For the second straight offseason, the Dallas Cowboys will seek a new defensive boss.
The Cowboys fired coordinator Mike Nolan on Friday, as first reported by NFL insider Jay Glazer. The move — since confirmed by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport — comes hours after head coach Mike McCarthy claimed he was still evaluating his staff and had not reached a decision on embattled Nolan’s future …
“That’s what we’re working on … we’re working on all the coaches” McCarthy said Friday on 105.3 The Fan, per the team’s official website. “That’s what this process is about. You’ve got to take the emotion out of the disappointment of what 6-10 is, regardless of Covid, and all the other challenges we had. I think it’s important to put everything on the table and that’s what this process is, and it’s the same one we’ve done every year as a head coach. I think you have to do it this way.”
… and three days after owner/general manager Jerry Jones refused to discuss Nolan’s standing with the organization, except to remove the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse for Dallas’ bottom-ranked defense.
“People got the job done with COVID,” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan, adding that he would take a “hard look” at the situation.
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A longtime pal of McCarthy, the well-traveled Nolan was hired in January as a would-be upgrade on predecessors Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard. Unbelievably, the defense instead took multiple steps backward under Nolan, whose complex playbook, among other things, was a bone of contention for players.
The Cowboys, albeit injury-marred, surrendered the most points (473) in franchise history — 29.6 points per game — blowing past the previous record (436) set in 2010. The unit also ceded the second-most yards (6,183), finishing 31st against the run (158.8 yards per game) and 23rd in total YPG (384.4).
Nolan’s bunch hit rock bottom on numerous occasions, allowing a 307-yard rushing effort in Week 4 and a 294-yard performance in Week 13. To be fair, they pulled together over the final quarter of the regular season, helping the 6-10 Cowboys win three straight prior to their Week 17 playoff-eliminating loss at New York.
The late-year surge was too little, too late to save Nolan from the chopping block. Especially when Jones looks at the cumulative result: No defender logged more than 6.5 sacks (DeMarcus Lawrence) or three interceptions (Trevon Diggs), let alone qualified for the 2021 Pro Bowl. This was largely a Charmin-soft squad that couldn’t stop a nose bleed.
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According to one media report, the Cowboys have vetted potential Nolan successors “for a few weeks,” indicating his departure was always fait accompli. According to another, the club is expected to interview “outside candidates” to fill Nolan’s shoes.
But, in the interest of preserving continuity, beat writer Jon Machota of The Athletic suggests George Edwards as an in-house option. Brought aboard in January to be a senior defensive assistant, Edwards previously held DC stints in Washington (2003), Buffalo (2010-11), and Minnesota (2014-19).
In 2019, under Edwards’ tutelage, the Vikings finished sixth in points allowed, 13th against the run, 14th in total yards and 15th against the pass. An active unit prone to forcing turnovers, they ranked third in the league in interceptions (17), fourth in pass breakups (98) and forced fumbles (19), and fifth in sacks (48).
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL