What would Vrabel, Quinn, Harbaugh bring as Seahawks coach?
Jan 17, 2024, 12:06 AM
(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
There are seemingly endless names being linked to the Seattle Seahawks’ coach search, but a few are coming up with more regularity.
Perhaps most notable are three men that have head coach experience in the NFL already under their belt: former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel, current Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and the University of Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.
Albert Breer, senior NFL reporter for The MMQB, joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Tuesday and had a ton to say on many candidates to be the next Seahawks coach, including extended insights on each of Vrabel, Quinn and Harbaugh.
Let’s take a look at what Breer said about them.
Potential Seattle Seahawks coach candidates
Though Tennessee let Vrabel go last week after six seasons with the Titans, he’s been one of the more popular names available with seven teams moving on from their head coach since the end of the season.
Breer relates the 48-year-old Vrabel, who was a linebacker in the NFL from 1997-2010, to several other coaches who have seen success in recent years following playing careers in the league, and it sure sounds like there are a lot of positives he could bring to Seattle.
I put Vrabel more in the category of (Texans head coach) DeMeco Ryans, (Lions head coach) Dan Campbell, I think what the Patriots hope (new head coach) Jerod Mayo will be now, (Vikings head coach) Kevin O’Connell. I think one of the things with Vrabel that’s so interesting is you know you’re gonna get player engagement right away. And in an era when it’s harder to get that than ever before – like, it’s really, really hard because of how kids come up in this day and age… You have to pursue and get that engagement, (and) Vrabel gets it when he walks through the door because of the skins he has on the wall. And then Vrabel brings to you I think a lot of elements of what New England was when he was there (as a player), which is he can coach all three phases of the game, he’s excellent situationally, he’s going to weaponize your players and get them to understand the rules and how to use them in the game, and he’s going to be able to attract good coaches there. If you want to look at what DeMeco has done in Houston, what Vrabel himself did over his first a couple of years in Tennessee, and then what Dan Campbell has done in Detroit, that would sort of be what you are buying into.
Quinn has a strong track record, as he was defensive coordinator of the Seahawks during their back-to-back Super Bowl trips, then led the Falcons to a Super Bowl as a head coach himself. But while his time in Dallas has been well regarded, the Cowboys’ defense was torched by Green Bay in a playoff loss on Sunday, which can’t be good for Quinn’s stock.
It’s easy to regard Quinn as a safe or even boring choice for the Seahawks due to his connection to the coach the team is moving on from, Pete Carroll. Breer mentioned that Quinn’s name has been tied the Hawks for a while because some wondered if he could replace a retiring Carroll, but the conversation has changed since Carroll was removed from the head coach role.
Breer weighed the pros and cons of Quinn for Seattle.
I mean, the obvious one is Dan Quinn, and I feel like I’ve been writing this for two months now. … Through that whole thought process of people out there saying, ‘Yeah, there’s a possibility that the Seahawks have a new coach in 2024,’ regardless of how it happens, Dan Quinn was the No. 1 name, and I think it’ll continue to be the No. 1 name. I just think DQ is sort of waiting for the right opportunity. He’s had chances over the last couple of years to leave, and he just hasn’t thought this shot or that shot was right. I think Seattle lines up as sort of perfect for him, and I think in a lot of ways he’s perfect for what Seattle needs right now. Now, I know a lot of people will be focused on the fact that he doesn’t coach offense, he hasn’t coached quarterbacks and that’s something we can get to, but I think in a lot of other ways he is exactly what the Seahawks will be looking for.
… The strength I think is the ability to unify people and create a culture and get the most out of every player who plays for him. I talked to (Cowboys linebacker) Micah Parsons a few times about playing for him, and remember, the defense that DQ ran in Seattle was the traditional Pete Carroll cover-3. And Micah is the sort of player where if you use him in just a single way, you’re not going to get the most out of him, right? He’s such a unicorn in that he can play off-ball linebacker, he can play on the line, he can rush, he can blitz, he can cover, he can do everything you want him to do. So using a player like that just one way is sort of wasting him, and so in a lot of ways when Dan got his hands on Micah, it on paper didn’t look like the greatest fit in the world, and Dan’s defense changed and he adjusted. They’re doing things a lot differently there now than he did in Seattle all those years ago. So I think it’s a great example of getting the most out of somebody, and Micah would tell you himself how much he loves playing for DQ. And then you see the ascension of other players there, right? Like what (cornerback) Trevon Diggs has become under under Dan Quinn. What (cornerback) Daron Bland did this year under Dan Quinn after Diggs got hurt. (Cornerback) Stephon Gilmore’s career had a little bit of a renaissance this year with Dan Quinn as his defensive coordinator. I mean, right on down the line he maximizes players, and I think that’s as great a compliment as you can give a coach. The weakness of course would be obviously quarterback’s gonna be a big topic of conversation in Seattle over the next year or two and that’s not his area of expertise. But he’s so well connected in the coaching community that I do think he’d find good people to take care of that part of it for him.
Perhaps the most sought-after coach in the NFL right now is the man who just led Michigan to an undefeated season and national championship win over the UW Huskies. Seemingly every offseason, speculation picks up that Harbaugh could return to the pros for the first time since he left the San Francisco 49ers after the 2014 campaign, but now that seems more of an inevitability than ever before.
Seattle would be a, well, interesting place for Harbaugh to make his NFL return considering the rivalry he had with Carroll in particular and his Niners teams had with the Hawks in general. But Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk has said he believes Harbaugh would be the best choice for the Seahawks, so let’s take this possibility for a stroll.
When Breer was asked if he thought Harbaugh would be interviewed by Seahawks general manager John Schneider, Brock Huard called him the “most outrageous” candidate for Seattle. After a chuckle, this is what Breer said:
If I’m the Seahawks, I make the call, yes. And look, it’s a little funny because obviously he was a big rival there, he and Pete were at odds in college and the pros at several points. But I think Jim brings something very unique in his own right, in that, like, it looks exactly the same everywhere he goes. Stanford looked like the Niners looked like Michigan – they all look the same, right? It’s a unique, in this day and age, way of building it, but it’s worked everywhere I think in a lot of ways. … It’s a lot like (Bill) Parcells. He’s the guy that can come in, he’s gonna shake your program up, he’s gonna be able to get results right away, he’s gonna get the most out of your team, and then three or four years down the line he’s probably going to have burned everybody out. So you’re probably not signing up for a decade of the guy. But if I were the Seahawks, I would definitely take a look at it and go through the process. And at any rate, the Seahawks haven’t done this in 14 years. I think it would be a great information-gathering exercise for the Seahawks. I think that’s part of it when you’re going through something like this is you’ve got the ability to information-gather from other programs around the sport. And if I were (Seahawks chair) Jody Allen and (general manager) John Schneider, the chance to sort of look under the hood a little bit in how Jim Harbaugh does things wouldn’t be a bad experience.
Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with The MMQB’s Albert Breer in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.
More on Seattle Seahawks’ coach search
• Notebook: What GM John Schneider said finding his next coach
• A look at young OCs who are latest Seahawks interview requests
• Michael Bumpus’ easy, smart and fun picks for Hawks
• Who the Seahawks’ first reported coach interview requests are
• ESPN’s Schefter on if two big names are in play for Seattle Seahawks coach