ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons' coach search could become a waiting game if their top candidate is Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
The Falcons may be positioned to target Quinn — if they have enough patience.
Atlanta already has conducted its first interview with Quinn. The Seahawks will play Green Bay in Sunday's NFC championship game.
If Seattle beats Green Bay, Quinn may not be available for a second interview until after the Feb. 1 Super Bowl. The NFL's anti-tampering policy allows teams to conduct follow-up interviews — but not first interviews — in the bye week following conference championship games. Seattle could deny permission for the second interview until after the Super Bowl.
Now, if Seattle allows Quinn to talk with other teams in the bye week, the Falcons could have an advantage over at least one other organization looking for a coach. Denver hasn't had a first interview with Quinn. If the Seahawks win on Sunday, Denver would have to wait until after the Super Bowl to speak with Quinn.
The Falcons were expected to have their second meeting with Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Thursday.
Austin, 49, has no experience as a head coach and only one year as the Lions' coordinator. He was secondary coach with Baltimore from 2011-13 and spent 2010 as the University of Florida's defensive coordinator. He also has coached defensive backs at Arizona and Seattle.
Austin is expected to interview in Denver on Friday. He also had interviews with Chicago, Buffalo and San Francisco.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said last week he believes Austin "has all of the qualities that you're looking for" in a head coach.
Similarly, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll endorsed Quinn's candidacy as a head coach.
"Well, he's been very successful," Carroll said. "He's got tremendous relationships wherever he's been around the league. He's been a guy that wherever he goes people rave about. We feel the same way."
Quinn followed Austin as Florida's defensive coordinator in 2011-12. Quinn, 44, then took over the Seahawks' defense.
The Seahawks led the NFL in scoring defense, total defense and takeaways while winning the Super Bowl last season.
Quinn's defense shined in the Super Bowl win over Peyton Manning and the Broncos. He previously was defensive line coach for the Seahawks, 49ers, Dolphins and Jets.
"He's had a great history," Carroll said. "He's a great communicator. He's a fantastic teacher. He's got a real toughness about him — innovative. He has all of the attributes of being a successful guy moving forward so when that time comes we will expect to see him land one of those jobs and we will look forward to playing against him."
Seattle ranks sixth in total defense this season.
The Falcons hoped to have a second interview with former Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Wednesday, but Bowles instead agreed to take the Jets' job.
The Falcons are looking to replace Mike Smith, who was fired following a 6-10 finish in 2014.
Atlanta has struggled on defense while finishing a combined 10-22 the past two seasons. The Falcons allowed the most total yards and yards passing in the league this season.