When Jerry Jones fired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan this past Friday after just one season, some thought the Dallas Cowboys might take a little time to replace him…you know, because the defense just had one of the worst seasons in franchise history and you want to make sure you get that right.
But what Jerry wants, Jerry gets (outside of a Super Bowl title in the last quarter-century anyway) and after just three days, he’s hired former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn to fill the vacancy, hoping that he can bring the same magic to the Cowboys defense that he did to the Seahawks defense that helped Seattle win a Super Bowl.
But Quinn certainly won’t be inheriting the kind of talent he had with the Seahawks and really won’t even know the personnel he’ll be dealing with as the Dallas Cowboys have a number of issues heading into the offseason.
The Dallas Cowboys had one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2020
Expectations were high for the Dallas Cowboys coming into the 2020 NFL season. Longtime Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, who once led Green Bay to a Super Bowl title, had replaced Jason Garrett and former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan had replaced Rod Marinelli at defensive coordinator and was bringing with him what was supposed to be an exciting new hybrid scheme that was designed to baffle opposing offenses.
And how’d that work out? Not so well.
In five of the Cowboys’ first six games, the defense surrendered 34 points or more and was actually on pace to become the worst defense in NFL history. Things improved a touch as the season rolled along but it wasn’t enough to save Nolan’s job as the Cowboys finished 6-10.
The pass defense was actually decent and ranked 11th in the NFL, allowing 227.6 yards per game. But the run defense was atrocious and ranked 31st in the league by giving up 158.8 yards per game. The Cowboys ranked 28th in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 29.6 points per game.
Dan Quinn was the Seahawks defensive coordinator when Seattle won the Super Bowl
Fired by the Falcons just five games into the 2020 season, Dan Quinn left Atlanta with a 43-42 regular-season record and a 3-2 mark in the postseason, which includes that infamous loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl 51 in which the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the second half.
Quinn does own a Super Bowl ring, however, as he was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks when they made consecutive Super Bowl appearances following the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The Seahawks won the first as Quinn’s defense held Peyton Manning’s Broncos in check in a 43-8 blowout but lost the second in heartbreaking fashion to Tom Brady and the Patriots, 28-24. In both seasons in which Quinn was the defensive coordinator in Seattle, the Seahawks’ defense was ranked first in points and yards allowed.
Dan Quinn won’t know what he’ll have with the Dallas Cowboys for quite some time
It’s expected that Dan Quinn will use a scheme similar to what the Dallas Cowboys were using before Mike Nolan took over as defensive coordinator. Dallas fans have to hope that Quinn won’t make the same big mistake that Nolan did, which was not fitting his scheme to the players on the roster.
However, Quinn won’t know what players he’ll have at his disposal for a couple more months as the Cowboys are going to have some big decisions to make on the defensive side of the football. He knows DeMarcus Lawrence, the team’s highest-paid defensive player, will be there but the man that led the team in tackles, Jaylon Smith, could end up being a salary-cap casualty.
Aldon Smith, Xavier Woods, Jourdan Lewis, and Chidobe Awuzie are all set to hit free agency but the Cowboys do have some young stars that could step up and fill those roles if necessary.
As always, it’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Dallas Cowboys.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference