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Commanders' Dan Quinn on second chance as head coach: 'You can't turn back the clock, but you do have to learn the lesson'

Over three years in the making, Dan Quinn is getting another shot at leading an NFL squad, and he doesn't intend to waste this opportunity.

Speaking to the media for the first time since the Washington Commanders announced him as their next head coach, Quinn reflected on his coaching history and his determination to take what he learned and use it in his second chance.

"Spoiler alert, you'll hear me say often 'Be where your feet are.' And actually I try not to say it, I do try to live it, and I'm pretty good at it too, with one exception. Over the past few years, there's five words that have probably tested my feet and my head: 'If I get another shot,'" Quinn said. "And as a coach you prepare for it, you study for it, and there's some lessons that you can't study for, there's lessons that you just have to live, and sometimes through success, and sometimes also through adversity. But once you learn those lessons, all you want to do is grab them and run. And prove it.

"So let me tell you, I am ready to run and prove it. Run like hell. I'm a little older, maybe a little more chrome, and hopefully a little bit wiser, but I'm also incredibly grateful for all of that that has led to my feet being here."

Quinn previously was the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons from 2015 to 2020, leading the Falcons to Super Bowl LI his second year. But though he led them back to the playoffs the next year, things subsequently went downhill, and his tenure ended after an 0-5 start to his sixth season in 2020.

Though it was a tough experience to go through, Quinn acknowledged that he came out the other end stronger as a coach, as he had to take a look at everything he did while in Atlanta and learn from it. And after three years of testing his new approach as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator, he's looking forward to affirming his ability to succeed as a head coach.

"You can't turn back the clock, but you do have to learn the lesson. And that's what I wanted to make sure when I left Atlanta, it was during the middle of the season, and so you have time to reflect. It's lonely, it's disappointing, it's depressing, but you don't want to just rinse and repeat," Quinn said. "You want to make sure how do I take this, change it, and then make sure you get to prove it again. And so that was the silver lining in this. I'm a better version of me today, than I was three, four, five years ago. And I get to prove that."

While looking for his next opportunity, Quinn said he knew it was important to be particular about his destination. He had withdrawn his name from consideration during last year's head-coaching cycle, but in talking to Washington this year, he said he knew he found the perfect fit in its culture and people.

"Coming in as a coach who has done it before, I knew then what I was looking for. I think when you're first going through it for the first time, you've got to go get it and you've got to go take it," he said. "After you've been through the experience, you want to make sure that you can align it exactly like you want to go kick ass. And so that's what I was looking for, specific markers, because if I wasn't going to find them, then I wasn't going to do it.

"...So when this one was here, it was 'Please call,' because this one is different, and this franchise has a historic mark on the NFL."

Quinn joins the Commanders in the midst of an organization-wide time of turnover, with new owners, a new front office, and a new coaching staff, which includes the recent hiring of offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. There's ample cap space and a No. 2 draft pick for Quinn and Co. to work with to drastically reshape the look of the roster, with questions at quarterback and a defense that finished at the bottom of the league in 2023.

There's many steps and decisions to make before Quinn is able to take the sideline as head coach once again. But he's up for the challenge, and he doesn't anticipate letting this opportunity slip by.

"There is nothing that I enjoy more than doing hard s--- with good people. And these guys here are some really good people," Quinn said. "And I cannot wait to get it rocking here. And so we'll hit the ground running, there's lots to do, and I want to let you know, I've been waiting on this moment."

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