INDIANAPOLIS -- Mention Dan Quinn's name and Richard Sherman's eyes widen. His smile spreads.
The four-time Pro Bowl cornerback and one-time Super Bowl champ knows what type of impact Quinn can have on a defense. Sherman was part of the Seattle Seahawks' "Legion of Boom," a group that was the NFL's top-ranked defense in 2013 and 2014 when Quinn was the defensive coordinator.
Sherman, now with the San Francisco 49ers, recalled a specific moment during the 2014 playoffs against Green Bay that was indicative of Quinn's makeup as a coordinator.
"We were losing 16-0 at halftime -- it wasn't because we played bad, it was because our offense has turned the ball over a ton -- and we were running Cover 3, but we were also running fire zones to try and disrupt Aaron [Rodgers], and [Rodgers] was spotting them before we could ever get anywhere," Sherman said. "So [Quinn] came to us at halftime and said, 'We can't run another snap of zone. We're going to man them up the rest of the game. We've got to. That's the only way we're going to win this game.'
"They had [six] points after halftime. We came back, took it to OT, had the big pass play, and we got out of the game. It's one of those things where that wasn't necessarily the strength of what we did, but [Quinn] needed that out of us. And we gave it to him."
Fast-forward five years and Quinn once again finds himself coordinating a defense, this time in Atlanta. The Falcons' head coach appointed himself the defensive coordinator for the 2019 season after parting ways with Marquand Manuel. Quinn made the same adjustment during Week 13 of the 2016 season, when he took playcalling responsibilities from defensive coordinator Richard Smith. But this time, the adjustment comes as Quinn moves into a crucial fifth year and on the heels of his first losing season (7-9) with Atlanta.
"He's a great leader of men -- that's why he got the job as a head coach -- and as the coordinator, he's going to do a great job of bringing the best out of these guys," Sherman said of Quinn. "He's a great motivator. He's obviously very technical.
"We had two of our best years with him, and it was consistent. It was every game. Every game you're at halftime you're like, 'Damn, that's a hell of a thought. I didn't even think to do that. We probably should shade over to this guy. We should blitz through this gap. Or we should just go, or stop blitzing.' I think he's one of the best defensive minds in the game."
Quinn's background goes back to the defensive line -- he played D-line at Salisbury State and coached that group in the college ranks or NFL nearly every season from 1994 to 2010 -- so it's no surprise he plans to be hands-on with Atlanta's linemen, starting with pass-rusher Vic Beasley Jr. The Falcons seem intent on upgrading the defensive line this offseason, but Quinn appears committed to Beasley despite the struggles the former No. 8 pick has endured the past few seasons.
The Falcons continue to reiterate their desire to re-sign playmaking defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, but word at the NFL combine is that the sides are far from reaching a deal. Jarrett could be slapped with the franchise tag. Whatever the case, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and Quinn expect Jarrett to anchor the line, with linebacker Deion Jones manning the middle, and safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen roaming the box and patrolling the back end.
"[Quinn] runs the defense from the front to the back," Sherman said. "Obviously, as the D-line goes, the DBs will go, the secondary will go, the linebackers will go. But he trusts his players. He trusts their judgement.
"He puts them in position to be successful. He plays to your strengths."
"He's a great leader of men -- that's why he got the job as a head coach -- and as the coordinator, he's going to do a great job of bringing the best out of these guys." Richard Sherman
Sherman expanded on that by discussing how Quinn had success with Cover 3 in Seattle, the same scheme he implemented in Atlanta.
"If a guy is a straight-line rusher, let him straight-line rush," Sherman said. "[Quinn's] not going to run any type of games with him. If a corner is a man-coverage guy, he's going to put him in position to play man. If you have two safeties and one of them is a better box safety and the other one is a better hole safety, he's rarely going to put the hole safety in the box, or vice versa. But he will interchange it some as not to be predictable.
"A lot of times, it's just knowing the guy's strengths and just playing toward them. He won't put guys out of positions and ask them to do something crazy. Now from time to time, you've got to put guys where they're uncomfortable just to make the defense work. But for the most part, he's going to put guys in the best possible position."
Quinn often talks about needing tall, long corners in the mold of Sherman to have success with the defense. That's why Quinn is so excited about the potential of second-year cornerback Isaiah Oliver (6-foot, 210) opposite Desmond Trufant.
"I appreciate it," the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Sherman said of Quinn's preferences. "It shows a ton of respect for me and my game, what I've been able to do over the years. But it's also just a regard that we have for one another because I hold him in very high regard in terms of coaches that I've had over my career. I think he's one of the best in the game."