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Offseason | 2024

IMPACT: Fallout of Quinn joining Commanders


FRISCO, Texas — Dan Quinn has finally made his decision on his NFL future, and it's to join an NFC East rival in 2024 and beyond — expected to join the Washington Commanders as that team's newest head coach. And considering it's a move that is being made in early February, **it creates added shockwaves** that must be navigated by the Dallas Cowboys.

That's because the large majority of the coaching cycle has already been resolved around the NFL, and there is no longer an extended list of headline names that could come in and replace Quinn as defensive coordinator; but there's another wrinkle to this as well.

Internally, it would make sense to consider promoting an incumbent defensive mind such as Joe Whitt, Jr. or heralded defensive backs coach (and former All-Pro cornerback) Al Harris, but the departure of Quinn could involve the siphoning of some of his staff as well.

That means Whitt and/or Harris and/or some others could head to the Commanders to join Quinn, though it is key to understand that Washington would have to offer them a promotion to leave Dallas, or the Cowboys could block the move entirely.

Alternatively, the Cowboys could make an equal or better financial offer that possibly also includes a promotion to keep them from departing for crimson and yellow pastures.

For reference, here is the current list of Quinn's staff from 2023:

  • Joe Whitt, secondary/Pass Game coordinator
  • Al Harris, defensive backs coach
  • Aden Durde, defensive line coach
  • Sharrif Floyd, quality control/asst. D-line
  • Cannon Matthews, asst. defensive backs
  • Scott McCurley, linebackers coach
  • Pete Ohnegian, quality control/ defensive assistant
  • Eric Simonelli, quality control/analytics
  • Darian Thompson, quality control/asst. LB
  • Rayna Stewart, asst. special teams
  • Harold Nash, strength & conditioning coordinator
  • Cedric Smith, asst. strength & conditioning
  • Kendall Smith, asst. strength & conditioning

I've mentioned the Whitt and Harris variables, but what of guys like Durde?

He has garnered attention in this coaching cycle as well, and adds questions to his future in Dallas as well, along with the rest of the group.

Also, don't discount the possibility of Quinn reaching out to one or two of the Cowboys' offensive coaching staff, e.g., Brian Schottenheimer, in the event he opts to move on from current Commanders' offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, whose status is currently to-be-determined.

And in looking outside of the building for/at potential candidates for the role of defensive coordinator, let's first be clear in that this could easily be one of the more attractive situations for an incoming coordinator to consider.

Names on the defensive roster that ring bells includes Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland, to name a few, and there's the obvious fact that, like Quinn who has now successfully done so himself, steering this incredibly talented pool of defensive players to being a contender for the most visible team in the league can easily be a shortcut back to the head coaching ranks.

That said, names like Brandon Staley, Mike Vrabel and Ron Rivera would enter the discussion, all of whom were dismissed as head coaches this offseason and who are in dire need of rebuilding their brand — precisely as Quinn was when he and the Falcons divorced under unpleasant circumstances three seasons ago.

It's likely that, if it's an outside hire, the list above goes on to look quite different next season.

As a related aside, don't count on Bill Belichick downgrading to a coordinator role in 2024, even if it's for the Cowboys, and that's because, unlike the three mentioned, his reputation remains bulletproof despite the lack of recent success in his final few seasons with the New England Patriots.

What an incoming coordinator would also need to consider is the fact head coach Mike McCarthy has not been awarded an extension going into the 2024 season, and will instead be asked to move through a prove-it season to earn one.

If things don't go well for the Cowboys in next year's playoffs, there's a chance owner and general manager Jerry Jones makes a coaching change and, if so, it could only be a one-year stint for an incoming coordinator in 2024; and that's because there is zero guarantee that a new head coach wouldn't clean house in 2025.

With so much to consider from all sides and for all parties that are currently involved and are potentially set to become involved over the next several days, the Cowboys and all candidates have a lot to weigh before things can settle on the defensive side of the ball in Dallas.

There's the added factor of which players will now be intrigued with joining Quinn in Washington, such as Dante Fowler, an impactful rotational pass rusher who spent two seasons as a reunion with Quinn in Dallas after their initial stint together with the Falcons.

Considering how beloved Quinn is by Cowboys' defensive players, their list of pending free agents might now feel a bit of a pull toward their former defensive coordinator; and especially if the financial offer sweetens the deal.

The clock is ticking in Dallas, and loudly, considering the 2024 NFL Combine and free agency are speeding toward them.

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