(Editor's Note: Over the next month, the staff of DallasCowboys.com is looking to answer the 20 biggest questions facing the team heading into 2021. Today, we'll debate new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's impact on the defense.)
FRISCO, Texas – It didn't take long for the Cowboys to move on Dan Quinn.
No more than a week after the 2020 season ended – a year in which the Dallas defense allowed the most points and second-most rushing yards in franchise history – the club hired Quinn to replace Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator. Quinn spent the past five-and-a-half seasons as the Falcons' head coach, but perhaps he's known best for coordinating one of the best defenses ever: the "Legion of Boom" Seahawks that won one Super Bowl and reached another.
How much will Quinn's arrival impact make the defense in Dallas? Our staff writers debate.
3) Can Dan Quinn Make A Difference?
Nick Eatman: The Cowboys are sort of expecting that to happen. I think when you look at all of the offseason moves, especially on defense, the hiring of Quinn is probably the biggest – maybe outside of taking Parsons. But it was a DQ draft for sure, getting eight of the 11 picks on that side of the ball. I've said all along, if the Cowboys are going to be much better on defense, it starts with an improved, healthy offense. But yes, Quinn can be a difference maker if he can figure out what to do with his linebackers, and if he can find a couple of more edge rushers to complement D-Law. And if Quinn's scheme finally lands the Cowboys a safety or two that can be playmakers, then the defense can be much, much better. And if it is, Quinn will likely get most of the credit. And then he'll probably be a candidate for head coach jobs again and all that... but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Jonny Auping: I definitely think Dan Quinn makes a difference. He's a defensive coordinator who led a Super Bowl defense. He was the architect of arguably the best defense of all time. And just as importantly, he has had recent success with Atlanta. The NFL moves fast, and some defensive coordinators specialize in stopping offenses that are barely run anymore. But whenever he had the kind of talent he wanted (and it was healthy) his Atlanta teams were very successful on defense. All of that being said, there will never be a defensive coordinator that can fully make up for lack of talent. That Seahawks team had an unbelievable amount of talent, and he was the perfect guy to utilize it against great offenses. The Cowboys don't have the Legion of Boom. The offense will be the strength of this team, and Quinn needs to construct a defense that knows how to escape with wins. A 12-4 record is a lot more important than having the fourth-ranked defense. The Cowboys' defense isn't going to dominate Kansas City, but they need to give their offense a fighting chance, and perhaps Quinn can develop a game plan that frustrates a young offense like, say, Philadelphia's. I think those are the kind of differences you can reasonably expect from Quinn.
Kyle Youmans:A difference maker? Try THE difference maker on defense. Though it feels like an eternity ago, the foundation remains from a 2018 defense that was towards the top of the league in multiple categories. DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have not lived up to expectations since that season. However, not all of it was directly their fault. Aside from injuries, it can be argued that those three core players were not utilized to the best of their skill sets under coordinators Mike Nolan and the final year of Rod Marinelli's tenure. That's where I believe Quinn will make the most impact with his 'ears pinned back, let's get after it' mentality up front and Cover 3 scheme with revitalized secondary depth on the back end. His scheme and coaching experience in the NFL will help the players already mentioned -- and others like Randy Gregory, Donovan Wilson, and the linebackers -- to reach new heights.