FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys have opted to move on from defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, less than one week after his first year on the job.
It took several days of deliberation, but the Cowboys' front office and head coach Mike McCarthy pulled the trigger Friday afternoon, relieving the longtime defensive coach of his duties with the team. The team also announced the departure of defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, which it confirmed with a statement from McCarthy himself.
"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," McCarthy said. "These are never easy decisions to make, and we wish them, and their families, the very best in the future."
The decision wasn't exactly hard to see coming. Following a switch to Nolan's defensive scheme during this COVID-impacted offseason, the Cowboys clearly struggled to adapt to the change in philosophy and put up some of their most woeful performances in recent memory.
Speaking to 105.3 FM The Fan on Tuesday morning, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said that failure to adapt was one of his lasting impressions from the 2020 season.
"I totally underestimated the impact of not being with the team early through the spring and through training camp," Jones said. "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."
All told, the Cowboys surrendered 473 points on the season – good enough for No. 28 in the NFL and the worst mark in franchise history. They also ranked 31st in the league in run defense allowing an average of 159 yards per game.
Those statistics, among others, have led to speculation about Nolan's job status since as far back as October – speculation that Cowboys executives have sidestepped, for the most part. As recently as Friday morning, McCarthy was asked about Nolan and said he was still in the process of evaluating his entire staff.
"That's what we're working on. We're working on all the coaches, frankly. That's what this process is about. You've got to take the emotion, 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 I've done every year as a head coach."
McCarthy said his exit interviews will continue through next week, but clearly a decision has been reached about Nolan.
It's far too soon to speculate about who the Cowboys will hire to replace him, or what direction the defense will go from here. But following the departure of Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard last January, they're poised to have their third defensive coordinator in as many years.