A possible Dan Quinn departure is first domino in shake-up of Cowboys’ defense
There is a song by the rap group The LOX called “Money, Power, Respect” that best describes what Jerry Jones did to Dan Quinn last year.
Jones, the Cowboys’ owner, prevented Quinn, the defensive coordinator, from leaving for a head coaching job despite numerous suitors. Jones gave Quinn a raise, more respect and power to stay.
Quinn is back in the hiring cycle this offseason, and it appears there’s only so much money, power and respect Jones can throw his way to keep him.
Quinn seems gone for the right job, and his departure is the first domino for a Cowboys defense that will be different in 2023.
Arizona, Denver and Indianapolis have interviewed Quinn for their head coach openings. Quinn is scheduled for a second interview with Arizona on Wednesday, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Dallas Morning News.
Quinn almost got the Denver job last year that went to Nathaniel Hackett, who barely lasted one season. Sean Payton and 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans are the other hot names on the coaching circuit who will have their choice at of job.
After coaching in Atlanta from 2015 to 2020, Quinn sought a break from the day-to-day grind of being a head coach. He paused to become the defensive coordinator and led the Cowboys to lead the NFL in takeaways the last two seasons, pushing linebacker Micah Parsons into an elite pass rusher. Quinn recalibrated safety Jayron Kearse from special teams guy to dependable defender who covers tight ends and wide receivers.
In his two seasons as coordinator, Quinn’s defenses improved: lowering opponents’ average yards per play from 5.5 to 5.1 and total points from 358 to 342. It’s a sharp contrast from the 2020 season debacle. . Dallas allowed 473 points and 5.9 yards per play under Mike Nolan’s defense.
Quinn also became coach Mike McCarthy’s needed eyes and ears. Quinn acted like a head coach while being the defensive coordinator. The postgame hugs he gives players outside the locker room is an example of the leadership he provides.
Following the NFC wild card win over Tampa Bay, Quinn shared a long embrace with quarterback Dak Prescott outside the locker room. Quinn just didn’t relate to the defensive players, he bonded with offensive players, too.
That’s what good coaches do. McCarthy, a good coach himself, encouraged bonding between the units.
Now the man protecting McCarthy’s back could be out the door.
He won’t be alone.
Starting inside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch responded with a strong 2022 season and enters free agency with teams seeking his services now that he’s played nearly injury-free.
Strong safety Donovan Wilson also is a free agent and the Cowboys traditionally don’t provide long-term deals at that position. Wilson is looking for more money than what the Cowboys might present at the table.
Cornerback Kelvin Joseph, a Quinn favorite in the 2021 second round, has been an overall disappointment and could be on the chopping block. His play on special teams is commendable but you don’t draft cornerbacks in the second round to be good special teams players. Of course, his involvement in the drive-by shooting death of a Dallas man last summer stained his reputation. Joseph has regained trust at The Star by staying out of trouble, but on the field rookie DaRon Bland surpassed him on the depth chart.
The Cowboys also have uncertainty regarding injured starting corners Anthony Brown (achilles) and Jourdan Lewis (foot) as both hit free agency . Do you sign them to multi-year deals or let them hit the market while looking to find replacements in the draft?
With Quinn coaching another team, Brown or Lewis might get snatched up.
The interior of the defensive line needs massive upgrades after the struggles stopping the run. The Cowboys allowed 2,198 rushing yards. The last time time they gave up 2,000 or more rushing yards, Nolan was the defensive coordinator.
If Quinn leaves, he won’t go alone. Respected defensive line coach Aden Durde and secondary passing game coordinator Joe Whitt might leave with Quinn. Quality control/defense coach Cannon Matthews, who earned praise for his work with the secondary, is due for a promotion.
So while Quinn and his wife begin thinking about how close they want to live to the team facility in his next place of employment, it will be just the beginning of moves for this Cowboys defense.