The dust has settled on the season-ending loss for the Dallas Cowboys and at this point we are waiting for word from Jerry Jones on the future. At this moment, the only significant change that could be made, given that we are still in the middle of the NFL playoffs, would be with regards to the coaching staff. Dallas could look to move on from head coach Mike McCarthy (we should know more later this week) and for a few weeks now we have been resigned to the idea that a new defensive coordinator would be needed.
Dan Quinn has, for the third year in a row, generated a lot of attention and is theoretically a wanted commodity. To date Quinn has been requested by five different teams (we are tracking this for you right here) and while he makes sense with one specifically (Seattle) there is a world where he is not chosen by any of them.
What happens then?
It is not necessarily a guarantee that Dan Quinn will get a head coaching job this offseason
Over each of the last two offseasons, Dan Quinn has chosen to return to the Cowboys and serve as their defense coordinator which sounds great on the surface. But would it be a leap to say that no team has made Quinn an offer that he couldn’t refuse? Clearly not since he refused them all. Quinn has had remarkable success overseeing Micah Parsons and Co. but on some level everybody who has considered him a head coaching candidate since has let him leave the building, so to speak.
Coupling that reality with our current one in that Dan Quinn has faltered for the Cowboys down the stretch, is it not another logical leap to conclude that maybe everyone will feel called more in other directions? It is not helping Quinn’s case that his most recent stretch was one of his worst and that his unit collapsed further and further as the season wore on.
Dan Quinn has coached 55 games as the Cowboys' DC.— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) January 16, 2024
6 of his worst 7 games by EPA per drive came this season.
5 of his worst 7 games by EPA per drive have come in the last 2.5 months.
It would be unfair and illogical to exclusively look at the most recent seven games of work from Dan Quinn, but they clearly matter and might ultimately weigh more than anything else. Why hire someone when they have literally been fading at an incredibly high rate?
Quinn has done an incredible job of creating a sort of secret sauce with the Cowboys, but it has been reliant on several key ingredients, and one critical one in generating turnovers. In his three seasons with the team the Cowboys are 3-9 in games where they do not generate a turnover, and while that is fairly normal amongst contenders, it still proves that they are not necessarily capable of surviving and forcing enough stops that are not directly taking the ball away.
Turnovers and playing with a lead, if you limit win probability to <80% in 2023, they ranked 22nd by EPA/play allowed. 13th since he joined in 2021, and that doesn’t exclude turnovers— Aidan Davis (@aidan1214) January 17, 2024
A big reason that Quinn has been able to generate so many turnovers with the Cowboys has been the defensive talent that he has to work with, namely Micah Parsons. Others may not have that key piece on their roster for Quinn to benefit from, so again it seems conceivable that every team could potentially pass on him.
For what it is worth, ESPN’s Dan Graziano predicted who will be the head coach of every team with a vacancy on Wednesday and did not have Quinn filling a single post. The Seattle job went to Mike Vrabel in the prediction, if you are curious.
This would mean that Quinn would be available, and while we recently had a conversation here at BTB about him potentially filling the head coaching job in the building that he already works in, what if the only option is for him to return as defensive coordinator? Would anybody want that?
It is clear that changes are necessary for the Cowboys in a macro sense but this one felt out of their control. Are they willing to get rid of Dan Quinn themselves? Is he the fall guy for everything that has happened? It is clear that changes are necessary on defense, but again what he has done over three seasons as a whole is impressive. Moving on may sound like the best idea but is hardly a slam dunk sort of proposition.