Dan Quinn’s public addresses probably won’t ever air on the Disney Channel. There were plenty of illuminating and interesting things learned about the Washington Commanders’ new coach during his introductory news conference Monday afternoon, such as that he wants his defense here to resemble his top-five unit with Dallas. That he calls Stacey, his wife of almost 30 years, his “ride or die.” And that he really likes to swear.
Quinn telegraphed his first PG-13 word soon into his nearly 50-minute question-and-answer session with reporters. The next several just flowed through his responses, like “kick a–” and “competitive a–” and “work our a–es off.”
But there’s one curse word that Quinn won’t say: rebuild.
Or, for the purposes of keeping this family friendly: “r—–.”
You want to make NFL coaches blush in embarrassment, start dropping that seven-letter word. They might make you throw money into the swear jar and then wash your mouth out with soap. It’s the most censored word in NFL circles, at least publicly.
“R—–” is so dirty and so dishonorable that only mature audiences can handle it. Coaches, wanting to protect the innocent ears of their fan bases and especially their locker rooms, will use any word but that one. Even when the truth is, the Commanders under Quinn will be rebuilding. Oops. Pardon my French. I mean, they will be recalibrating.
This revelation came up innocently enough when an apparently foul-mouthed reporter asked Quinn for his timeline in turning around the Commanders and used the “R” word. To his credit, Quinn didn’t instinctively raise both hands to the sides of his head and scream, “Earmuffs, kids!” He did, however, politely correct the counterfeit cuss word into something a bit more palatable.
“Your words, not mine,” Quinn said. “I’m really, honestly glad you brought it up. I know it’s a big topic. I would say this is a recalibrate. Finding our north again. And that starts with our identity of our club. So, [you] will not hear me say the word ‘rebuild’ at all. This is about accessing what we have, how do we add to that and how quickly we can accelerate this process together.”
Washington’s new general manager, Adam Peters, has to draft a quarterback, someone who can potentially become the franchise guy. The offense will look different for the third time in three seasons because Quinn hired Kliff Kingsbury as the offensive coordinator. The defense will be overhauled under Joe Whitt Jr.
So much new is happening all at once. For the change to take effect, it will need time. And at the risk of sounding crude, the franchise appears to be entering a complete teardown, with a willingness to start everything over. A classic redo. In a word, a rebuild.
However, in the NFL, you can’t say that word. Veterans cringe at the prospect. While seven-year pro Jonathan Allen has since expressed excitement over the arrival of Quinn and Peters, as he played in the final weeks of the Ron Rivera era, he rejected the thought of starting over.
While players in their prime have little time to waste, fan bases can be just as impatient when waiting on their teams to show improvement. Why stay calm watching your team flail through a rebuild when other teams have revved up the standings in warp speed? In every season but two over the past 21 years, at least one franchise has gone from worst to first in its division. The Houston Texans — recently a doormat in the weak AFC South — became the latest team to do so. Houston won three games a year ago, but after hiring DeMeco Ryans as coach and drafting a franchise-shifting quarterback in C.J. Stroud, the team leapfrogged its division rivals and even won a playoff game.
The woebegone Cincinnati Bengals can rise up as Super Bowl contenders in Zac Taylor’s third season as coach (when Joe Burrow’s healthy, at least), and the Detroit Lions can go from being a perpetual punchline to playing in the NFC championship game in Dan Campbell’s third year. That’s fun for football fans. Rebuilding is not. And Quinn gets it.
Reality strikes, however, when reading through the Commanders’ long to-do list. Quinn has a vision of creating a physical and explosive team on defense, offense and special teams — “I hope teams that will have to play against us are like: ‘Damn! This is going to be hard today,’” he said — but developing that standard could take time.
As fired up as Quinn seems to be over his inherited defense, he’s still getting a unit that collapsed near the end, surrendering 30 points or more five times over the final seven games of the season. Allen and Daron Payne anchor the interior, but every position group from the front four all the way to that leaky secondary could use a — what’s the word again? — recalibration.
And it’s not just the defense. Quinn will have his hands full. But these are the hefty responsibilities Quinn has wanted since being fired by the Atlanta Falcons five games into the 2020 season. While building back the Cowboys’ defense, the 53-year-old hoped for another shot.
“I so wanted this moment,” he said.
Though Quinn might have waited patiently, he didn’t express that same sentiment for the Commanders’ reload, reconstruction, reshuffle, recarpeting, whatever they want to call it here.
“There is no timeline on that, but we will push it hard to see how good we can get and how fast we can get it [there]. But I see it much more as a recalibration. Okay, let’s find our north, form our identity and how we’re going to get it on and then push hard to reach that,” Quinn said. “And like all things, it takes trust between teammates, staff, personnel, ownership, but the more connection we have, the faster we’ll get there.”
This all sounds very good and encouraging for the players in the locker room and loyal fans in the region. And it also sounds like — earmuffs, kids — a rebuild.