Dan Quinn stealing Cowboys assistant leaves clear favorite for defensive coordinator job

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Dan Quinn leaving the Dallas Cowboys wasn't the lock fans thought it'd be before the playoffs. Ultimately, though, the wild card disaster wasn't enough to dissuade the Washington Commanders, who hired Quinn as their head coach.

Quinn has moved swiftly to fill his coaching staff. The Commanders have since hired Kliff Kingsbury as their offensive coordinator after it seemed he would take the Raiders OC job. Late Sunday night, Quinn named his defensive coordinator: former Cowboys defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr.

Shortly after Quinn was hired, Whitt was deemed the favorite to become Quinn's defensive coordinator. Cowboys fans held out hope Whitt would stay in Dallas, as he's on the record saying being the team's DC was his "dream job."

Having said that, you can't fault Whitt for taking the bird in hand. Though he had a Monday interview with the Cowboys, Jerry Jones has long wanted his defensive coordinators to have previous head coaching experience.

With Whitt officially out the door, though, Mike Zimmer becomes the de facto favorite to replace Quinn.

Dan Quinn stealing Joe Whitt Jr. makes Mike Zimmer favorite for Cowboys DC job

Whitt replacing Quinn would've allowed for continuity. He worked under Quinn for the last three seasons, so it stands to reason he would've run the same scheme.

Though successful in terms of producing takeaways and defensive touchdowns, and limiting points (against lesser competition), a schematic change on defense might be in the Cowboys' best interest given how the season ended. Granted, they were forced to play safeties at linebacker and weren't strong in the trenches, but that doesn't absolve Quinn of blame for sticking to his guns.

Would Whitt have been as stubborn in terms of switching things up? That's impossible to say, but a change in core philosophies is overdue.

In a vacuum, Zimmer is a brilliant defensive mind. Don't read too much into his initial stint as the Cowboys defensive play-caller. The team was in transition after the 1990s. His units in Cincinnati and Minnesota almost always ranked in the top 10 in points and overall defense. He has a tenacious personality and would add accountability.

There's also Zimmer's history with Mike McCarthy to consider. Zimmer and McCarthy coached against each other in the NFC North for eight seasons. They have a mutual respect and admiration for one another, so much so that Zimmer called it a mistake when the Packers fired McCarthy, per the Dallas Morning News.

Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde and ex-Commanders head coach Ron Rivera are also in the mix for the job, but a simple reading of the tea leaves -- and Joe Whitt's departure -- make Zimmer the favorite to replace Quinn.

Given the lack of appeal with Durde and Rivera, it should be Zimmer-or-bust for Dallas.

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