One of Dan Quinn‘s assistants in Atlanta and Dallas, Joe Whitt appears more likely to stay with the Cowboys than follow Quinn to Washington. With Quinn signing on as Commanders HC, the Cowboys are looking inward to replace him.
The Cowboys’ secondary coach for the past three seasons, Whitt has emerged as the lead candidate to take over for Quinn as DC, per the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken. Whitt has been an NFL assistant since 2007. One year remains on Whitt’s contract, the Morning News’ Calvin Watkins tweets.
Whitt could, however, have two options in the NFC East. Whitt’s past with Quinn would naturally point to the new Commanders leader viewing him as a strong candidate to move to Washington to become its DC. That scenario should not be ruled out, per NFL.com’s Steve Wyche. Quinn is believed to have mentioned Whitt as a DC option during interviews, ESPN.com’s John Keim tweets. The Cowboys would be unable to block that move, as it would be a promotion to a coordinator post, but the team can also offer its own DC job to convince Whitt to stay.
The Cowboys may also have a difficult time hiring a defensive coordinator from outside the organization. Although the team has one of the NFL’s top defensive nuclei, Mike McCarthy will be the rare head coach to enter a season as a lame duck. The Cowboys are not expected to extend their fifth-year HC, whose job security sustained a massive blow after the Packers’ wild-card upset.
Whitt, 45, spent 10 seasons with the Packers (2009-18) before a one-and-done season under Freddie Kitchens in Cleveland. Quinn hired Whitt to be the Falcons’ secondary coach and defensive pass-game coordinator in 2020 and circled back to him upon landing the DC job in Dallas a year later. The Cowboys’ secondary has performed well under Whitt, seeing two cornerbacks — Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland — earn first-team All-Pro acclaim. Diggs became the first cornerback since the Cowboys’ Everson Walls in 1981 to intercept 11 passes in a season, and Bland broke the single-season pick-six record with five this season. The Cowboys have also fixed their yearslong safety issue during Whitt’s time, finding value on three midlevel safety contracts given to Jayron Kearse, Donovan Wilson and Malik Hooker.
Defensive line coach Aden Durde also followed Quinn from Atlanta, positioning the England-born assistant to be a DC candidate in Dallas or Washington. Cornerbacks coach Al Harris also stands as an option, per Jon Machota of The Athletic. Durde has also emerged as a candidate for the Rams’ DC job.
If an outside hire is to be considered, the Cowboys have been connected to recently fired Commanders HC Ron Rivera. The latter interviewed for the Eagles’ job that quickly went to Vic Fangio. While this path would allow Rivera to land on his feet, it would be worth wondering if the veteran coach would take a job under a lame-duck HC considering his recent dismissal in Washington. Though, the Cowboys and Commanders effectively trading defensive coordinators would be a fun NFL storyline.