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Dan Quinn pulled his own Mike McCarthy Project to come up with new concepts for the Cowboys defense

The Cowboys new defensive coordinator won’t be running the same old scheme.

Seattle Seahawks v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

When the Dallas Cowboys hired Mike McCarthy as their new head coach prior to last season, much was made of the Mike McCarthy Project. This was a year-long study of everything he had done in his past coaching, along with looking at trends around the NFL, to prepare himself for a new coaching job. It was a time of self-reflection and introspective study in an effort to come out as a somewhat new coach with new ideas for his coaching philosophy.

It seems that another Cowboys coach ran a mini-versions of the Mike McCarthy Project. Maybe it’s the Dan Quinn Boot Camp. Once Quinn was fired from the Falcons, he decided to do his own self-scouting.

Plenty of coaches would take some time to relax after six years in such a high-pressure position. Quinn opted for the opposite, instead choosing to deconstruct his coaching approach in anticipation of the next opportunity.

“I wanted to do as big an after-action on my own self to make sure what I could learn from, things that went well and things that didn’t go well,” Quinn said. “So, I wanted to kind of do a 360 on the whole process first, the scheme side.”

This is an interesting wrinkle to the idea that Quinn was going to predominately bring his Cover 3/4-3 scheme to Dallas. Of course, the idea that Quinn only ran a simplistic Cover 3 approach with nothing else has always been a little off anyway. Every defensive coordinator has different approaches that he mixes into his base ideas. Quinn was no different.

But it does sound like there could be more variation this year than has been seen in the past. Quinn is explicitly saying this won’t be carbon copies of the Seattle or Atlanta defenses.

“That included defensive cutups from 2013 to 2020, and that brought me into some of the system changes that I wanted to implement on the next lap around,” he said. “I didn’t want to do just another rinse and repeat. And, so, that was a big piece on what I wanted to do.”

Quinn made headlines right after the draft when he said that the Cowboys base defense would be more of a 3-4 look. In the same breath, he also said that the nickel is really the new “base” defense and that will be a 4-man front. All of this sent scribes scrambling to figure out what all of this new stuff was that Quinn was implementing.

Observant observers might have noticed that not all of this was really new. In a piece that everyone should re-read, our own David Howman went in-depth into the concepts of the front seven for Dan Quinn in this article back in January of this year. There it was noted that Pete Carroll/Dan Quinn had been implementing 3-4 concepts with 4-3 personnel for a long time. Both the 4-3 Under and Bear alignments from Quinn’s defenses look surprisingly like a 3-4 alignment. Maybe there really is nothing new under the sun.

It will be interesting to see what Quinn brings in that really is new from his bag of tricks. One of the selling points for his hire that has been passed around in the media is that his Cover 3/4-3 scheme would resemnble what the Cowboys ran somehwat effectively under Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard. Now it seems like Quinn is not content with running just that and will be incorporating some different looks.

Last year, Mike Nolan tried to make the Cowboys defense more “multiple” and that turned into a total disaster. Let’s all hope Quinn does a better job of changing things up.