New Cowboys coach takes veiled shot at Dan Quinn over baffling Mazi Smith usage

Mazi Smith is in better hands now that Dan Quinn is in Washington.
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San Francisco 49ers v Washington Commanders / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys are being urged to add another running back and wide receiver. While both positions could stand to be upgraded, nose tackle is arguably the biggest detriment or weakness on the roster. With that in mind, a lot is riding on Mazi Smith's shoulders this season.

To say Smith's rookie year was a disappointment would be an understatement. He played all 17 games during the regular season, but he logged just a 28% snap share even though the Cowboys were starved for help in the defensive trenches.

Smith's 31.8 run-defense grade was the worst among Cowboys defenders that played at least 300 snaps and his 47.2 player grade was second-worst, per Pro Football Focus. That's far from ideal for a player that was brought in to help rectify Dallas' run defense woes.

While Will McClay was a loud proponent for Smith, it stands to reason that Dan Quinn had significant input in the selection as well. Thats why Quinn has come under fire upon Mike Zimmer’s arrival. Zimmer has stated that Smith will put on weight and convert back to his familiar nose tackle position. 

Not only has Cowboys Nation taken aim at Quinn, but new defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina is now calling out Quinn for mismanaging Smith. 

Cowboys DL coach Jeff Zgonina takes shot at Dan Quinn over Mazi Smith's dud rookie year.

"Not disrespecting the previous coaches that were here or anything, it's just a different system, a different style of defensive line play that coach (Mike Zimmer) brought in. I think it suits him better. Instead of just running upfield he's going to play blocks. He's going to grind blocks and double teams, especially in the run game."

That says it all, folks.

Smith dropped a ton of weight during the season to the point where he looked smaller than most of the Cowboys’ defensive linemen. Thats because Smith was asked to switch to a three-tech DT. It’s widely assumed that Quinn green-lighted the move even though Smith was a tour de force one-tech nose tackle at Michigan. 

The weight loss sapped a lot of Smith’s strength, which was one of his most alluring intangibles coming out of college. He was regarded as the strongest prospect in the 2023 draft. As a result of the weight loss, Smith struggled to shed blocks and was often dominated by double teams.  

Nothing about Smith’s position switch made sense, so it’s no surprise that Zgonina took a veiled shot at Quinn. It might take time for Smith to restore his confidence after his forgettable rookie year, but he’s clearly in better hands under Zimmer and Ngonina’s guidance.

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