The divisional round is over for the NFL. It is gratifying for most to see both Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers missing out on the conference championship. For the Dallas Cowboys, however, there is the lingering disappointment of not having made it that far. Further, they are now in a strange limbo about their coaching staff. We have to wait for developments, one that seems inevitable, and others that are still very much to be determined.
The thing that has not just fans of the Cowboys, but the entire NFL, watching with rapt interest is the question of Dan Quinn. He is the hottest commodity on the head coach market after his superb job of remaking the Dallas defense. It seems almost every team with a vacancy has, or is waiting to interview him. He may be in the unique position of being able to pick his landing spot with many vying for his services. The Cowboys would love for him to come back as defensive coordinator for another year, but that no longer seems realistic to any degree.
Still, until he officially moves on, Dallas has to wait to start the search for his successor. Fortunately, the wait for him to pick his spot has also slowed down the hiring cycle at all levels. There are still multiple names that seem very attractive for the Cowboys, including Vic Fangio, Mike Zimmer, and Wink Martindale. With players like Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Trevon Diggs as resources, it is likely they would be willing to consider the job. There are also internal candidates that may be good options for the team, such as Joe Whitt, who the Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks are requesting for interviews. George Edwards is another assistant they might consider promoting to coordinator. But whoever would wind up as Quinn’s replacement will almost certainly make other changes to the defensive staff. Filling those jobs will be part of the race against the rest of the league to grab the best candidates available.
A new defensive coordinator would be a big decision for Mike McCarthy in restocking his staff. But over the past few days, rumbles have persisted that his job itself might be in jeopardy. Jerry Jones was clearly angry about the way the team was unceremoniously eliminated in the Wild Card Round during his weekly interview with 105.3 The FAN. There are those who think the victory by the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday may have saved McCarthy’s job in the mind of Jones, but others are not so sure.
One thing that may be driving the question of McCarthy’s suitability is his continued deflection of responsibility for the results this year, most notably the harping on officiating that has spread to the players. Things should become more clear this week. But if there should be a surprise move to fire the head coach, then the Cowboys will be in the mix for the pool of candidates. That would presumably include Quinn, and Sean Payton has engaged in his periodic hints that he might be ready to move on from the New Orleans Saints. There is a long standing infatuation with Payton for Jones, and you can be pretty certain that feelers have gone out from the Star to see if this year it is more than just posturing for another pay bump.
A new head coach would likely mean a lot more change on the coaching staff. That could well include Kellen Moore, who lost a lot of credibility with the way the offense struggled down the stretch and into the playoffs. Moore himself is also interviewing. It is not outside the realm of possibility that he could get a head coaching gig, but that is a much longer shot than for Quinn. If McCarthy would move on, would Jones consider Moore as his replacement? That seems unlikely, but there was certainly a belief of an attraction for him. The decision to retain him when McCarthy was hired is suspected to have been at least influenced by ownership.
Even if McCarthy survives, there is a chance that Moore might be a bit of a sacrificial lamb while still trying to find solutions for the offensive problems of the last half of the past season. We saw that with Mike Nolan last year, although he gave the team much more cause to fire him.
Change is coming for the coaching staff. We just don’t know how much. It is very unusual for nothing to have happened so far, and as has been mentioned that seems to be driven primarily by the waiting game around Quinn. Something certainly has to give. This looks like the week when it will. But all we can do, like the rest of the league, is just wait and see.