Former Cowboys DC Mike Nolan voted NFL’s worst assistant in 2020

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Lorenzo Almanza
·3 min read
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Under former defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the Dallas Cowboys ranked as the fifth-worst defense in the NFL. That is a huge dip for a team which ranked 11th just a year prior. It took just one season worth of evidence for the club to cut bait and move on from Nolan and his scheme change to return to a familiar mode of defensive attack.

For a while, the club was trending to have the worst statistical season in franchise history. As it stands, the record books weren’t the only ones to take notice. Football Outsiders compiled up a list of NFL head coaches and coordinators who proved to be the most ineffective in 2020. Right near the top was Nolan.

The top two singled out were former head coaches Adam Gase and Matt Patricia. Nolan was the assistant with the highest percentage of votes, receiving 4.5%.

Back in January, ESPN’s Todd Archer reported on the struggles of Dallas’ defensive unit, including the amount of points the team allowed during the season.

Last season, the Cowboys (6-10) allowed the most points in franchise history (473) and finished 31st in the league in run defense. In the season-ending loss to the New York Giants, they allowed 23 points, including 20 in the first half, to an offense that had not scored more than 19 in five weeks.

Unable to get hands-on experience until the start of an abbreviated training camp, the Cowboys defense struggled badly. They finished 23rd in yards per game (31st vs. the run, 11th vs. the pass) and 28th in points (29.6). The Cowboys allowed 69 plays of 20 yards or more, including 51 passes and 18 runs.

Pro Football Talk broke down how the Cowboys had one of the worst defense’s in its team’s history. Even before the season ended, experts were already hailing Nolan’s team as one of the worst ever.

The Cowboys Defense is going down in the record book as one of the worst in team history. Maybe the worst in history.

They already have allowed the sixth-most points in team history with 393. That puts them on pace to top the team-record 436 points the 2010 defense gave up and on pace to be the second-most allowed in NFL history behind only the 1981 Baltimore Colts who allowed 533.

A key part of the team’s struggles was their inability to adapt to a 3-4 defensive scheme. Under Nolan, Dallas did not have the right personnel to adapt to a new front. This translated into the team failing to convert turnovers, which led them to being in the top five of passing touchdowns allowed.

With Dan Quinn coming into play, the team looks to bounce back from an atrocious defensive season.

List

Former Cowboys Byron Jones, Dan Bailey named worst starters from 2020