Aikman on Cowboys’ Quinn: ‘I think it’s a good hire’ but says ‘holes in personnel’ exist

Matthew Lenix
·3 min read

The Dallas Cowboys defense finished 28th in points allowed, 31st against the run, and 23rd overall in 2020. It was a disaster, to say the least, and it led to the firing of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, which was followed by the Cowboys bringing Dan Quinn on board as his successor.

Hall of Famer and Cowboys legend Troy Aikman made an appearance on The Musers on 96.7 FM in Dallas on Wednesday and patted the organization on the back for handing the keys to the defense to Quinn.

“I think it’s a good hire,” Aikman said. “I’ve always liked Dan, I think he’s a good coach… I thought that Dan would be a good hire for them… Dan took over for a couple years as defensive coordinator and they were number one for both years he was there in Seattle. They never were quite as good on defense [in Atlanta] as what I think a lot of people thought they would be considering Dan’s background as a defensive coach, but yeah, I think he’s a really good football coach.”

Quinn’s previous stint as a defensive coordinator was a successful one with the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks led the NFL in defense under Quinn and made back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2013 (won) and 2014 before he became the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons a year later.

Aikman was asked if the Cowboys have the pieces to run Quinn’s scheme effectively. He was quick to bring up the familiarity with what Quinn will run compared to what the Cowboys defense looked like under Kris Richard, who was the defensive backs coach under Quinn in Seattle.

“It’s the system that they were running with Kris Richard. That’s that Seattle background. It has evolved over the years, it even has in Seattle with some of the things that they’re doing…

“There are holes in the defense personnel-wise. Those things have to be addressed. I’ve always believed that on the defensive side of the ball it’s more of a mindset. If you can get guys rallying to the football and playing at a certain level that you can do a lot of good things on the defensive side of the ball and you don’t necessarily have to have the best players. But you can have really good players that don’t buy-in, don’t execute, don’t run to the football, don’t tackle well — shoot, hardly anybody tackles well anymore. It’s kind of maddening to me, some of the fundamentals of our game.”

There are definitely upgrades that need to be made on the Cowboys defense if they’re going to be a contender anytime soon. Neville Gallimore showed flashes as a rookie, as well as Trysten Hill before his injury, but there’s still a need for another force on the interior of the defensive line. Leighton Vander Each and Sean Lee missed significant time in 2020, and Jaylon Smith is set to have left wrist surgery on Thursday. Even though he’s expected to be ready for the offseason program his regression in play along with the injury issues at the position make linebacker a topic of interest in the NFL Draft.

The secondary also needs a makeover. Rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs lived up to his second-round hype. However, Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie are set to hit free agency, leaving Diggs and Anthony Brown as the only reliable bodies at the position if neither is retained. Donovan Wilson was stellar in his second year logging 10 starts at safety, but Xavier Woods is also set to hit the market, making the third level of the defense a top priority this offseason as well.

The only way to go is up for the Cowboys defense after a putrid 2020 showing. Now, the question is will Quinn be the man to make the unit a respectable one.