FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have hired Dan Quinn to be their next defensive coordinator, the team announced Monday night.
Quinn agreed to a three-year deal, a source told ESPN, matching the length of Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore's new contract. Both coordinators will be signed through the 2023 season.
Quinn takes over for Mike Nolan, who was fired last week by head coach Mike McCarthy, and inherits a defense that had one of the worst seasons in Cowboys history.
Quinn was fired as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons five games into the 2020 campaign after having held the job since 2015. He posted a 43-42 record and took the Falcons to the Super Bowl in his second season.
Going with Quinn signals a return to the scheme the Cowboys employed from 2013 to 2019 under Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard.
Quinn, 50, was the Seattle Seahawks' defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014, before becoming Atlanta's head coach. He employed a 4-3 scheme that mostly used a single-high safety look and helped the Seahawks to consecutive Super Bowl appearances. The Seahawks finished No. 1 in yards and points allowed in his two seasons.
Team owner and general manager Jerry Jones was eager to move away from the scheme the Cowboys used in McCarthy's first year because he thought it was too simplistic. Nolan brought in a hybrid defense designed to use multiple coverages and disguises to confuse offenses, but that never really happened.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Nolan and the defensive staff had to implement their new defense virtually, without any benefit of on-field work until a shortened training camp began. The early results were disastrous, with the Cowboys allowing at least 34 points in five of the first six games.
Nolan simplified the scheme early in the season, but the defense never really took hold. The Cowboys allowed the most points in franchise history (473) and finished with the 31st-ranked run defense.
Part of the problem was not fitting the scheme to the players. Defensive linemen accustomed to attacking upfield to disrupt plays were now being asked to hold up blockers. Linebackers did not play downhill and were often late in making their decisions or gobbled up by bigger offensive linemen.
Quinn does not inherit that type of talent in Dallas. DeMarcus Lawrence is the highest-paid Cowboy, and he performed well in 2020, although he had just 6.5 sacks. Jaylon Smith led the Cowboys in tackles, but there is some question about his future with the team because of potential salary-cap problems. Leighton Vander Esch, a first-round pick in 2018, missed six games with a broken collarbone and a high ankle sprain.
The Cowboys feel cornerback Trevon Diggs and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, their second- and third-round draft picks in 2020, have high ceilings, and second-year safety Donovan Wilson made plays when he moved into the starting lineup.