The Dallas Cowboys hired Joe Whitt Jr. in 2021 to direct the secondary and pass defense.
In Whitt's first season leading the Cowboys secondary, the passing defense improved by leaps and bounds, ranking in the top-10 in opponent completions-per-game (21.4 - ninth), completion percentage (59.5% - third) and interceptions (26 - first). Cornerback Trevon Diggs experienced a meteoric rise in 2021, becoming one of the best players at his position as he led the NFL with a franchise-high tying 11 interceptions. Overall, Diggs became the third Cowboy - fifth time - to lead the league in interceptions and the first since Everson Walls in 1985 (nine). To top it off, Diggs was selected to his first Pro Bowl and earned first-team All-Pro honors. Diggs also led the team with 21 pass breakups. Safety Jayron Kearse paced the defense with a career-high 92 tackles during his first season with the team, while Anthony Brown set single-season career-bests in tackles (79), pass breakups (17) and picks (three). Jourdan Lewis proved his versatility to the secondary as well, recording 1.5 sacks and 11 pass breakups - one-of-three defensive backs in the NFL with multiple sacks and double-digit breakups in 2021.
Whitt came to Dallas after serving in the same capacity with the Atlanta Falcons - under Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn - in 2020. Whitt also worked under McCarthy while both were with the Green Bay Packers (2008-18).
After getting his start in the NFL with the Falcons in 2007, Whitt returned to Atlanta in 2020 as the pass game coordinator/secondary coach. In 2020 Whitt worked with first round draft pick A.J. Terrell, who put together a solid first year at cornerback, breaking up seven passes and recording an interception.
Whitt spent the 2019 season with the Cleveland Browns as the pass game coordinator/secondary coach, and his Cleveland unit ranked in the top-10 against the pass, allowing 216.9 yards-per-game (seventh). The Browns defense totaled 14 interceptions, tied for eighth in the NFL.
Before landing in Cleveland, Whitt was hired on McCarthy's staff to serve as a defensive quality control coach for the Packers in 2008. After one season in that capacity, Whitt was promoted to secondary/cornerbacks coach, a position he held for nine seasons (2009-17). He then became the team's defensive pass game coordinator for the 2018 season. Through his tenure in Green Bay, he helped the team win Super Bowl XLV, and he coached the Packers to a league-high 176 interceptions while ranking ninth in opponent passer rating (83.2). In the same span, the Packers ranked seventh in opponent completion percentage (59.8) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.34). He also saw cornerbacks Tramon Williams (18) and Sam Shields (15) combine for 33 interceptions from 2010-14, the most in the league during that time between two teammates. In Whitt's first three seasons (2009-11) as cornerbacks coach, the Packers led the NFL in interceptions twice (2009 and 2010), posting 85 total picks. It was the most by the Packers over a three-year period since 1943-45 (95) and the most by an NFL team since the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers each posted 86 from 1986-88.
In 2009 Whitt helped Hall of Famer Charles Woodson to the best season of his career, earning defensive player of the year honors on the strength of a career-best nine interceptions, four forced fumbles, 18 pass breakups and three defensive touchdowns. Woodson is one-of-11 defensive backs in the 49-year history of the award to be named Defensive Player of the Year.
Whitt made his NFL coaching debut in Atlanta (2007) as the assistant defensive backs coach. He entered the NFL coaching ranks after a five-year stint in college football with The Citadel (wide receivers, 2002) and Louisville (cornerbacks, 2003-06).
Whitt played collegiately at Auburn as a walk-on wide receiver, eventually earning a scholarship. After suffering through injuries, he transitioned into a student assistant coach for his final two years of school and graduated in 2001 with a degree in communications.