Cowboys Fire Mike Nolan, Jim Tomsula

Mike Nolan will be a one-and-done as Cowboys defensive coordinator. The veteran assistant coach and former HC received his walking papers Friday, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports tweets. The Cowboys also fired defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, Tom Pelissero of tweets.

The Cowboys were not able to right the ship defensively this season. The embattled unit forced Dak Prescott into early-season shootouts and left the team overmatched at times after the Cowboys lost their starting quarterback. Nolan’s defense ranked 28th in scoring — down from 11th in 2019 under Rod Marinelli — and even though DVOA was a bit kinder to his unit’s performance (23rd), the Cowboys will designate him as their major scapegoat for a 6-10 season.

This marked Nolan’s eighth DC opportunity. The former 49ers HC has been a defensive coordinator since the 1993 season, though when Mike McCarthy summoned Nolan to be his defensive leader in Dallas, Nolan had not served in that capacity since overseeing the 2014 Falcons defense. The Cowboys gave up at least 34 points from Weeks 2-6, allowed 41 to Washington — DVOA’s No. 32 offense — during Dallas’ Thanksgiving game.

The 218 points the Cowboys allowed through six games tied for the third-worst mark in NFL history, and the 473 points Nolan’s troops ceded during the 2020 season doubled as the most in the franchise’s 61-year history. Allowing more than 290 yards in losses to the Browns and Ravens, the Cowboys ranked 31st against the run.

The Cowboys brought in Tomsula — best known for his time in San Francisco, which included a one-year run (2015) as 49ers HC — after he spent three seasons with Washington. While the veteran assistant coaxed strong work from Washington’s D-line last season and oversaw Aldon Smith‘s comeback season, the Cowboys will replace him soon.

Jerry Jones provided repeated assurances McCarthy would be back. And OC Kellen Moore turned down a path back to Boise State to stay in Dallas. While Prescott’s contract will (again) be the top Cowboys offseason priority, upgrading at defensive coordinator will be critical to restoring a Cowboys team that has ventured off track over the past two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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24 comments on “Cowboys Fire Mike Nolan, Jim Tomsula

  1. arty!

    We make fun of players getting chance and chance. Yet this dude is on #8!?! Once you’re in the system, its gravy.

    • rct

      It’s funny because way back in the day, he was a good DC for the Giants.

      He’s been a disaster pretty much everywhere, save for a few years with the Ravens (thanks to Ray Lewis and Ed Reed) and a year each with Denver and Miami. How this guy has kicked around for like 27 years is beyond me.

      • Ak185

        Ehhh he set up a good defense in San Francisco. Nolan has had good years, but this experiment was never going to work. Dallas’ defense is pretty much the opposite of anything Nolan has ever run. He ruined a good-or recently good-defense by trying to transition to his style. It’s very similar to what happened when Buffalo hired Rex Ryan-where there was once a good 4-3 based defense, there is now a pretty bad 3-4.

  2. bradthebluefish

    Mike McCarthy has to be the worse head coach given all his choices for coaches, backup QBs, not having his players defend the nasty hit to Andy Dalton, etc.

    • earmbrister

      Not a big Mike McCarthy fan, but I am failing to understand your criticisms. You’re questioning his choices for back up QB’s? And McCarthy was the one that questioned his own players for not defending Andy Dalton after that hit.

  3. Ak185

    They hired a committed 3-4 coach to run a perfect 4-3 defense, and then hire a 4-3 defensive line coach to run that unit. What did they think would happen?

    • mlbnyyfan

      What are the chances Brees retires and Dallas finally gets Payton. The one coach who got away. I bet Dallas would trade Dak and draft picks for Payton.

      • bradthebluefish

        Jerry Jones wouldn’t relinquish any power to Sean Payton which would be a dealbreaker for Payton.

    • jay13

      Ding…ding…ding. Get a attacking 4-3 system in Dallas, things will get better on that side of the ball.

  4. crosseyedlemon

    Things didn’t work out too well for Wade Phillips as a HC in Dallas but he would still be an upgrade over Nolan as the DC.

    • Ak185

      Thing is, Phillips is closer to what Nolan runs than he is to what Dallas was running. Rod Marinelli is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Mike Nolan, and pretty far from Phillips as well. The players they have on their line are better at having their hands in the dirt than standing up, for instance. It’s just not built for that, it’s built to be a zone heavy 4-3 that rarely blitzes. Nolan can’t run that, and McCarthy doesn’t want to (even though he’s an offensive coach). That’s why this hire was never going to work.

      • crosseyedlemon

        Fitting the schemes to the skill sets of your players is obviously important but equally important is having coaches who can develop a personal rapport with the players they are teaching. I think Wade would be strong in that area.

  5. Geoff Bonn

    Did Jim Tomsula just all of a sudden forgot how to coach a D-Line? NFL is weird

  6. TJECK109

    What it say about the HC when he’s firing someone he wanted after one season? When another guy on his defensive staff is getting a HC interview. McCarthy is a joke

  7. MileHighFan

    Guess it was too expensive to admit that hiring McCarthy was the real mistake, as he clearly couldn’t get this team ready to play on any given Sunday.

    • crosseyedlemon

      I think the basic problem the Cowboys face is that there is no real incentive to improve. They will continue to be the most financially valuable NFL team even with bad coaches and underachieving players. You see a similar situation in the NHL with the Maple Leafs.

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