The Dallas Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan on Friday.
On Monday, they agreed in principle to replace Nolan with former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, according to multiple reports. NFL Network reported the news first. Quinn flew to Dallas for formal in-person interviews Monday, per reports, and the decision came quickly.
Nolan’s one-year tenure ended after a historically bad season in which the Cowboys allowed more points (473) and more touchdowns (57) than any unit in the Cowboys’ 61-season history.
In five-plus seasons as Falcons head coach, Quinn compiled a 43-42 record that ended with an 0-5 start to 2020. He and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were fired from Atlanta on Oct. 11.
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Dan Quinn compiled a 46-44 record (including playoff games) during his tenure with the Falcons. (Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)
Quinn’s Falcons competed in the Super Bowl during the 2016 season. They lost their 2017 divisional-round contest and haven’t returned to the playoffs since.
Prior to Atlanta, Quinn coordinated the Seahawks' defenses in 2013-14, with Seattle competing in the Super Bowl both years and winning one with its Legion of Boom. Quinn’s defensive backs coach during those years was Kris Richard, whom the Cowboys hired in 2019 to coordinate a 4-3 defense alongside Rod Marinelli.
Head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t retain Marinelli or Richard when he was hired in 2020, instead opting for Nolan, who proposed a more complex scheme with multiple-front looks. The result was a Cowboys defense plagued by miscommunication and missed assignments, talent gaps and questions about their willingness to finish plays. The Cowboys allowed 158.8 rushing yards per game, second worst in the league and in team history. Opponents averaged 4.98 yards per carry against Dallas — and ripped off plays of at least 20 yards 69 times.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he regretted the scheme change in a virtual offseason.
McCarthy issued a statement Friday when dismissing Nolan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.
“I am appreciative of my relationships with both Mike and Jim, and I am grateful for the contributions that both of them made to our team under difficult circumstances in 2020,” McCarthy said. “These are never easy decisions to make, and we wish them, and their families, the very best in the future.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
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