PHOENIX — Dan Quinn was on defense Tuesday. The Seattle Seahawks’ defensive coordinator — who’s in line to be named the next coach of the Atlanta Falcons after Super Bowl XLIX — did his best to bat away questions about being highly sought-after by teams around the league, including the Bears.
‘‘With all the teams, I had an absolute blast,’’ Quinn said during Media Day at U.S. Airways Arena. ‘‘It was really a unique experience for me and filled with gratitude.’’
Quinn was the first head-coaching candidate the Bears interviewed. He met with chairman George McCaskey, president Ted Phillips and consultant Ernie Accorsi on Jan. 2 in Seattle.
‘‘They were a terrific group of guys,’’ Quinn said.
The interview was conducted without Ryan Pace, who wasn’t named general manager until the following week. If the Bears wanted a chance at Quinn, he had to be interviewed while the Seahawks had a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
As Pace later said, ‘‘the game changed’’ with the availability of John Fox. But while Fox is a proven commodity and an ideal fit after the Bears’ two seasons under unproven Marc Trestman, it’s worth wondering whether the Bears passed on the next top coordinator-turned-coach in the mold of Mike McCarthy, Mike Tomlin or Chuck Pagano.
Quinn was considered the hottest candidate for a reason. Every team with a coaching vacancy but the Oakland Raiders had met with him or at least expressed an interest. The New York Jets reportedly wanted to make him their coach before becoming impatient with the NFL’s restrictive interview process and hiring Todd Bowles.
It’s trying for teams to wait past the Super Bowl. There’s plenty to do, starting with assembling a quality staff. Just look at what Fox and Pace have done with hiring defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
Quinn, though, could have been worth the wait. His players certainly think so, and an ever-changing media crowd around him Tuesday seemed to feel that way, too. The Seahawks have had the top-rated NFL defense the last two years.
‘‘He’d be a great head coach,’’ linebacker K.J. Wright said. ‘‘I definitely don’t expect him to be back next year. . . . He’ll help a team be a really good defense.’’
‘‘I mean, you’ve seen the numbers from the last two years,’’ defensive end Cliff Avril said. ‘‘Hopefully, he can bring that with him.”
Said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll: ‘‘He’s done an incredible job for us.’’
Seahawks players speak of Quinn, 44, in the same way many speak about Fox. He relates to players well and always has an open door. He isn’t afraid to come down on players and coaches with confidence.
‘‘He would surround himself with good coordinators,’’ Wright said.
Quinn also comes with hands-on learning under Carroll, arguably the NFL’s best coach. He’s been influenced not only by Carroll’s defensive philosophy but how to interact with and motivate players.
‘‘The impact that Coach Carroll has had on me has been tremendous,’’ Quinn said. ‘‘We wouldn’t have enough time to talk about it. He’s been a mentor.’’
In the end, Quinn was happy just to be considered by the Bears and others.
‘‘It was a blast, to be honest with you,’’ he said. ‘‘Who wouldn’t want a chance to talk to owners and those they have general-manage their team?’’