A lot of work goes into an NFL team preparing for their preseason dress rehearsal, after all it is technically the most legitimate game that will be played before the regular season begins.
As the Dallas Cowboys began their game against the Houston Texans on Saturday night, part of that plan was significantly disrupted. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and defensive lineman Carlos Watkins both left AT&T Stadium before kickoff “out of an abundance of caution” under the guidance of the league’s Covid-19 protocols.
We are all hoping the best for Dan Quinn and Carlos Watkins, but the fact that this news broke as the game had just begun was yet another stark reminder of the times. Things can literally change at a moment’s notice.
This was a common experience for NFL fans in 2020 as the league dealt with their first season of the pandemic. Remember how Dez Bryant was ruled ineligible for the Cowboys game on the road against the Baltimore Ravens last year just before kickoff (a game that was delayed six days as a result of Covid protocols at that)? We have advanced towards another season, but there are still challenges that can and likely will arise. Consider that Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel announced that he tested positive on Sunday.
These hypotheticals are all well within play as evidenced by Saturday night’s abundance of caution. The Cowboys, or any NFL team, could be preparing to play a game when all of a sudden they have a player or coach leave the building and suddenly have to deal with that occurrence’s impact on their football plan. Consider that Damontae Kazee (who obviously knows this defense very well) was calling for play calls early on as the team adjusted.
Did see Damontae Kazee on the field in the first series asking the sidelines to get the defensive playcall in earlier a couple of times. https://t.co/AqhUV68rML— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) August 22, 2021
Ultimately what matters most here is the health of those involved and for what it’s worth the Cowboys statement noted that 93% of players are vaccinated while 100% of the football staff is. But the example with Kazee shows the domino effect of a rug being pulled out from the team at a moment’s notice. There have to be plans put in place and ready to be executed, and to the Cowboys credit they were able to do that.
In response to Dan Quinn’s departure from the stadium, the Cowboys leaned on the next-best option to call plays for the defense, Joe Whitt Jr. Remember that he actually interviewed for the defensive coordinator position when it was open and that he has experience with both Dan Quinn and Mike McCarthy prior to joining the Cowboys. While it was a preseason game, he performed very well, especially considering the haphazardness of him being thrust into the role.
With #Cowboys DC Dan Quinn unable to coach last night due to COVID protocols, Joe Whitt Jr. took over defensive play-calling duties. The transition seemed pretty seamless, as the #Texans were 0-for-10 on third-down conversions.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 22, 2021
Obviously this was an exhibition contest that was free of consequences as far as winning and losing are concerned, but again the sequence here served as a reminder of how quickly tables can be turned upside down. We haven’t even mentioned the player involved that had to leave in Carlos Watkins. It could be any player or coach at any time and the Cowboys have to make sure that they are prepared for anything. Depth matters. Everywhere.
Last season was uncharted territory for every person in the NFL, heck every person in the world. Hopefully the health of everyone stays in a safe place permanently, but hopefully the Cowboys are also ready in the event that something unpredictable happens.