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

Dan Quinn talks to about returning home to New Jersey for Sunday's Super Bowl.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – For anyone who has stepped into Dan Quinn’s orbit, two traits emerge rather quickly.

First, Quinn’s passion for football is palpable even when in a room full of like-minded coaches. He lights up talking about topics like pad-level and hand-technique the way most 6-year-olds do when they tell you what they want for Christmas.

And second, Quinn’s genuine disposition brings to mind a second-grade teacher more than an NFL defensive coordinator.

“I haven’t been around many guys in the coaching profession that are as good with people as Dan,’’ Gators coach Will Muschamp said. “He may be one of the most positive guys I have ever been around.”

You can discard that old saying about nice guys finish last in Quinn’s case. He’ll be at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands on Sunday for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Quinn’s task as Seattle’s defensive coordinator might be the most difficult of anyone in the game: to scheme for ways to disrupt Peyton Manning and Denver’s high-powered offense.

Prior to returning to the NFL this season and coordinating Seattle’s No. 1-ranked defense, Quinn spent the previous two years as UF’s defensive coordinator.

It was his first college coaching job in a decade and reunited him with Muschamp. The two worked together on Nick Saban’s staff with the Dolphins in 2005 and Muschamp was immediately impressed by Quinn’s football knowledge and coaching style.

Dan Quinn

"He inherited an older room [of defensive linemen]: Jason Taylor, Keith Traylor, Vonnie Holliday and Kevin Carter,’’ Muschamp said. “I thought he did a masterful job. Dan has a bunch of strengths, but his biggest strength is relating with people. He’s genuine. He’s real. He did a phenomenal job with those guys that year.”

Quinn’s people skills stood out from the start.

When Muschamp was hired at UF, one of the first calls he made was to Quinn (photo, left) to offer him a chance to be a defensive coordinator after a decade as a defensive assistant in the NFL.

Quinn accepted and the Gators ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense both seasons under Quinn.

The experience at UF was instrumental in Quinn getting a call from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to return to Seattle, where he replaced Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator after Bradley left to become Jacksonville’s head coach last January.

The 43-year-old Quinn was at Seattle’s team hotel Monday night when he returned a call, capping a busy day not far from the colonial-style house he grew up in as the youngest of six siblings. A native of Morristown, N.J., Sunday’s Super Bowl is a milestone in his coaching career and homecoming rolled into one.

“It’s special to be able to come back to the place of my first experience of watching football,’’ Quinn said.

Quinn grew up a Giants fan and later served as a Jets assistant while he climbed the coaching ladder.

He considers his two years with the Gators as pivotal to his career development. Quinn’s success in Seattle garnered interest from the Vikings and Browns this month as they looked for head coaches.

“There are so many things [I learned down there],’’ Quinn said. “Those two years there were huge for me. Will gave me the first chance to coordinator where I could run the meetings and lead a bigger group of people. In the NFL the previous 10 years, I had led the defensive line.

“For Will and [Florida athletic director] Jeremy [Foley] to give me this opportunity, to say ‘come down here and lead a bigger group,’ that’s one that I just couldn’t walk away from. I learned the importance of dealing with the players and developing their mindset about how hard you have to play.”

Quinn joined Muschamp’s staff already astute in the tactical schemes of the defensive line. One area Muschamp, a former safety at Georgia, focused on with Quinn related to his understanding of different pass coverages and run support from the secondary.

Physical safeties Matt Elam and Josh Evans played critical roles for the Gators’ secondary in Quinn’s two seasons, helping anchor a defense that finished fifth nationally in 2012 on the way to an 11-2 record.

“He really grew when we were together on the backend as far as the coverage aspect,’’ Muschamp said. “He’s as good as I’ve been around as far as breaking down protections and evaluating the running game and what we need to do to be successful to stop it.”

Quinn took his trademark in-your-face defense back with him to the NFL. Seattle ranked No. 1 in scoring defense, total defense and fewest passing yards allowed. In addition, he preached the same ball-hawk mentality he used at UF.

The Seahawks’ defense, nicknamed “The Legion of Boom,” led the NFL in interceptions (28), takeaways (39) and turnover differential (plus-20). The defense is led by All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, who Muschamp coached at Texas.

“They're a big group," former Gators receiver Andre Caldwell, now with the Broncos, told reporters at Super Bowl Media Day. “They are really physical. They like to hit. They make a lot of plays and they have a lot of speed out there. I tip my hat -- they've done a great job all year making plays.

“That's why they are the No. 1 defense. But we're ready for the challenge.”

So is Quinn.

As he does nearly every week, Muschamp plans to send Quinn a text before Sunday’s game wishing him good luck.

Muschamp knows what the response will be: “Fast and physical.”

It’s the same every time. That is Quinn’s mantra. He used it at Florida and now in Seattle.

“That’s what he is about,’’ Muschamp said. “He doesn’t just talk about it. He lives it.”

Fast and furious on the field, approachable and friendly off it. That is Quinn in a nutshell. Well, there is one thing that might get him riled up this week.

He is already tapped out of Super Bowl tickets, so don’t bother asking.

“I got 15 for my family and friends,’’ he said. “After that I said you are on your own.”


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