BY JACOB TROXELL
Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn helped lead his team to a 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII earlier this month, and became the first ever Salisbury University alumnus to win a Super Bowl as a coach.
“It’s been a blast; I’ve been so fortunate,” Quinn said. “We have a real style about how we play and I love being part of that; we’re fast, we’re physical and the group we work with now always feels like we have something to prove.”
The Seahawks defense was ranked No.1 in points and yards per game in the National Football League this season. Some NFL analysts and writers have compared Quinn’s defense to some of the greatest of all time.
“Our whole philosophy is each game that we play is a championship opportunity, from the regular season’s first game, to the 16th and through the playoffs so we really don’t change the way we prepare for a game,” Quinn said. “We make sure we have just the right amount of information against the opponent but also want to play (our) style and not lose sight of that.”
The Seahawks shut down five-time MVP Peyton Manning and the highest rated statistical offense in NFL history to win Super Bowl XLVIII. Quinn played high school football for Morristown High School, about 30 minutes away from MetLife stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.
Quinn played defensive line and track and field at SU for four years and graduated in the class of 1994. He also competed for a national championship in track and field his senior year and majored in elementary education. Quinn planned on returning home to coach high school football and track, but he said his time at SU made him want to coach college football.
Quinn said he not only paid attention to his SU football coach at the time, Joe Rotellini, but watched Jim Berkman coach the SU men’s lacrosse team and Ward Lambert coach the SU men’s basketball team in the early ‘90s.
“I knew I wanted to be a coach so every coach that was there (at SU) I had my eye on, I saw how hard those guys played, so you knew that (their effort and style) came from the top,” Quinn said. “I had a lot of respect for Jim Berkman, here’s a guy who can totally handle his program.”
Berkman has been the Lacrosse coach at SU since 1989, and has won 10 division III national championships in his tenure.
“There is one quality of the successful people that I have been around, whether it’s players or coaches or whoever in their area of expertise that want to develop and take their career as far as they can, is to have grit,” Quinn said. “The common ingredients of grit (are) don’t let setbacks discourage you, keep overcoming, work uncommonly hard at it (and) stay committed.”
Quinn spoke of his defense and specifically his All-Pro defensive backs Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, when he said they have grit for the game and what sets them apart from others is their mental preparation.
“They have (grit) for when everybody doesn’t see, the way they practice, prepare, study, that grit carries over and the game is the byproduct of all that,” Quinn said.
He has coached for other colleges and professional football teams before he landed in Seattle.
After moving on from coaching at the College of William and Mary a year after he graduated from SU, Quinn coached for the Virginia Military Institute, Hofstra University, the San Francisco 49ers, the Miami Dolphins, the New York Jets and the University of Florida.
He made the transition from college to the pros in 2001 when he went from Hofstra University to the San Francisco 49ers. Quinn said two of his former players from Hofstra, Lance Schulters and Dave Fire, were on the 49ers’ roster and he was brought in by then-defensive coordinator and head coach Jim Mora and Steve Mariucci. Quinn was hired as the defensive quality control coach.
Throughout his career Quinn has worked with other notable coaches including Nick Saban, Eric Mangini, Jason Garret, Gus Bradley, Greg Knapp, Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis.
“Not only do you get to meet other players that had a huge impact on you, you get to coach them,” Quinn said. “But all the other assistants and head coach(es) you have a chance to work with, that’s who really shapes you and helps you in your philosophy.”
In his 20 years of coaching, Quinn has been a defensive line coach, a defensive quality coordinator, an assistant head coach and a defensive coordinator.
“As an assistant you really lead the group that you’re with and as a coordinator you get to lead a bigger group and the assistants on the defensive side,” Quinn said.
Defensive passing game coordinator Rocky Seto joined the Seahawks in 2010, and has worked with Quinn in two seasons (2010, 2013) both with the Seahawks. Seto served as a graduate assistant and coach under Pete Carroll at USC from 2001-2009, who became Seattle’s head coach in 2010.
“Dan is a tremendous leader, he’s able to get the most out of what everyone does well,” Seto said. “Whether it’s a player or coach he’s able to highlight our strengths and I felt like he did that in every way possible this year.”
Last year Steve Bisciotti became the first SU alumnus to win the Super Bowl as an owner when the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII. Byron Westbrook, another Salisbury alumnus and now free agent played for the Washington Redskins from 2009-2011 and appeared in 46 games in that span. Westbrook’s brother Brian played in the NFL from 2002-2010 and earned two Pro Bowl selections in 2004 and 2007.
Quinn was a candidate in the Cleveland Browns head coaching search a few weeks ago after their 4-12 season, however they decided not to wait for Seattle to finish their postseason run to interview Quinn a second time and hired Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
“That (head coach) challenge is out there, and something I’d like to do someday when the time is right,” Quinn said. “I’m certainly in no hurry to get to that spot just because I’m having a blast doing what I am, but that is something that if the right opportunity comes up with the right organization I’d love to be a part of that.”