IRVING, Texas -- Jason Garrett praised the job Paul Pasqualoni did as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator in the final eight games, pointing to the circumstances.
But Garrett, who danced around questions about his future as a head coach, did not offer any hints about whether he’d want to keep Pasqualoni as the defensive coordinator.
“When you look at it on the whole, he was put in a difficult situation in the middle of the year and tried to implement some of the changes we wanted to do,” Garrett said. “I thought he handled the situation well. I thought our players responded to him.
“I think we need to get better on defense. There is no question about that.”
The Cowboys ranked 23rd in the NFL in total defense (351.8 yards per game) and 31st in scoring defense (27.3 points). The yardage totals got worse and the scoring totals only slightly improved in the second half of the season.
However, the Cowboys made major strides in a category strongly emphasized by Garrett. The Cowboys forced 20 turnovers in the second half of the season, twice as many as they forced in the first eight games under Wade Phillips. The Cowboys had four defensive touchdowns in the last eight games and set up several other scores with turnovers.
“We’ve talked about the importance of turnovers and that being really the most significant stat in football and how turnovers correlate to scoring points and how scoring points correlates to winning,” Garrett said. “I thought the defense did an outstanding job really getting the ball from the opposing offense, knocking it out and picking up a fumble like happened the other day or being awfully good at going and getting the ball and intercepting it…. I know that certainly helped us offensively score more points and contribute to winning. So that’s an important of it.”
Garrett said that it was ultimately his decision to appoint Pasqualoni as the defensive coordinator after Phillips’ firing, although he discussed the issue with Jerry Jones. Garrett said that he had not had discussions with Pasqualoni about whether he might continue being the defensive coordinator.
If Garrett does not go with Pasqualoni, there could be several candidates to become the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, depending on decisions made about other coaching staffs around the league.
Miami defensive coordinator Mike Nolan might be a good fit if the Dolphins’ staff is fired. Miami assistant head coach/secondary coach Todd Bowles, a recent Cowboys assistant, could also be a candidate. Former Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who prefers the 4-3 but coached the 3-4 under Bill Parcells, might return to Valley Ranch if the Bengals clean out the coaching staff. Another possibility is trying to recruit former Cowboys defensive line coach Todd Grantham, who has experience as the Browns’ defensive coordinator, back from University of Georgia.
Dom Capers would probably be Garrett’s first pick, which is why the Cowboys tried to sign him as a consultant in 2008. However, Capers has built a top-five defense in Green Bay and not available due to his contract with the Packers.