After a lengthy search that included a surprise turn, the Washington Commanders finally found their next head coach. The team reached an agreement with Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn on Thursday, two people with knowledge of the situation said, giving Washington a respected, veteran coach who has been to three Super Bowls with two teams.

Quinn, 53, replaces Ron Rivera, whom the Commanders fired after four seasons as their coach and de facto head of football operations.

Alongside General Manager Adam Peters, who was hired in January, and a new ownership group led by Josh Harris, Quinn will help lead a rebuild. It will be a significant undertaking, but the blank canvas is part of the appeal; the Commanders have five draft picks in the first three rounds, including the No. 2 selection, and plenty of salary cap space to retool the roster.

Quinn’s hire comes two days after Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who was a top candidate for the Washington job, informed the Commanders and Seattle Seahawks — the two teams that were, at that point, still in need of a head coach — that he would remain in Detroit, two people with knowledge of his decision said.

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“We’re looking for the best leader for this team,” Peters said during his introductory news conference in January. “… We have set criteria that we’re going to have it be aligned in that vision. And it’s not going to be in a box. It’s not going to be [set on] offense, it’s not going to be [set on] defense. It’s going to be the best leader for this organization.”

Washington’s search for a new coach — led by Harris and Peters, with support from consultants Bob Myers and Rick Spielman, as well as some of the team’s limited partners — included interviews with six additional candidates: Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, Ravens assistant head coach and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver, Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, former Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Slowik signed a new deal to stay in Houston. The Atlanta Falcons hired Morris, and the Seahawks hired Macdonald.

Quinn interviewed virtually with the Commanders on Jan. 18, then flew to the D.C. area to interview with them again the morning of Jan. 30. He left that afternoon without a contract in hand, but as vacancies continued to fill across the league, his résumé stood out.

Quinn boasts 21 years of NFL coaching experience, starting as a quality control coach with the San Francisco 49ers in 2001. After two seasons, he was promoted to be their defensive line coach, then moved on to the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks in the same role. (He added the title of assistant head coach in Seattle.) Quinn then spent two seasons as the University of Florida’s defensive coordinator before returning to the Seahawks as their defensive coordinator in 2013.

There, Quinn led Seattle’s famed “Legion of Boom” defense, helping the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. They won the first handily over the Denver Broncos, then lost the second to the New England Patriots.

Quinn became the Falcons’ head coach in 2015 and led the team to the Super Bowl in his second season. Despite leading 28-3 in the third quarter, the Falcons lost to the Patriots in overtime.

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The Falcons fired Quinn early in the 2020 season, and he became the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator in 2021. Dallas’s defense, which ranked 28th in scoring and 31st against the run in 2020, improved to rank seventh and 16th, respectively, and led the league with 34 takeaways in Quinn’s first season. He was honored as the Associated Press’s assistant coach of the year.

“I think he does a great job of finding ways for you to love the game and finding ways to go around the game,” Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons said in January. “It doesn’t always have to be hard-nosed and ‘I’m the coach.’ I think it’s more of a friendship. We go through what I don’t like, what I do like. He doesn’t just treat me like a player; he treats me almost like a friend. He’s always there for me when I need him, and we’re not afraid to have those hard conversations, whether it’s father to son or player to coach. We have them no matter what.”

Quinn interviewed for multiple head-coaching vacancies the past two hiring cycles but opted to remain in Dallas. In 2023, the Cowboys finished fifth in total yards, passing yards and points allowed (they held opponents to 20 points or fewer in 11 of their 17 games), and seemed poised for a deep playoff run. But they fell to the Green Bay Packers, 48-32, in the first round.

Quinn’s expertise will be vital in remaking the Commanders’ defense, which became a liability last season with a lackluster pass rush and leaky secondary.

His choice of offensive coordinator could be one of the most important factors in the trajectory of the team’s future. Bieniemy has another year left on his contract, but after a 4-13 finish, the team may be due for a fresh start.

For years, Washington has sorely needed an infusion of creativity in its offensive play-calling, but more than anything, it needs stability at quarterback after churning through 14 starters in the past 10 seasons.

Quinn has deep ties to many potential coordinators across the league. One candidate could be Klint Kubiak, the San Francisco 49ers’ passing game coordinator and the son of longtime coach Gary Kubiak. Quinn had success with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator in Atlanta, and Peters knows Klint Kubiak from his time in San Francisco and Denver.

On the defensive side, Quinn will probably call plays, but that’s not a certainty; he only called plays part of the time he was the head coach in Atlanta. Potential prospects for Washington’s defensive coordinator vacancy include Joe Whitt Jr., the Cowboys’ secondary coach and passing game coordinator, and Joe Cullen, the Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive line coach. (Per NFL rules, Washington is prohibited from interviewing assistant coaches participating in the Super Bowl until after the postseason, and it must interview at least two external candidates who are minorities or women for coordinator roles.)

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