Former Commanders coach takes implied shot at Dan Quinn over rookie usage

Dan Quinn is taking some cheaps shots from the enemy.
Jeff Zgonina
Jeff Zgonina / Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Quinn's time with the Dallas Cowboys ended on a sour note. Their playoff capitulation at home against the Green Bay Packers was seen as a defensive failure under his watch. The time was right to move on. This has the potential to assist the Washington Commanders if he maximizes his second NFL head coaching opportunity.

Quinn looks re-energized and has everyone on the same page. He's widely respected in league circles and formed an accomplished staff team to help reach his goals in the nation's capital. Nobody can say with any guarantee how the Commanders will fare under his watch in 2024, but the increased excitement level is evident.

There have been plenty eager to stick the boot into Quinn since his departure. The latest veiled shot came from a former Commanders coach who went the opposite direction after being made surplus to requirements under the new regime.

Former Commanders coach takes shot at Dan Quinn over Mazi Smith

Jeff Zgonina was the defensive line coach in Washington from 2022-23. After the unit vastly underperformed last season before and after Chase Young and Montez Sweat were traded, it was no surprise to see Quinn bring in a fresh set of ideas.

He landed on his feet, gaining the same job with the Cowboys under Mike Zimmer. Zgonina was also quick to criticize the way Quinn and his staff managed rookie defensive lineman Mazi Smith's development, making the former first-round pick lose weight and tasking him with responsibilities he never experienced in college.

"Not disrespecting the previous coaches that were here or anything, it's just a different system, a different style of defensive line play that coach (Mike Zimmer) brought in. I think it suits him better. Instead of just running upfield he's going to play blocks. He's going to grind blocks and double teams, especially in the run game."

Jeff Zgonina via Landry Hat

While Zgonina might have a point, one could easily cast aspersions on his failings during his time with the Commanders. Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne regressed considerably last season. No pass-rusher stepped up in the wake of Young and Sweat's departures. Whether they were high-end picks or intriguing development pieces, nobody flourished.

Smith was a strange selection at the time and even more so now. Quinn wasn't part of the brain trust that brought him into the fold, he just had to find a way to use him despite the deep talent on Dallas' defensive front. While things didn't go according to plan, scapegoating him is ridiculous.

All this adds some extra fuel to the fire as Quinn looks to hit the ground running in Washington. He'll no doubt have circled the Commanders' two games against the Cowboys this year and is aiming to get one over on his old employers. Comments like this just add to the bulletin board material.

Quinn is off to a tremendous start in Washington. That's probably not going unnoticed by the Cowboys, so anything they can do to upset the apple cart and prove he was the cause of their demise might ease the pressure.

In reality, it's water off a duck's back. Quinn won't know or care about Zgonina's opinion. His primary focus is ensuring the Commanders give Dallas plenty to think about next season and beyond.