Offseason | 2021

Defense Will Have 'Tighter Blend' of 3-4 & 4-3

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FRISCO, Texas – If it seems like it was about a year ago when Mike McCarthy was answering this very question, it's because it was.

When he took over last year and met with the media to discuss many things, including his new staff, McCarthy was asked if he's planning on running a 4-3 or a 3-4 scheme on defense.

The situation might be different. We know the coordinator is different now as well and the personnel has seem some changes, too. But McCarthy's answer really didn't change. He told the media Thursday in his press conference that newly-hired defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will run some components of both a 3-4 and 4-3 look.

"I want to say this the right way. So much is made about the 3-4 and 4-3, it's really not about that," McCarthy explained. "It's more about the techniques that fit the players and their ability to play. We are player over scheme. I've always been that way."

Quinn, who has been a coordinator in Seattle that won a Super Bowl back in the 2013 season, and then took the Falcons to the Super Bowl in 2017 as the head coach, has experience running multiple schemes.

"If you look at the way he played in Seattle and Atlanta, from my view, it is different. You'll see that the schemes, the ability to play," McCarthy said of Quinn. "The ability to have the 3-4 components to it and the 4-3 components based on how you view what that is, then it's more about the techniques and alignments, assignments and front that allows for guys to play. You'll see both those components. It's not a whole lot different than what Mike (Nolan) was trying to get to last year. There will be a tighter blend of that."

Regardless of the reason, whether it was trying to install a new defense in the middle of a pandemic that only allowed virtual practices, or the communication didn't jive well between Nolan and the players, it clearly didn't work last season on defense.

The Cowboys allowed the most points in the history of the franchise, yielding 473, which surpassed the 2010 mark of 436 points. It's probably not a coincidence that both teams finished 6-10 that season.

And both teams moved on with different defensive coordinators the following season.

Now, the Cowboys turn to Quinn, who was one of McCarthy's top priorities in the offseason.

"Well, it had to be quick just because of the interest in Dan," McCarthy said, alluding to Quinn's interest from other teams. "I've known Dan for quite some time, so when the decision was made, it had to happen fast. I remember Dan when he was with the Dolphins and with the 49ers – just his reputation as a D-Line coach. And then obviously when he went to Seattle, he did a great, great job there. We've had some battles there. And then, frankly, down in Atlanta, they beat us in the NFC Championship Game in 2016. So I have a good history with Dan."

But that won't be enough to turn the tide. McCarthy and Nolan had lots of history as well and the Cowboys weren't able to fix the defense in 2020.

But that certainly is the goal this year, regardless of if it's a three-man or four-man front.

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