It seems like a forgone conclusion that Dan Quinn will be one and done as the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator. It’s quite amazing that under his tutelage this unit went from a franchise-worst 473 points allowed last year to a top-seven defense in points allowed and creating a league-high 34 takeaways. Not only did Quinn’s squad take the ball away, but they turned several of those turnovers into points as they finished the year with six total defensive touchdowns. His mark on this Cowboys defense cannot be undersold as it was simply amazing. Should he leave for another head coaching opportunity, his services will be sorely missed in Big D.
If Quinn leaves Dallas, the team is going to have a challenge ahead of them to get the right guy in the building to help keep this defense on that same path of success. A wrong choice could prove costly and you don’t have to remind Cowboys fans of that after the Mike Nolan experiment went terribly wrong. So, who should be the guy next in line? While it’s going to be difficult to find a coach who offers qualities similar to that of Dan Quinn, here are three coaches who could be a perfect fit for Dallas.
Joe Whitt Jr.
Let’s just start off by keeping things simple. If you want to attempt to disrupt the environment as little as possible, then why not start with Quinn’s right-hand man in defensive passing game coordinator/secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr.?
The Cowboys' secondary was fantastic in taking the ball away leading the league with 26 interceptions. I would like us all to take a moment and re-read that last sentence and soak up the goodness of recognizing that this team finally, after so many failed years prior, showed up to intercept passes throughout the entire season. It’s a wonderful thing. Yes, Trevon Diggs inflated those numbers, but they got contributions from everyone. In fact, you might say that considering the actual talent level of this secondary group, this accomplishment was mind-blowing. Who knows just how much Whitt’s coaching had to do with it, but it’s such a remarkable achievement and we’ll gladly give him his due credit.
Whitt Jr. may choose to follow Quinn wherever he ends up, but if not, the Cowboys would be smart to do everything they can to retain him. Two of the more successful teams over the past decade, Baltimore and Seattle, have both expressed interest in Whitt as a potential defensive coordinator candidate, so his coaching ability is highly respected.
Most people expect the former Miami Dolphins head coach to land a head coaching job with another team. If for some reason that doesn’t happen, he’s going to be the most highly sought-after defensive coordinator candidate.
Prior to his three years with the Dolphins, Flores spent his previous 15 years coaching under Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. From a pro scout to a position coach for linebacker and safety, Flores has been a key fixture on a Patriots defense that has consistently been one of the better groups in the league. His last three years with New England included three straight trips to the Super Bowl, winning two of them including his last season in 2018. That year, the Patriots finished seventh in the league in points allowed, and third in interceptions. He was essentially the de facto defensive coordinator in 2018 after former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia left New England for a head coaching job in Detroit before being fired after 11 games last season.
While Flores’ head coaching job also ended in termination, his record was far more successful in Miami. After a rough first year, Flores’ Dolphins went 19-14 over the past two years including winning seven straight this past season. It was puzzling that Miami parted ways with him, but constant struggles to find a good offensive coordinator created friction between him and general manager Chris Grier. Similar to how the Cowboys benefited from the dysfunction in Atlanta with Quinn, they could try to steal a great defensive mind who just didn’t have other pieces around him in Miami.
The first two options above feature someone the team is familiar with or a very experienced coach coming out of a bad situation. This final option is neither of those things. Wilson is currently the defensive backs coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s only been with the Eagles for one season after coming over from the New York Jets the previous year.
Wilson is an up-and-coming defensive mind who some team is going to take a gamble on. With great success with players like Jamaal Adams and Marcus Maye with the Jets as well as rejuvenating the career of Darius Slay in Philly, Wilson’s skills as a coach don’t go unnoticed. NFL insider Jason La Canfora calls Wilson an under-heralded gem who has worked under some great coaches and has a great relationship with the players. He also has a great mix of college and pro background and has a very strong understanding of spread concepts. For what it’s worth, the Eagles allowed just four yards per rushing attempt which was sixth-best in the NFL. They also allowed just three yards per carry against the heavy rushing attack of San Francisco earlier in the year.
The Eagles played surprisingly well on defense (top 10 in yards allowed) considering the pieces they had. For that reason, current defensive coordinator Johnathan Gannon’s name is coming up as a possible head coaching candidate. Should he leave, Dennard makes sense as the best in-house replacement. However, if the Eagles aren’t able to promote this sharp defensive mind, the Cowboys could sneak in there and steal him. Adding a good coach and taking one away from the Eagles would be a win-win.
Who would you like the see the Cowboys go after to be the next defensive coordinator should they lose Quinn?