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Top Candidates to Replace Dan Quinn in Dallas

Thursday morning turned into a mourning process for Dallas Cowboys fans. Beloved defensive coordinator Dan Quinn elected to leave Dallas in favor of becoming the head coach of their arch nemesis, the Washington Commanders.

Quinn has been the defensive coordinator for Dallas since 2021 and has written a completely new narrative for the Cowboys defensive unit. Once a doormat to offenses around the NFL, the Cowboys defense became a ball-hawking and pressure-oriented nightmare in the trenches. If you were facing the Cowboys defense the last three years, you knew your quarterback would be under duress and you were likely going to turn the ball over a time or two.

However, most Cowboys fans knew this day was coming. Dan Quinn turned down head-coaching opportunities last offseason and likely wouldn’t pass on the opportunity two years in a row. The sad reality is there are only 32 head-coaching jobs in the NFL and you might never get your chance if you don’t seize the day. The pill is a little more difficult to swallow knowing Dan Quinn will be coaching against the Cowboys twice a year in the NFC East.

But there’s always a contingency plan. There’s always a Plan B. The sun will come up tomorrow and the Cowboys need a new defensive coordinator. Here are some likely replacements Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys should consider after Jerry made the comment about going “all in” this year.

 

5) Kris Richard

If you recognize this name, it’s probably because you remember Richard from his days with Dallas in 2018 and 2019 as the passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach. Or you might know him from his work building the Legion of Boom from 2010-2017.

Quinn left big shoes to fill, but if you want to maintain the foundation, considering Richard wouldn’t be detrimental to the Cowboys’ development. What’s different this time around? Richard has Micah Parsons to work with. Richard has Pro Bowl or All-Pro corners Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland and Stephon Gilmore (potentially) to work with. He would inherit a strong defense and have all the talent to put it together.

 

4) Ron Rivera

Rivera’s name has been brought up as a potential replacement. The 62-year-old hasn’t been a defensive coordinator since his stint with the SAN DIEGO Chargers 2008-2010, to put in perspective how long ago that was. Rivera has since been a head coach of the Panthers, notably during their miraculous run to Super Bowl 50, and was recently let go as the Washington Commanders head coach.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Dan Quinn and Ron Rivera switched places? Anywhere Rivera has been, the overall perception is players like Rivera. This could potentially be for a season or two because I believe Rivera will get another head coaching opportunity soon, but getting Rivera to be your defensive coordinator would be an “all-in” hire.

 

3) Al Harris

Now we begin looking at in-house hires. Al Harris has been the defensive backs coach since 2020, joining the team when Mike McCarthy took over. Mentioning the star-studded cornerback room in Dallas, we have Al Harris to thank for the development of Diggs and Bland being two of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. With that resume alone, it won’t be long for Harris to find a defensive coordinator gig and Dan Quinn might even try snagging him if Dallas doesn’t convince Harris to stay.

My only concern for Al Harris would be his coaching style. Al Harris didn’t focus on gameplans or schemes with the cornerbacks, he focused on technique. Is this because Dan Quinn focused more on implementing the defensive game plan each week? Did any of that rub off on Harris while the two collaborated? Can Al Harris make that leap and strategize to put the entire defense, at all three levels, in the best position to succeed against a new offense each week?

Again, someone will take a chance on Al Harris soon. Trevon Diggs endorsed Harris. Will that be Dallas?

 

2) Ejiro Evero

Nobody is mentioning Evero, but they should. Evero has a history with Mike McCarthy back from 2016 as the Packers defensive quality control coach. Evero since went on to contribute to a Rams Super Bowl as the secondary coach and passing game coordinator in 2021. Evero then had two stints as defensive coordinator for the Broncos in 2022 and Panthers in 2023. Both years the offense was deemed horrible, but the defense shined bright under Evero’s supervision.

In 2023, the Panthers ranked 4th in total yards allowed with Evero. To give up the 4th-fewest yards in the NFL with an unproductive offense is impressive. Carolina was last in the NFL only scoring 13.9 PPG, while Dallas led the league with 29.9 PPG. The Panthers likely would have won the division if it wasn’t for the lack of offense. If Evero knows he has the ball-hawks in the backfield and an offense that can put up around 30 points a game, the Cowboys can easily reach the playoffs.

Evero was passed up for the Panthers head coaching job and could be looking for a defensive coordinator job elsewhere. Dallas should be a possible landing spot and see how the two work, but the Panthers would have to allow Evero the chance to interview.

 

1) Joe Whitt Jr.

Whitt is another in-house candidate and has been the secondary coach and passing game coordinator with the Cowboys beginning in 2021. Previously working for McCarthy and the 2010 Packers Super Bowl team, as well as Dan Quinn in Atlanta back in 2020, Whitt makes the most sense. Dallas wouldn’t have to change much of their defensive scheme with Whitt as their defensive coordinator if they changed anything at all. The strength of the Cowboys for the last three years has been their man-to-man secondary paired with their pass-rushing schemes upfront. An old saying goes. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Back in 2021, Joe Whitt substituted for Dan Quinn due to a positive COVID-19 test result. The defense didn’t miss a beat. It would be foretelling if Whitt replaces Quinn to officially become the newest Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator. And of all the options, promoting within makes the most sense if Jerry Jones genuinely believes in this team and their trajectory. If nothing else, this would keep Whitt from joining Dan Quinn in Washington.


In the days to come, we should know who replaces Dan Quinn as the defensive coordinator and they’ll be under a microscope as soon as they don the Star on their clothes. A Super Bowl, or an NFC Championship Game appearance, is the bare minimum for whoever comes in and tries to continue the success of Quinn as defensive coordinator. Best of luck, my friend.

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