The Seahawks' game against Atlanta Sunday also marks a return to Seattle for Falcons' coach Dan Quinn.
Dan Quinn had any number of nicknames during his years with the Seattle Seahawks. Some players called him “DQ,’’ others simply “Q.’’ And then there was linebacker K.J. Wright, who’d always say when asked about Quinn “that’s my guy.’’
By any name, Quinn returns to Seattle this week as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, who take on the Seahawks Sunday at CenturyLink Field at 1:25 p.m.
In fact, he and the Falcons are already here, Quinn having decided to have the team practice in Seattle this week rather than heading back home to Atlanta after Sunday’s 23-16 win in Denver.
Quinn said the fact that it was Seattle wasn’t as important in that decision as being the back end of a two-game Western swing. Atlanta has games this year in Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles and Oakland and Quinn said the team wanted to have two of them on consecutive weeks so it could spend the week in between at the site of the second game.
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“We knew we were playing a few games out West,’’ Quinn said. “So we thought if we had one opportunity if they were back-to-back we would like to try and nail it. Just from the flight time of back and forth, back and forth. You all know about long trips just from the nature of the schedule every year. So we thought we would take a chance. Honestly, ultimately to have the team together and that part we thought was an important one, too. We’re fortunate that this one worked out earlier in the season for us. But we are excited to have the whole team together.”
The Falcons are practicing this week at the University of Washington, having paid the school $4,100 to use the facilities there (the team plans to practice outdoors but may go indoors depending on the weather).
Quinn actually first came to Seattle in 2009 as defensive line coach as part of Jim Mora’s staff. He stayed on in 2010 as defensive line coach when Pete Carroll took over . Quinn then left to become the defensive coordinator at Florida, then returned to Seattle to become the defensive coordinator in 2013 when Gus Bradley became the head coach at Jacksonville.
Quinn was viewed as instrumental in the emergence of Red Bryant as a run-stopping defensive end during his first tenure with the team, as well as putting together the defensive line for the Super Bowl champs in 2013, the year the team signed free agents Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel, all of whom remain part of the team today.
“He’s one of the main guys that brought me here,’’ Avril recalled Wednesday. “Me and Mike (Bennett), actually we both met with Q and he had something to do with it. It’s rare that you get a defensive coordinator that’s actually a D-line coach, as well. So that was even more incentive to come because you know he’s going to have your back.’’
From almost the minute Quinn came back in 2013 Seattle players began talking about the fact that they didn’t expect him to be around long. It was rumored that he might have had a chance to become coach of the Cleveland Browns following the 2013 season but that the Browns didn’t want to wait until the Seahawks were done with the Super Bowl.
Atlanta was more patient in 2014 and hired Quinn to what is his first head coaching job at any level.
The Falcons started off 5-0 and 6-1 in 2015 before slumping at the end to finish 8-8, which Quinn, now 46, said led to some harsh lessons that he said may be paying off this year (Atlanta is off to another good start at 4-1).
“We weren’t trying to create a Seattle replica,’’ he said. “But can the team be featured in the very best way of how we wanted to utilize the players? The messaging, the identity, the toughness that we wanted to play with. Having that really come to life. I think it took going through some tough lessons and developing some resiliency through last year with some difficult losses.’’
Seattle defensive players say the defense Quinn is using in Atlanta isn’t exactly the same but also isn’t a whole lot different.
“It’s pretty similar, for sure,’’ Avril said. “I can tell when some of the guys mess up and I can tell what Q is probably thinking.’’
In a sentiment that is shared by every Seattle defensive player remaining from the 2013-14 teams, Avril said he wishes Quinn nothing but the best except for Sunday.
“I hope if he has 16 weeks to go great, we want him to do great 15 of those 16 weeks,” Avril said.