Cowboys DC Mike Nolan Reacts to Rumored Firing by Jerry Jones

Cowboys DC Mike Nolan

Getty Cowboys DC Mike Nolan

Mike Nolan refuses to confront the possibility (probability) of his removal as defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys.

He knows, but he doesn’t know. The writing’s on the wall, but he chooses to turn a blind eye. A dead man walking who won’t admit he’s dead — yet.

“I don’t even think about it,” Nolan told reporters Monday when asked about his future, via Pro Football Talk. “I just take it a day at a time anyway. It’s really not . . . . I prefer not to answer the question because it’s not what’s on my mind. Just take it a day at a time and try to win this game this weekend against San Francisco and whatever happens after the season, happens. When that time comes, we’ll deal with it if there is a change.”

Signs have pointed to Nolan’s likely post-season ouster throughout the course of a historically-futile 2020 campaign. But speculation recently intensified after owner/general manager Jerry Jones expressed his desire for a defensive “do-over,” a strong hint that major changes are coming to the Cowboys’ coaching staff.

“I will say this, like anybody, you got a lot of do-overs, I’d like to start again on how we approach our defense this year,” Jones said last Friday on 105.3 The Fan. “I’d like to start that over again. I’m sure everybody else would, too.”

“I’d start right there (with) the first day (of training camp),” he continued. “By the way, unfortunately, everybody (was dealing with) the same thing. … I would really make sure that any changes we were making, I would want to make sure that we did in the same way that we didn’t make changes on offense. Because we didn’t think we had the time to make those changes and it really be effective. We’ve obviously, done some things, we’ve changed. And we’re having a hard time getting those in place to be a good defense.”

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When, Not If?

Nolan’s bunch turned in its best performance to date Sunday, forcing three turnovers and scoring on an Aldon Smith fumble-six en route to a 30-7 victory over Cincinnati. But it may have been too little, too late.

The 4-9 Cowboys rank dead last in scoring, having surrendered 400 points across 13 games, nearing the all-time franchise record (436) set in 2010. They’re also 32nd overall against the run, ceding a 307-yard rushing explosion to Cleveland in Week 4 and a 294-yard ground effort to Baltimore in Week 13 — both losses.

On top of everything else, Nolan has been criticized for his difficult-to-digest playbook. Former NFL stars such as Everson Griffen and Dontari Poe badly floundered in Nolan’s system, and it doesn’t appear as if the man who hired him, longtime pal Mike McCarthy, is comfortable maintaining the status quo in 2021.

“I think our staff as a whole is not where we need to be. And that’s ultimately my responsibility,” McCarthy said last Friday on 105.3 The Fan. “We’re going through things for the first time, as all first-year staffs do. There’s not a lot of continuity between coaches because most of us have not worked together before. And so when you talk about development, it doesn’t just stop at players. You’re developing a program, a system. Coordinating things that have been here in the past. You have a training staff that’s been together a long time. But we’re not doing things exactly how they’ve been done the last 20 years. You’re trying to coordinate that and put it all together. That’s part of building a program. It’s no different in all phases, especially with the coaching staff.”

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Jones Announces McCarthy’s Retention

Citing “unprecedented circumstances” that in essence nullify this season, team COO Stephen Jones announced Monday that McCarthy will return as the Cowboys’ head coach in 2021.

“There will be absolutely no change with coach McCarthy. I am surprised someone would question these unprecedented situations that everybody’s been in,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “On top of that, no one’s making excuses, but we’ve had some challenges in the injury category. If you look at his track record, and his pedigree, he’s consistently won year-in-and-year out. We have the utmost confidence this ship is going to be righted quickly. Mike’s going to be the leader of this group. He’s, certainly, a great head coach. I think we’re going to see that going forward. He’s accomplished a lot, and he’s going to accomplish a lot more before it’s all said and done.”

Jones’ statement echoed that of NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, who reported Sunday morning, prior to Dallas’ Week 14 victory, that McCarthy is “safe” from the firing line. His assistants, however, are not. And there will be a scapegoat.

“My understanding, talking to sources inside the organization, Mike McCarthy is safe. But, as one source said, something has to change,” Rapoport said. “Keep an eye on the defensive side of the ball — specifically, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. They basically have the same players they had in 2018. That was a good defense. This, last in points. Something must change.”

READ NEXT: Jerry Jones Hints at Huge Changes to Cowboys’ Coaching Staff

Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL

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