In an announcement that may have come as a surprise to some who followed
The award, which was presented at Saturday’s NFL Honors, was instead given to Carolina Panthers second-year linebacker Luke Kuechly, who was fourth in the NFL with 156 tackles, and was also credited with four interceptions. Also among consideration for the award was Houston DE J.J. Watt, Seattle CB Richard Sherman and S Earl Thomas, and Indianapolis LB Robert Mathis. History suggests name recognition and team successes often closely coincide with these honors, a factor that could have placed Quinn against the odds in comparison with the award’s other candidates. Quinn received six of 50 votes cast for the award.
While Quinn—whose team-record 19 sacks finished just a half-sack behind Mathis’ 19.5 for the NFL lead—came up short in the AP award, his performance in 2013 has charted an auspicious trajectory for both himself and the Rams defense in the near future.
After being drafted 14th overall out of North Carolina, Quinn came to the Rams as something of an unknown quantity, though his talent was evident. Quinn had missed his junior season at Chapel Hill, an event that likely contributed to him falling to the Rams with the 14th pick.
Despite the time off, Quinn displayed an ability to quickly adjust to the speed of the game at the NFL, and has outpaced his competition since.
Quinn’s ascension in his three NFL seasons has been a swift one, as he collected 10.5 sacks in his first season as a starting defensive end in 2012, a year that set him up for his record-breaking 2013. Though the Rams’ brass knew they had a potentially elite player on their hands, Quinn did not enter this year with the national notoriety that some of his pass-rushing counterparts from his 2011 draft class received, such as San Francisco’s Aldon Smith, Houston’s Watt and Denver’s Von Miller. Quinn’s performance this season not only placed him in a national conversation with Smith, Watt and Miller, it also established him as a leader of a Rams defensive unit on the rise.
While the aforementioned trio saw their careers open with a meteoric rise, no player from that year’s draft has seen the degree of year-to-year progress that Quinn has enjoyed, and his defensive cohorts have reaped the benefits. St. Louis was ranked 15th in total defense in 2013, despite deploying the league’s youngest team.
That ranking was helped in part by a pass rush that contributed 53 sacks, the third-highest total in the NFL, with Quinn carrying much of that load with 19 of those 53.
Following Quinn’s three-sack performance against Tampa Bay in the Rams’ home finale, which moved him past Kevin Carter for the team’s all-time sack lead, Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher effectively summed up the significance of Quinn’s season.
“Very impressive when you take into consideration the history of this organization – and the defensive linemen, the pass rushers, and the Fearsome Foursome, all of that stuff – and for him to set the single-season franchise sack record was pretty impressive,” Fisher said.
Quinn’s impact has been known locally for some time, and the accolades garnered following the Rams’ season finale indicate others nationally are catching on, as well.
For his efforts, Quinn was named to his first career Pro Bowl, as well as being named the Defensive Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America. While the recognition of his banner 2013 season did not extend to the AP award, it most certainly could help to place him on the award’s short list for years to come.