Mike Zimmer puts Dan Quinn on blast with concerning Mazi Smith assessment

Mazi Smith's rookie year was as bad as you could have imagined
Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

If you thought there was anything hyperbolic about the way people talk about Mazi Smith's rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys (and how bad it was), perhaps the latest from Mike Zimmer will convince you.

Frankly, Mazi Smith's rookie year with the Cowboys was tough to watch as he played just over 300 total snaps (28.4%) when he was expected to make an instant impact coming out of Michigan. Smith had just 13 total tackles in 17 games played, and was consistently playing out of position (and underweight) in Dan Quinn's defense.

Zimmer spoke to the media recently and made it pretty well known that Quinn left him with no choice but to basically start from scratch with the Cowboys' 2023 first-round pick.

Mike Zimmer's latest Mazi Smith assessment is terrible look for Dan Quinn.

We're gonna start with the "basics"?

Frankly, this kind of statement is bordering on mind-blowing. For one, you don't always get this kind of transparency from coaches in the NFL when it comes to the way they approach media sessions. The honesty from Zimmer is refreshing, but the assessment of where the Cowboys are at with Mazi Smith right now is a testament to the fact that Dan Quinn did a horrible job getting him ready for the NFL and setting him up for success. He treated the team's first-round pick as a project instead of putting him in a position to do exactly what he was drafted to do -- stop the run.

When Smith was drafted, he was supposed to come in and instantly upgrade the Dallas Cowboys' run defense. That's what he did at Michigan, and the "Feldman Freak" was meant to come in and provide Dallas with an option in the middle of their defense to make everyone else along that front even better.

It obviously didn't happen that way.

Quinn wanted Smith to take that athleticism and become a disruptive three technique. On paper, that's not a terrible idea for an ultra-athletic big man. There's money to be made there for pass-rushing interior defensive linemen who can consistently get after the quarterback. The problem is, that's just not who Mazi Smith is as a player.

What made him so effective (and a first-round prospect) at Michigan was the work he did as more of a true nose tackle. Quinn tried to fit a player into his scheme, what he wanted from him. Zimmer is doing what's best for the player, and that will ultimately be what's best for the Cowboys' defense.

The lack of instant impact from the 2023 class overall was disappointing, but if Zimmer can get Smith back to playing at the level he was at Michigan (and beyond) the lost year last year will be forgiven and forgotten.

More Cowboys coverage