Keith O’Quinn is returning to where it all began.
O’Quinn has been retained by new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and named the team’s director of advance scouting, the Dallas Morning News reported Monday. He will answer directly to vice president of player personnel Will McClay.
O’Quinn had spent the past two seasons functioning as Dallas’ special teams coordinator. He was pink-slipped in January after the club fired head coach Jason Garrett and hired Mike McCarthy, who then imported Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel to serve in the same capacity.
The third side of the ball was consistently inconsistent in 2019, a blight on O’Quinn’s resume. Among his biggest gaffes was stubbornly sticking with kicker Brett Maher despite a whopping 10 missed field goal attempts. Maher was finally cut on Dec. 9 and replaced by Kai Forbath, who went 11-for-11 on FGs across three games.
The Cowboys’ special teams ranked 31st overall in the revered Rick Gosselin rankings; they also finished as the NFL’s worst kickoff return unit, averaging just 14.9 yards per runback, and dead last in net punting as Chris Jones totaled 37.2 yards per boot.
Scouting should be a better use of O’Quinn’s talent. He started his big-league coaching career in 2006 when the Cowboys brought him in as a pro scout. He was tapped as the Browns’ director of pro personnel in 2009 prior to relocating back to North Texas.
Preceding his coordinator stint, O’Quinn was Dallas’ offensive quality control coach from 2010-12, assistant wide receivers coach in 2013, and assistant special teams coordinator from 2014-17.
O’Quinn, in addition to typical scouting duties, likely will lend his voice to an ever-burgeoning analytics department, of which there may be as many as 14 members under McCarthy. The former Green Bay Packers head man, once skeptical, has come around to the notion of numbers dictating his decision-making.
“I think analytics gives you the ability to sharpen your edge in preparation and anticipate those decisions at a higher level and gives you the ability to maybe be a little bit quicker with your decision-makings during a game,” McCarthy said last month, via Blogging the Boys. “But there is an instinct and an awareness component that you definitely have to tap into on when you push the envelop and when you pull back.”
Follow the Heavy on Cowboys Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Ex-Cowboys Assistant Coach Joins NFC Title Contender
It did not take long for Sanjay Lal to land on his feet. The former Cowboys wide receivers coach has accepted a job with the Seattle Seahawks where he’s slated to work alongside head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer in a yet-to-be-announced role.
‘I’m very excited for the opportunity and to work with Pete (Carroll) and Schotty,” Lal recently told SI.com’s Mike Fisher.
Lal had been instructing Dallas’ wideouts since 2018, after similar stints with the Oakland Raiders (2009-11), New York Jets (2012-14), Buffalo Bills (2015-16), and Indianapolis Colts (2017), where he worked alongside Schottenheimer.
He’s credited with developing star pass-catchers Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, both of whom eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards this past season. Gallup, in particular, took a monster step forward in his sophomore campaign, delivering 66 catches for 1,107 yards (16.8 yards per catch) and six touchdowns. Cooper, who arrived from Oakland in 2018, finished eighth in the NFL in 2019 with 1,189 yards and eight TDs on 79 grabs.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL