Cowboys Not Considering Defensive Coordinator Change

Mike Nolan‘s return to the defensive coordinator ranks has not gone well. Dallas’ defense has allowed the NFL’s most points and third-most yards — a steep statistical drop from where it was under Rod Marinelli.

Ahead of Week 5, the Cowboys are not considering a quick hook for Nolan. Mike McCarthy expressed confidence in the veteran defensive coordinator, while Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones said during a radio interview on Dallas’ 105.3 The Fan “now’s not the time to think about” a change here (Twitter links via The Athletic’s Jon Machota).

After allowing Russell Wilson to throw five touchdown passes in an outing that would have featured six TD tosses had D.K. Metcalf not fumbled at the 1-yard line, the Cowboys permitted a franchise-most 307 rushing yards to a Browns team that lost Nick Chubb early in Week 4. While DVOA slots Dallas’ defense 24th — down from 17th at the end of last season — the unit has been the obvious culprit for the team’s 1-3 start. The Cowboys are down some key defenders, however, with Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, Chidobe Awuzie and Anthony Brown on IR.

Upon hiring McCarthy, the Cowboys brought in Nolan and allowed Marinelli to leave for Jon Gruden‘s staff in Las Vegas. This marks Nolan’s first DC gig since 2014, when he closed a three-year stay leading the Falcons’ defense. The 61-year-old assistant has now been either a head coach (with the 49ers) or defensive coordinator with nine franchises, beginning that run in 1993. Nolan, 61, spent the past three seasons coaching the Saints’ linebackers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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15 comments on “Cowboys Not Considering Defensive Coordinator Change

    • bestno5

      Might need to change players since they same crew is still struggling to win with a new head coach

  1. crosseyedlemon

    The perfect replacement is right there in Texas. Cowboys should sign Wade Phillips immediately.

  2. TJECK109

    Unless Phillips runs the same scheme how are you going to change a coordinator over a month into the season? You want them to learn a new scheme on the fly? You fire Nolan and let someone else on the staff take over

    • crosseyedlemon

      I haven’t been watching the Cowboys so I don’t know if the problem is entirely scheme related. If it is, then simply replacing one staff member for another won’t accomplish anything. I do know that Wade helped lead the Broncos to a championship and is well respected so I would be willing to trust his judgement.

  3. progina

    I don’t think it has much to do with Nolan and his scheme, I’ve watched all 4 games they’ve played and their players just aren’t talented enough to finish tackles, cover receivers, or get off blockers. Lawrence has been injured but he’s making $20M a year so if he’s playing he needs to produce a lot more, jaylon smith looks lost every game, and Thompson has gotten beat deep a lot

    • justinkm19

      That’s because both starting corners are hurt. 2 of the 3 starting LB are hurt and our NT got hurt and is out for the year before we even played a snap.

      • progina

        Yes the corners are hurt and that’s hurt them but honestly thomas has been better than jaylon and hill has played well but the other “big” free agent addition is a non factor for them. I’m not saying injuries haven’t effected their defense but their 2 highly paid defenders (jaylon and lawerence) have done very little for them

      • progina

        That isn’t an excuse for their 2 highly paid defenders (Lawrence and Jaylon) to look like they just started playing football

  4. bradthebluefish

    Nolan needs to go. He’s running the wrong scheme with the wrong people.

    And clearly Nolan has no interest in going back to the schemes Marinelli had called.

    • progina

      Marinelli also had a pro bowl corner, an edge rusher that performed at a high level and a decent safety next to woods. Those 3 things would change a whole defense.

    • Ak185

      Thing is, the Cowboys want to get to what Nolan likes to run, not what they have now. Do not overlook the fact that they signed Aldon Smith, who under Nolan had some of the most productive years as a pass rusher that we’ve seen. The Cowboys are just not built for Nolan’s scheme, as you’ve pointed out. Case in point? They have Aldon Smith but they’re missing their Justin Smith. I would be surprised if they did not target a space eating 3-4 end in the upcoming draft to begin the transition in earnest.

      They want to get to where Nolan is, not back to where Marinelli was, which is what the team is currently built for. That may be for better, or it may be for worse. We’ll see for sure only after a few offseasons.

  5. Ak185

    I’m not sure why anyone is surprised that a defense that was built for a 4-3 zone would struggle under a 3-4 man coordinator without several of its top players.

    The Cowboys just underwent a coaching change at the top-a major one, with his own established brand of coaching at that-and will be undergoing a massive defensive shift in the coming year or two to transition to a fully fledged 3-4 that McCarthy has always run.

    It’s not likely that Nolan will be fired now because he is likely expected to oversee that transition. It is much more likely that the Cowboys’ players will be phased out in favor of other players who better fit Nolan’s scheme. Ironically, that scheme is closer to what Wade Phillips has liked to run than what the Cowboys currently have now, so firing Nolan for Phillips (who is admittedly a better coordinator than Nolan in all likelihood, simply because Phillips is one of the all time best) for schematic fit is probably useless. The bottom line is that if the Cowboys want to transition to a 3-4, they’re going to have major struggles with the personnel that they currently have.

    If they want to succeed now, they’ll have to put that off and commit to their old scheme. I know McCarthy said that he would use what he had and play to the roster’s strengths when he was hired, but Nolan is not similar to Marinelli philosophically. The injuries do hurt-a lot-but the scheme and some of the new players (Smith, Poe) don’t mesh smoothly enough with what was previously run to get results now.

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