Dan Quinn's time in Dallas as the defensive coordinator has come to an end. On Thursday, he was named the new head coach of the Washington Commanders, meaning the Cowboys will face him twice a year for the foreseeable future.
Since the Cowboys season ended abruptly in the wild card round of the playoffs, Quinn has been a hot topic of discussion. The reason is that the Cowboys were lit up for 48 points in their loss to the Green Bay Packers. This marked the second time in three seasons that Dallas didn't perform well on defense in the final game of the year.
Dallas had several poor defensive performances in 2023 despite finishing fifth in total defense and points allowed per game. The Cowboys gave up 33 points per game in their six losses this season. As bad as that is, Quinn did some good things in Dallas during his three-year tenure.
When Quinn came on board for the 2021 season, the Cowboys were coming off one of the worst seasons in their history on the defensive side of the ball as they ranked 23rd in total defense and 28th in points allowed. Quinn immediately left his fingerprint on the franchise by getting his unit to lead the league in turnovers with 34 and finished with a plus 14 in turnover differential, the best in the NFL.
Creating that type of turnaround was impressive and rare, but Quinn found a way to duplicate it in 2022. Dallas became the first defense since the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s to lead the NFL in turnovers in back-to-back seasons by coming up with 33 and finishing second in turnover differential. The Cowboys didn't quite reach those numbers this season with 26, but that was good for the fourth-most in the league, and their turnover differential was ranked sixth.
Quinn made offenses off-balance with his pre-snap alignments and was very creative with his scheme, which caused an abundance of turnovers and pressures. His philosophy also allowed cornerbacks to play aggressively, leading to Trevon Diggs (2021) and DaRon Bland (2023), each having years of leading the NFL in interceptions. Yes, there were times when teams with tons of pre-snap motion and good rushing attacks carved his unit up, but overall, Quinn did a good job for the Cowboys.
The way the Cowboys got to 12 wins in each of the last three seasons was simple. Create turnovers, build a lead, and let Micah Parsons and the pass rush pin their ears back and feast. Quinn and his coaching methods were the catalyst for that, and without him, the Cowboys simply don't have the amount of success they’ve had recently.
Whatever direction the Cowboys go to get a new defensive coordinator which could be in-house with Joe Whitt or Al Harris, or an outside candidate, replacing Quinn won't be as easy as some think.