FRISCO, Texas – Dan Quinn's efforts in Dallas did not go unnoticed around the NFL.
The Cowboys' defensive coordinator was presented with the 2021 AP Assistant Coach of the Year Award on Thursday night at NFL Honors, the league's annual postseason award show.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the Cowboys this past year. The Cowboys hired Quinn to replace Mike Nolan as their defensive coordinator on Jan. 11, 2021, and saw the benefits immediately.
Having revamped the Cowboys' defense with free agent signings like Jayron Kearse and Damontae Kazee, not to mention the selection of Micah Parsons with the No. 12 overall pick in the NFL draft, the turnaround was easy to see.
By every measure imaginable, Quinn's unit reversed its fortunes in 2021. From last year to this year, the Cowboys improved from 28th to seventh in scoring defense and they jumped from 31st to 16th in rush defense. Their defensive efficiency or DVOA, measured by FootballOutsiders, improved from 23rd to second in the entire league.
Perhaps most importantly, the Cowboys led the league with 34 takeaways, paced by an NFL-best 11 interceptions from Trevon Diggs.
Quinn also filled in for head coach Mike McCarthy during a December game in New Orleans. With McCarthy out due to COVID-19 protocols, Quinn took over the head coaching duties and guided the Cowboys to a 27-17 win over the Saints, snapping a two-game losing streak and ignited what turned into a four-game win streak.
It was an impressive enough coaching job that Quinn, just one year removed from serving as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, received plenty of interest for other vacancies. Quinn spent much of January interviewing for NFL head coaching gigs, before the Cowboys ultimately orchestrated his return for a second season as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator.
"It was a major coup to get Quinn here. If we can have the continuity we want there, that will be a big deal and give us the best chance," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones last week at the Senior Bowl.
Assistant Coach of the Year is one of the NFL's newer awards, having only been around since 2014. Quinn becomes the fourth defensive coordinator to win it, joining Vic Fangio, Wade Phillips and Todd Bowles. Last year's winner was Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who was recently named head coach of the New York Giants.