The Cowboys have added another name to the defensive coordinator search.
Add another name to the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator mix: NY Jets safeties coach Marquand Manuel scheduled to interview Thursday, per sources. Manuel was Atlanta’s DC in 2017-18, played for Mike McCarthy in 2006. He’s been an assistant in Seattle Atlanta, Philly and the Jets.
— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) February 8, 2024
This came out of nowhere.
After two straight offseasons where Jerry Jones was able to retain Quinn, the organization is now trying to find a replacement late in the game. Usually that matters, but for Dallas, the point seems moot as the team seems intent on hiring a defensive coordinator who has been a head coach. It worked with Quinn and the team appears ready to go back to that same well.
While most of the league is looking for the next young, innovative coordinator, the Cowboys are fine with going with someone who’s been around the league and has had some success. It’s something that’s perplexing to outsiders, but Jerry and Stephen Jones continue to do what’s comfortable instead of going out and taking risks on the unknown.
The last time Dallas hired a DC without head coaching experience was Monte Kiffin ahead of a disappointing 2013 season before Kiffin was demoted in favor of then defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. It would appear that the wounds from 11 years ago are still fresh.
With Rivera and Zimmer expected to be the top choices, there appeared to be few other options. However, another former head coach apparently snuck in to meet with the Cowboys as former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills front man Rex Ryan is alleged to have spoken with Dallas about the job.
Ryan’s interview feels like it came as a surprise, as it appears that no one knew about it until after it occurred. The defenses and teams led by Ryan are known to be physical, tough groups who apply significant pressure on offenses which seems like it could retain some of the strengths from Quinn’s unit while enhancing it.
However, offenses have evolved over the last few years while Ryan has been out of the league, last coaching in 2016.
Mike Zimmer vs. Ron Rivera? Cowboys Should Hire The Coach Who’s A ‘Shanahan-Stopper’ – Anthony Licciardi, Sports Illustrated
Dallas taking the next step will likely involve getting around the 49ers.
McCarthy has been dealt an unfortunate set of cards. For all the unit’s struggles in the playoffs – most notably in the Wild Card Round loss to the Green Bay Packers – former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn consistently produced strong regular season defenses.
Now, he’s off to face the Cowboys twice each season as head coach of the Washington Commanders. There’s a void to fill in Frisco, and the wrong decision could end “Big Mike’s’’ tenure.
What we know from The Star as of Tuesday: CowboysSI.com is reporting that the Ron Rivera interview has been completed and, as we wrote it live, that the Mike Zimmer interview was “ongoing.’’
“He’s one of [their options] and a really good possibility,” Spears said, nailing a sound reason. “He has had a tremendous amount of success against Kyle Shanahan-type offenses. That’s one of his calling cards and [modus operandi] which may be very enticing to the Dallas Cowboys.”
As Spears noted, the tallest task of Zimmer’s hypothetical Cowboys tenure – this time around – would be stopping the wide-zone principles that are dominating the league. Quinn’s defenses, no matter how potent, consistently fell short against Shanahan and the branches of his tree.
Cowboys free agents: The latest discussion around center Tyler Biadasz – Tom Ryle, Blogging the Boys
Free agency will be coming soon, and the Cowboys have decisions to make.
It seems like we have questions about the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line every offseason. There is nothing certain, but there is a general feeling in Cowboys media circles that the team is not planning an attempt to re-sign starting center Tyler Biadasz. While the coaching moves are sucking the air out of things, and other of their own free agents like Tyron Smith get more attention, this is still a significant hole the team has to fill. It may be something they might need to reconsider as well. Biadasz may not be a star at his job, but he has proven to be a legitimate NFL starter, and those don’t always come easily.
The main consideration is just how good he is. He does have one Pro Bowl selection on his résumé, but that was one of those alternate situations where a player or players ahead of him chose not to attend. More importantly, he was not often a clear liability except in games where the entire line seemed to struggle. A decision to look for another starter would likely be driven by a perception that he is at his ceiling. A strong line is the foundation of the offense. Should they move on, the options are to draft a rookie, dip into the outside free agent pool, or look to the players under contract.
Of course, the Cowboys have a lot of other needs this year in the draft, so they might elect to go a different route. The leading internal candidate is Brock Hoffman, who got some playing time last season. The staff seems to think they have something in him, and that is more relevant on offense, where Mike McCarthy looks to be bringing back most of his staff. If they decide to ride with Hoffman, they might also take a center in a later round as insurance.
This is just one of many puzzle pieces the team has to find in a year when the head coach is fighting for his job. Given his own offensive mindset, this will be one they should focus on fairly early, although the eventual attempt to solve this one may take a while.
It may have ended with another early playoff exit, but there were some bright spots in 2023.
A week after pointing out what went wrong in 2023, let’s look at what went right in 2023 for the Cowboys — while understanding you might not be ready to hear about the good.
Dak Prescott/Mike McCarthy partnership
Take away the playoff disappointment and there is no question the first season of McCarthy calling plays for Dallas was a success. How much it differed from the success Prescott had when Kellen Moore was the playcaller (2019-22) can be debated. But Prescott led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes a year after being tied for the NFL lead in interceptions (15) despite missing five games. Prescott completed 69.5% of his passes, a career high, while throwing for 4,516 yards with a running game that was subpar.
With Prescott and McCarthy entering 2024 in the final year of their respective contracts, both will need to be even better in the upcoming season.
Lamb set team records in receptions (135) and yards (1,749). He led the NFL in catches and was second in yards. He was named an All-Pro and is a finalist for Offensive Player of the Year.
He showed in 2022 he could be a No. 1 receiver when he took over for Amari Cooper. In 2023, he showed he is among the NFL’s elite. And now he is in line for a contract that has to make him among the highest paid at his position. He can hurt defenses from outside, in the slot, and even out of the backfield.
They found a kicker
The Cowboys were criticized for not adding a proven veteran kicker in the offseason, but Brandon Aubrey proved to be the right decision.
He made the first 35 field goal attempts of his career, an NFL record, and missed just two attempts on the season. He led the NFL with 157 points. He did not miss an attempt from 50 yards or more all season (10 of 10). He set an NFL record with 99 touchbacks. And he has been kicking professionally for only three seasons, having spent two years with the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL. Maybe other teams should look to former first-round picks in MLS, like Aubrey, to find their kicker.
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