The Dallas Cowboys’ Championship Window May Be More Fragile Than We Thought


The Dallas Cowboys are always under pressure. When you’re America’s Team and have owner Jerry Jones calling the shots, there’s no room for a step back. And while the NFC East Club has started off well this year—they’re 2-0 and playing some dominant defense—the window might be closing sooner than we thought.

Upon first blush, that might sound unbelievable. This is, by all accounts, a talented team. And, perhaps more importantly, the season just started. What change could be on the cards?

Allow Fox Sports’ NFL Insider Jay Glazer to explain.

Glazer Believes Dan Quinn Will Leave Dallas

The NFL is a dog-eat-dog league, and every team is looking for the next advantage. An easy way to (theoretically) get a leg up is by hiring a new head coach. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has occupied that role before, and seems destined to retake the top spot on an organization’s sideline.

During the NFL on Fox podcast, Glazer took some time to answer questions and one of those touched on the Cowboys’ DC. “I see Dan Quinn becoming a head coach after this season,” Glazer explained on Sunday. “Absolutely.”

The insider even reported that Quinn was targeted by the Denver Broncos ahead of Nathaniel Hackett, but circumstances intervened. That job interview apparently took place the day after Dallas was eliminated from the playoffs. According to Glazer, that affected the coach’s mood, and his lack of “any positivity or any joy or any optimism” proved to be a problem.

Ultimately, Denver hired Hackett, and Quinn stayed in Big D.

Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn of the Dallas Cowboys walks the sidelines before a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jay Glazer believes that Quinn could find a new job after the 2023 season.
Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Quinn Is a Key Part of Dallas’ Success

To be clear, there’s no guarantee that Quinn will leave Texas after this season. Maybe a head coaching offer won’t arrive; perhaps he’ll turn down the chance to remain in a good situation. With that being said, though, Glazer’s report does potentially tighten the Cowboys’ window.

Dallas’ strength has been its defense, and Quinn obviously plays a major role in that. Do elite players like Micah Parsons shape the unit and its success? Of course, but the coordinator puts the plan in place.

Consider, for example, how Parsons dominated Daniel Jones and the New York Giants during Week 1. The linebacker worked from somewhat of a hybrid role, both occupying his normal position and drifting inside to act as an interior pass rusher. Given his incredible talent and ability to command double-teams, that flexibility gave the G-Men fits.

Did Parsons make things happen? Yes, but Quinn uses flexibility as part of his defensive scheme.

That wasn’t the coordinator’s only savvy move, though. As writer Todd Brock laid out in Cowboys Wire last week, Quinn also converted Markquese Bell into a linebacker, where he found success against the Giants. Again, the flexibility of moving a mobile, hard-hitting safety, paid off.

Again, you could say that the players are the ones who deserve the credit. And while that’s certainly true, they point the finger further up the chain of command.

“Sometimes, coaches want to put you in a box or stifle your personality,” Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse explained, Sportsnaut reported last Thursday. “Dan isn’t like that. He encourages guys to let their personality come out. He wants you to be you and make plays.”

And the numbers back that up. During the 2022 NFL campaign, Dallas allowed the fifth-fewest points per game, only surrendering 20.1 per contest. With the caveat of a small sample size, things are even better in 2023. The Cowboys blanked the Giants in Week 1 and only surrendered 10 points against the Jets in Week 2.

You could argue those have been relatively easy tests, but Quinn’s unit has passed them with flying colors.

Now, let’s return to the idea of the defensive coordinator leaving Dallas after this season. While the unit’s on-field talent wouldn’t change, the scheme would be different; head coach Mike McCarthy isn’t getting involved on that side of the ball, and even if you hire a Quinn disciple, two coaches won’t do things exactly the same.

And this is the NFL we’re talking about. It’s a league of fine margins where any team can win on any given Sunday. Changing defensive coordinators, at least in the short term, would probably cause Dallas to take the slightest step back. That tiny regression can make all the difference.

Through that lens, the 2023 campaign might be that much more important for the Cowboys. There’s always pressure to win in Jerry World, but Quinn’s uncertain future ups the ante. It’s easy to view coaches in a vacuum, but put it this way. If you knew that a star player was leaving after this season, there’d be a tangible sense of stress.

So why would an elite coordinator be any different?


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