It’s not often that the most popular coach on the Cowboys is their defensive secondary coach, yet that’s exactly what seems to be the case in Dallas these days with coach Al Harris. The former Green Bay CB has developed star status on both a local and national level over the last season.
His ability to churn out star CB after star CB has earned him weekly screen time during broadcasts and an abnormal amount of discussion for a relatively green NFL coach. But numbers don’t lie, and DaRon Bland’s jump from a fifth-round pick in 2022 to the 2023 league leader in interceptions and all-time leader in interceptions returned for touchdown, is all awfully hard to ignore.
Bland’s season, on the heels of Trevon Digg’s spectacular 2021 season, served as the anointing oil for Harris’ NFL reputation. In the wake of Dan Quinn’s departure as defensive coordinator, it’s made Harris a hot name in Cowboys circles as well as Commanders circles.
While Harris’ ties go back to Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, he’s also seen as being fiercely loyal to Quinn. And with Quinn off to build his staff in Washington, many Cowboys fan have all but accepted the loss of Harris.
“Honestly, in whatever capacity he wanted me to come, I’m there,” Harris said hypothetically of Quinn. “It could be Alaska. He could be coaching the Alaska Bluebirds…”
In a recent offseason interview, Harris went on record saying he’d essentially follow Quinn to the ends of the Earth if Quinn came calling. And frankly, why wouldn’t Quinn call? Harris helped develop a Day 2 and Day 3 pick into All Pros, seemingly overnight. That’s a valuable skillset every franchise would love to have on their coaching staff.
There’s only one problem with that: the Cowboys have Harris under contract.
Unless Harris is being promoted to defensive coordinator, Quinn can’t poach him from Dallas. And given Harris’ inexperience across the defense, that’s an unlikely elevation for Quinn to make.
Harris has only been the secondary coach for four seasons. Before that, he’s just served in assistant and intern roles. He hasn’t worked other position groups nor has he called plays. The jump from where he is today to defensive coordinator is enormous, even if Quinn wanted to hold his hand early on.
Harris’ recent celebrity status has made him a hot name in many circles, and rightfully so. But his inexperience makes him a longshot for a coordinator post in 2024 and that may ultimately keep him in Dallas one more season.
With that said, the Cowboys may exercise goodwill to Harris and grant him permission to follow Quinn to Washington. Perhaps whoever they bring in to replace Quinn as defensive coordinator prefers it that way. Regardless, unless Quinn is ready to promote Harris, the Cowboys can block any move.
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