Aside from scouting players and attending Pro Days, Dan Quinn had not been anywhere near a college football field since leaving Hofstra following the 2000 season to take over as defensive quality control coach for the San Francisco 49ers.
He spent 10 years working his way up the NFL ranks, taking over as San Francisco’s defensive line coach from 2003-04 before holding the same position with the Miami Dolphins (2005-06), New York Jets (2007-08) and Seattle Seahawks (2009-10). Then he got a call from newly-hired Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, who asked him to take on a new challenge – coordinating a collegiate defense.
Quinn coordinated Florida’s defense to a top-10 national ranking in 2011 and is on his way to doing the same for the second-straight year, which is quite impressive considering he was unsure if taking the job was the right move in the first place.
“There was [trepidation] on my end because when you’ve done one thing for 10 years and you’re kind of settled, I certainly enjoyed [Seattle] and had a great time working with Pete Carroll and John Schneider, the GM there,” he said Wednesday. “There was hesitancy, not from coming back to college or coming here or working with Will, but I enjoyed what I was doing there and was happy. I thought the opportunity was too unique to pass up and that’s why I wanted to come do it, and I’m certainly glad that I did.”
He continued, “I had been a defensive line coach for 10 years. For me the chance to, as a play caller and coordinator, lead a bigger group of people, that was one [reason] for me. And then at a place like this, I thought, ‘Where else would you rather do it?’”
“I think we just have a good connection and know how to feed off one another,” Quinn said. “Just by working together, we have seen things a lot the same way. For us it wasn’t hard to work together, if that makes sense. We’ve all had colleagues like that, who you just feel like it’s easy to talk to or get connected with, and that’s certainly how it is with Will.
“I’ve said it before: I think he is certainly one of the best defensive coaches at any level that I’ve been around. For me, it’s always nice knowing he’s there to talk and he’s coaching and we’re in it together. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about working with him is that we’re coaching together.”
Muschamp shared a similar sentiment about Quinn on Monday.
“He’s a great person. … He’s about all the right things in college athletics. He’s a ball coach. You see him on the field and working with the players. The development of our front seven is a huge credit to Dan and what he’s done. He’s a great fundamental football coach. Certainly he and I see the game a lot the same.”
Muschamp has made great strides this season in molding Florida into the tough, physical and powerful team he promised to make it during his introductory press conference. Bringing Quinn on to lead the defense and shape it in his image is a big reason the Gators have had so much success in year two.