5 case studies that give the Dallas Cowboys defense hope

Atlanta Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dallas Cowboys
Dan Quinn, Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

Like many, I was wary of the Dallas Cowboys hiring former Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn as the team’s defensive coordinator. A failed stint and a mediocre at best defense the Falcons carried for much of Quinn’s tenure made me shake my head.

Before I wrote anything on paper to vent my frustrations, I first took a look at his scheme to see what went wrong. I feel like his scheme is exactly what Dallas needs but players in Atlanta failed to execute it as properly as Quinn’s Seattle defense.

Immediately I thought that the talent level just wasn’t as good as what he had in Seattle, which was true, but his defensive lines got smaller in Atlanta than what he was accustomed to. Dallas needs to add big bodies to the interior of their defensive line.

I then took a look around the league and one thing immediately stood out that I found to be pretty interesting. When it comes to defensive coordinators turned first-time head coaches, they failed in almost every recent memory instance that I found.

That is puzzling considering how much knowledge there is between the candidates that fits this criteria. Men who run their defense and in some cases were assistant head coaches failed at their first attempt to become leading men.

Out of the 31 current head coaches in the NFL, thank you Houston, only 10 have ever been defensive coordinators. Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, Miami’s Brian Flores, and Giants Joe Judge are the lone exceptions who don’t have a coordinator background other than special teams.

Out of those ten defensive coaches, two were hired just a few weeks ago with the Jets hiring of Robert Saleh and the Los Angeles Chargers going with Brandon Staley as their head coaches respectively.

There are two other clubs that many speculate could be looking for a head coach after next season. Those coaches are Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer and Denver’s Vic Fangio as the next defensive coaches that could be on the hot seat.

That leaves six NFL head coaches that are seemingly content with their defensive signal-callers. Those six teams are New England’s Bill Belichick, Pittsburgh Mike Tomlin, Washington’s Ron Rivera, Buffalo’s Sean McDermott, Seattle’s Pete Carroll, and Tennesee’s Mike Vrabel.

Tomlin, Vrabel, and McDermott are the only first-time head coaches who have had the success that were previously defensive coordinators in recent memory. You can throw in Rivera as he had success in Carolina before he was fired. Belichick and Carroll also fell victim to this trend in their first go around.

I want to focus on what these men accomplished after they went back to running a defense. The answers provide hope for newly minted defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.