Cowboys must avoid making same Dan Quinn mistake with polarizing DC

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders
Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

The NFL coaching carousel subjected fans to its biggest surprise in years on Tuesday when Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson nixed himself from consideration for the Commanders and Seahawks jobs. This could have ramifications on the Dallas Cowboys in 2024, as it could mean Dan Quinn ends up leaving.

The presumptive favorite to get the Commanders job, Johnson's decision leaves Washington in limbo. It's anyone's guess whom they'll hire now, but Quinn is one of a select few candidates who's already had a follow-up interview with Dallas' rival.

It's very possible Quinn ends up with the job. That would leave the Cowboys without a defensive coordinator. Given Mike McCarthy is entering a lame duck year, Dallas will have trouble luring candidates outside the organization. That might explain why they're interested in Ron Rivera.

Suffice it to say nobody wants Rivera presiding over the defense, but there's another popular candidate taking interviews whom the Cowboys should avoid: former LA Chargers head coach Brandon Staley.

Cowboys cannot hire Brandon Staley to replace Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator

Like Quinn, Staley is a great schematic coach. He's capable of designing a game plan that will foil an opposing offense. However, Staley also has some of the same flaws as Quinn, which have reared their ugly head at the worst times.

Chargers fans will be the first to tell you that Staley is stubborn to a fault. That was a fatal Quinn mistake in the playoffs. While the Cowboys' linebacker personnel didn't help matters, Quinn's scheme -- abruptly switching to zone after playing man coverage all season -- and personnel groupings played right into the Packers hand. It's like Quinn was asking Green Bay to run the ball down Dallas' throat.

Staley also struggles adapting to his players skillsets. His usage of dynamic safety Derwin James baffled fans. James is arguably the best player (certainly the most talented) on the Chargers defense next to Khalik Mack, so that's a big red flag.

Additionally, Michael Davis is a serviceable corner in press man coverage. So what did Staley do? Play mostly cushion zone coverage and Los Angeles got gashed underneath. Davis specifically allowed a 119.8 passer rating and nine (!) touchdowns this season, per Pro Football Focus.

Staley would be a similar hire to Quinn, only Quinn is better at accentuating his players skillsets. Granted, Staley would have better personnel with the Cowboys than he did with the Chargers, but he, like Quinn, would be exposed the moment he faces an innovative offensive coach.

Staley had a great one-year stint as the Rams' defensive coordinator in 2020, but he also had prime Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.

Could he have similar success coaching Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, DeMarcus Lawrence and DaRon Bland? Perhaps, but the Cowboys would be better served looking elsewhere to fill Quinn's shoes if it comes to that.

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