The 2021 season got off to a roaring start for the Dallas Cowboys, but it fizzled out in disappointing fashion. After finishing 12-5 overall with another NFC East title in hand, they were messy (mostly offensively) in their dismissal at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers on NFL Super Wild Card Weekend, but that did and his staff -- which includes defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr. and senior defensive assistant George Edwards.
While Quinn conducts his business around the league, Whitt is doing the same, having now garnered an interview from the Pittsburgh Steelers as they speak with candidates for their vacant defensive coordinator position, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Whitt was a defensive coaching piece under Quinn's regime in Atlanta before joining him in Dallas, and has also gotten phone calls from the Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks, though the Ravens are reportedly closing in on Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.
As for Whitt's chances in the Steel City, the team has also spoken to former Cowboys defensive passing game coordinator and current Saints secondary coach Kris Richard, as well as New York Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. The sentiment in Pittsburgh is that head coach Mike Tomlin is doing his due diligence, but with a possible lean toward granting the role to current secondary coach and senior defensive assistant Teryl Austin -- unless floored by an outside interview.
So while the the defensive minds in Dallas are still a sizzling-hot commodity at the moment, in varying degrees, the same can't necessarily be said for offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, although the , at times in direct competition with Quinn; e.g., the Denver Broncos. As the days roll along, it's feeling less and less likely Moore will land a head coaching position in this cycle, his odds of remaining with the Cowboys one year after signing an extension steadily increasing.
This isn't to say it's impossible, but the feeling around the league is some believe Moore still has work to do to prove to NFL general managers he can lead an entire team, sources tell CBS Sports. And seeing his once-prolific offense in Dallas devolve into anything but, the age-old mantra that says "timing is everything" could not be more true when it comes to Moore, for just a few months ago he was one of the headline candidates for the coaching cycle that is now underway.
Additionally, with the Broncos' decision to hire Nathaniel Hackett, the former offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers, the sentiment regarding Moore fleshes itself out a bit more -- considering it means they passed on Quinn for an offensive-minded coach with coordinator experience whose name isn't Kellen Moore. As such, he continues his discussions with other clubs still in need of a head coach, while knowing his worst-case scenario would be his current seat with the Cowboys and their stable of offensive talent.
Should he remain and again prove himself in 2022, the opportunities in 2023 will be more plentiful and the interviews less of an interrogation on his ability to galvanize entire rosters and his very own coaching staff.
Here's a quick look at the teams who are still seeking a new head coach this offseason:
The situation is quite different for Quinn, who is already one of the more highly-respected minds and leader of men in the NFL, the latter being something Moore has yet to prove, but Quinn has now gone from being the frontrunner to land the job as Broncos head coach to working through his secondary and tertiary options. There remains a solid chance Quinn is poached from Dallas, but the reality is that the Broncos have now reduced those odds in a significant way.
Quinn's relationship with Broncos general manager George Paton is dissimilar to his connection to many of the other GMs in the league -- making a role he loves (to say the least) in Dallas that much more attractive. And while the Giants do have him on the line, there's also something to be said for the emotional aspect of Quinn heading to an NFC East rival to battle players he truly loves in Dallas.
Money could help the Giants case, yes, but owner Jerry Jones isn't lacking in that category, to say the least (see Moore's extension to keep him away from Boise State and). In other words, everything gets factored in with these types of decisions.
"I think for me coming here -- I wasn't coming here to look at what my next job would be," Quinn said in mid-December. "I wanted to come in here and have a blast and hopefully kick ass, and make an impact. I don't know if you saw me in the press box but I was having a hell of a good time. When you see a guy like DeMarcus [Lawrence] score, that's what I love about coaching. If those moments come, I'll be ready for them if the right scenario came about.
"But honestly, I'm having a blast right here with this crew and going for it."
Should he be passed on again and/or decide no other current vacancy is worth relocating for a second time in two years, Quinn would be well within his rights to continue coaching up talent like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs while waiting to see what next year's coaching carousel looks like, because that might also be one that includes the Seattle Seahawks (where Quinn won a Super Bowl as the engineer of the famed "Legion of Boom" defense), that is if Pete Carroll can't right the ship.
Something the think about there.
Some of Quinn's current remaining options include the Giants, Vikings, Bears, Dolphins and Jaguars, with the latter having been shunned initially by Quinn en route to also losing out on Hackett to the Broncos (a betting man/woman would put their money on Byron Leftwich to Jacksonville). There's still a lot to sift through when it comes to trying to discern who'll land where at head coach, and with Sean Payton now stepping away for 2022 and thrusting himself -- be it intentionally or unintentionally -- into the forefront of the Cowboys minds for 2023, things have only become that much more intriguing.
Quinn still has an edge in cities like Chicago and Minnesota but, as it stands, the Cowboys are in a much better position today than they were yesterday in their mission to retain their two coordinators and try for what will likely be a pivotal win-or-goodbye season for Mike McCarthy. They'll work through their options should they lose one, both and/or an assistant like Whitt or Edwards, but they did just exhale a bit.
Not entirely, but certainly a bit.