RENTON – Who knows where Michael Bennett would be playing had it not been for Dan Quinn.
Maybe strictly at defensive end, where he never would have realized his potential to double as an interior pass-rusher.
And maybe in another city.
See, Quinn was a big part of Seattle’s recruiting pitch to Bennett in March of 2013. The two had developed a strong relationship from Bennett’s brief stint with the Seahawks as an undrafted rookie in 2009, when Quinn was the team’s defensive-line coach. They kept in touch when Bennett ended up in Tampa Bay after he was waived early in his rookie season, and even when Quinn left Seattle to become the defensive coordinator at Florida in 2011.
When Quinn took that same job with the Seahawks two years later, the team was in dire need of pass-rushers. Chris Clemons was coming off a torn ACL, Bruce Irvin was starting to play more strong-side linebacker and Jason Jones was unsigned. So Quinn called Bennett, who had just become a free agent after four seasons in Tampa Bay.
“He was like, ‘Man, come (up) here. We’ve got something good. We just need an inside rusher,’” Bennett said Tuesday, recalling that conversation as Seattle prepares to play Quinn’s Falcons in the divisional round of the playoffs Saturday. “I was like, ‘OK.’ And I just came out here.”
Bennett had other options, but his relationship with Quinn – “one of the guys that gave me the first opportunity” – helped put Seattle over the top.
“He’s a players’ coach,” Bennett said of Quinn, who took the Falcons job before the 2015 season. “He understands the players and he understands how to put people in the right position to be a great player.”
Quinn did that with Red Bryant, a fringe player as a tackle who became a starter and at times a dominant run defender for Seattle as an oversized end. And he did it with Bennett, moving him inside in passing situations after he had mainly played on the outside in Tampa Bay.
“I think when you can do that – Pete (Carroll) does a good job of that – and you can put people in the position where they can be great, they can do great things on the field for you,” Bennett said. “You see young guys, I see guys out there that were kinda OK players and now I see them over there in Atlanta, they’re just out there ballin’. He embodies the hard-nosed type of coach who, he expects a lot but at the same time, he has that relationship with his players where players can come and talk to him.”
Other Seahawks have expressed the same thing about Quinn, who was called DQ by his players and was revered for his coaching style and personality. Bennett used a word that others have about Quinn: relatable.
“A lot of coaches, you can’t have a conversation with them because their whole life is based around football,” Bennett said. “When you have a coach that has a family, has things going on outside of football, you can have a conversation with them. You tend to build trust with him. I think Dan does a great job of building trust with his players.”
Bennett avoids comment about Matthews’ cut block
If Bennett is still upset at Jake Matthews, he didn’t express it Tuesday.
Matthews is the Falcons tackle who delivered the cut block on Bennett back in Week 6, which led to an injury that required arthroscopic surgery and sidelined him for five games. Bennett had some choice words for Matthews after the Atlanta game.
Asked if he’s looking forward to facing him Saturday, Bennett said: “I’m looking forward to going against anybody this time of the year. This time of the year is always a great (time) to be out there and play the game. There’s a whole bunch of great players that are at home right now that wish they could be in our situation, so every time you get out there and get a chance to play in the playoffs, you cherish that moment.”
Has his anger subsided?
“My anger? I’m angry every day, but I don’t have many reasons to be angry these days,” he said. “I just want to go out there and just play a great game. In the playoffs, you just want to go out there and just win a game. That’s really what it’s about.”
Bennett said he hasn’t spoken to Matthews.