Cowboys hiring of Joe Whitt Jr. comes with major concerns

The Dallas Cowboys have hired a new secondary coach and passing game coordinator

One of the areas of major concern for the Dallas Cowboys following last season was the performance of their defense. This unit’s historically poor play was the reason the Cowboys parted ways with defensive coordinator Mike Nolan last Friday.

The Cowboys’ scoring defense finished 2020 ranked 28th, allowing an average of 29.6 points per game. Their run defense was ranked 31st, allowing a whopping 158.8 yards on the ground a game. The saving grace may have been their passing defense, which finished the regular season ranked 11th, allowing an average of only 227.6 passing yards per game to opposing offenses

Still, turnovers were a major concern for the defense until the last month of the season. In their first 12 games, this unit forced a total of 11 takeaways. In their final four contests alone, they racked up 12 turnovers.

With the firing of Nolan and defensive line coach, Jim Tomsula, many wondered if there would be more change to the coaching staff soon. The Cowboys responded by hiring former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn to become the team’s new defensive coordinator on Monday.

On Wednesday morning it was reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that the Cowboys are hiring Joe Whitt Jr. as the team’s secondary/defensive pass game coordinator according to an unnamed source.

Whitt Jr. has directed connections with both Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and new DC Dan Quinn. And he apparently impressed Dallas owner and general manager, Jerry Jones, during his interview on Sunday.

The 42-year old Whitt Jr. coached 11 years under McCarthy with the Green Bay Packers. Most of that time was spent as the cornerbacks coach. After a one-year stint with the Cleveland Browns as their secondary coach and pass game coordinator, Whitt Jr. assumed that same role under Quinn with the Falcons last season.

Here’s why fans should be concerned with Whitt Jr.’s addition in Dallas. The Falcons’ pass defense ranked dead last in the NFL last season, allowing an average of 293.6 passing yards to opposing offenses in 2020. They forced 21 turnovers, which was two less than the Cowboys.

While Quinn’s hiring can be justified by his successful stint as a defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks that led to two Super Bowl appearances, Whitt Jr.’s recent track record is much harder to ignore.

In 2019, Whitt Jr. did help the Browns post the seventh-best passing defense in the NFL, allowing only 216.9 yards per game through the air. But turnovers were an issue as they only recorded a total of 20, which was 11 less than the year before.

In Green Bay the previous season, the Packers posted the 12th best passing defense in the league under Whitt Jr. as the team’s defensive passing game coordinator, allowing 234.5 yards per game. But yet again, a lack of turnovers was a major concern as they would record only 15 total, tied for the third-lowest in the NFL that year.

The fact Joe Whitt Jr. is coming off a season where he coached the worst passing defense in the NFL is a legitimate concern. The lack of turnovers over the past three seasons is worrisome. And the fact this appears to be yet another Mike McCarthy-buddy hire is also something to raise an eyebrow or two about.

But Whitt Jr. has also had success in the NFL, helping win a Super Bowl title with Mike McCarthy back in 2010. And his previous stints under both McCarthy and Dan Quinn should make the transition much smoother this offseason. But there are certainly reasons to have a few reservations concerning this latest hiring.