JoeWhitt.jpg
USATSI

The coaching changes aren't quite over yet for the Dallas Cowboys. The team began molding a shortlist of candidates to potentially replace Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator in 2021, and atop that list were two individuals -- George Edwards (internal) and Dan Quinn (external). Both interviewed for the position but it was Quinn who landed the job, but they weren't the only ones who had a Q&A with head coach Mike McCarthy and owner Jerry Jones. So did Jason Simmons of the Carolina Panthers and Joe Whitt Jr. of the Atlanta Falcons, the latter instantly becoming a leading candidate to join Quinn once the final call was made at coordinator.

And so the call was made, followed by a second pleasant talk that resulted in another defensive shuffle for the Cowboys. 

Two days after Quinn was given the nod, Whitt is set to join him as the Cowboys new defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach -- two sources confirm to CBS Sports -- on a multi-year deal that ties him directly to Quinn for at least the next couple of seasons, assuming both stay on the right side of Jones' temper (unlike Nolan).

This reunites Whitt and Quinn after their time together with the Falcons in 2020, but that's not the only renewal of vows you should key in on. Another reason for the call to Whitt was the adoration by McCarthy, who saw an opportunity to reunite with one of his former cornerbacks coach and defensive passing game coordinator in Green Bay. Whitt spent 10 years molding the Packers defensive secondary under McCarthy, from 2009 through 2018, before joining the Falcons in an attempt to do the same in 2019. An overall lack of talent in the defensive secondary led to Whitt's struggles in Atlanta, and it didn't help that cornerback Damontae Kazee was sidelined for 12 games this past season with a torn Achilles suffered in Week 4.

The Joneses are looking to make sure lack of defensive talent isn't an issue for Quinn, Whitt and McCarthy, effective immediately. It is expected the team will be aggressive in revamping the defense this offseason, mostly by way of the 2021 NFL Draft but also with some potentially notable free agency additions. To the latter point, names like Kazee and safety Keanu Neal are ones to watch, considering their familiarity with Quinn and Whitt, and the fact both will be unrestricted free agents this offseason -- Kazee being a former NFL co-interceptions leader (2018) while Neal is a Pro Bowler who can dominate when healthy.

As for any additional coaching changes in Dallas, it's highly unlikely they're done. 

Having already dismissed defensive line coach Jim Tomsula in the sweep that included Nolan being shown the door, CBS Sports initially reported in mid-December that several position coaches were on the hot seat, and adding Whitt to forcefully displace incumbents Maurice Linguist and/or Al Harris -- both tasked with coaching defensive backs prior to the new addition -- leaves just two issues left to resolve. The Cowboys must now make a decision on linebackers coach Scott McCurley on the heels of Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith suffering massive regressions in 2020, as well as identifying who'll take the reins as defensive line coach. Jones and the Cowboys are allowing Quinn to handpick his staff with the assistance of McCarthy, wanting only to play a role in deciding who the new defensive coordinator would be in the wake of giving McCarthy carte blanche to initially select Nolan.

And as a new defensive staff takes shape in Dallas for a second consecutive season, there is much work to be done in dragging the defense out of the swamp and into the castle. How they handle all that comes next will determine if the Cowboys bounce back in 2021, or if they get again get bounced, which would possibly come with bigger heads rolling -- hint.

Take two: Action.