Dallas Cowboys decision-makers are dropping the hammer on its historically-futile defensive staff.
Minutes after news broke that coordinator Mike Nolan had been relieved of his duties, the Cowboys announced the firing of defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.
“I am appreciative of my relationships with both Mike and Jim, and I am grateful for the contributions that both of them made to our team under difficult circumstances in 2020,” head coach McCarthy said Friday in a statement released via the team’s official website. “These are never easy decisions to make, and we wish them, and their families, the very best in the future.”
The moves come three days after Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones was noncommittal on Nolan’s (and, by extension, his assistant’s) future, lamenting the unit’s failure to adapt amid the NFL’s coronavirus-marred 2020 campaign.
“I totally underestimated the impact of not being with the team early through the spring and through training camp,” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. “With the change in coaching, and if you will, especially on the defensive side of the line, if you will, a change in technique, a change in some philosophy there.”
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Justified Pink Slip
The Cowboys’ overpaid defensive line vastly underperformed this season. Tomsula, once-upon-a-time the 49ers’ head coach, personally failed pass-rusher Everson Griffen, a hyped free-agent signing who was traded away at midseason, and nose tackle Dontari Poe, who was cut seven games into a two-year, $10.5 million contract.
Tomsula, hired by McCarthy in January, went one-and-done in 2015 as San Fran’s head man, fired after the club stumbled to a 5-11 record. He spent the 2016 campaign out of football before resurfacing in 2017 as the Washington Redskins’ DL coach, where he remained until the Cowboys called. Which they probably regret.
No DL logged more than 6.5 sacks (DeMarcus Lawrence) under Tomsula’s tutelage as Dallas finished 31st against the run, surrendering 158.8 yards per game, and ranked 20th with 31 sacks across 16 games — averaging less than two a week. The line was continually blown off the ball, lowlighted by Cleveland’s 307-yard rushing effort in Week 4 and Baltimore’s 294-yard performance in Week 13.
The Cowboys, albeit injury-afflicted, surrendered the most points (473) in franchise history — 29.6 points per game — blowing past the previous record (436) set in 2010.
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Edwards Could Replace Nolan
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