In late August of 2010, Dan Quinn made a significant impression on Earl Thomas.
Thomas was a rookie out of Texas, coming from a place where he felt everybody was in his corner even when he wasn’t perfect.
No such coddling exists in the NFL. It’s do a good job or be out of one. So when Quinn went up to Thomas and told him he played an excellent game that exhibition season, it stuck.
“(Quinn) was one of the first coaches to give me those encouraging words,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t used to that.”
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It’s one of the first things that popped into the safety’s head when the Seattle Seahawks hired Quinn to replace Gus Bradley at defensive coordinator just six hours after Bradley was announced as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ new coach in January.
Thirteen games into his first season as Seahawks defensive coordinator, Quinn is the head of the No. 1 defense in the NFL. That’s a rapid way to gain trust among players and his boss.
“He had a lot to measure up to because Gus Bradley had done a fine job for us as well,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “At this late part of the year, we are kind of what we are. We’re keeping the points down and we’re pretty tough to throw the ball at, so I’m really fired up and he’s doing a great job.”
Quinn was one of two assistants retained when Pete Carroll replaced Jim Mora as Seattle’s coach in 2010. The other was Bradley. Quinn left the Seahawks to become the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida before being summoned back for the job he almost had in his first stint with Seattle.
Bradley’s departure was disappointing to Thomas, who was very close with the coordinator. Bradley even gave Thomas his nickname “Deuce.”
Thomas wondered who would replace Bradley and what they would do with him schematically.
“Different coordinators come in with different thoughts,” Thomas said. “They can move you around and take you out of position.”
Strong safety Kam Chancellor said he would be on board with any new scheme or coordinator, but was pleased when he read online that Quinn would be his new coach.
Part of Chancellor’s happiness stemmed from Quinn’s approach. There’s an immediate term that Thomas and Chancellor use when talking about the 43-year-old’s coaching style: aggressive.
“I like his style because it fits with us. It definitely fits with me,” Thomas said. “It’s a very aggressive style and when you have aggressive players that kind of know what the ‘D’ coordinator is thinking and the scheme and what he wants to do out there, it really helps you play fast.”
The Seahawks secondary can be a finicky group. It’s still upset Bradley chose to play zone at the end of last season’s playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
But Quinn has provided them pleasure and relief. His preference for man-to-man coverage is in line with theirs, plus working with him in the past provided a baseline.
“He communicates with us well,” Chancellor said. “We can tell him what we want to play sometimes and he’ll go along with it. I think we have a good relationship.”
Cornerback Brandon Browner, wide receiver Percy Harvin and linebacker K.J. Wright are out Sunday. Center Max Unger (pectoral) and tight end Zach Miller (ribs) are probable.