With the news coming down yesterday that Jason Garrett was out as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, the front office is making quick work to assemble their staff for the 2020 season. After it was reported earlier today that former Green Bay Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy was named the Cowboys next head coach, they’ve filled another spot on the staff. Ian Rapoport is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys will hire New Orleans Saints Linebackers Coach Mike Nolan the defensive coordinator.
Mike Nolan has coached in the NFL since 1987 when he took over as the Denver Broncos Linebackers Coach and Special Teams Coordinator. He’s spent time as the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants (1993-1996), Washington Redskins (1997-1999), New York Jets (2000), Baltimore Ravens (2002-2004), Denver Broncos (2009), Miami Dolphins (2010-2011), and most recently the Atlanta Falcons (2012-2014). From 2005-2008, he spent four years as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
His career has had its ups and downs as a defensive coordinator, but he’s had some success. Five times his teams finished in the top 10 in points allowed. As mentioned below, his teams have finished in the top 10 in takeaways 10 times.
Now the question becomes what does this mean for their defensive personnel. Mike Nolan has experience in both a 4-3 (which is the Cowboys current base defense) and a 3-4, which is what he’s coached a majority of his time in the NFL. The Cowboys have the personnel to make the switch to a 3-4 look in their base packages if they want to, but they would certainly need to add some pieces to make it work.
Mike Nolan has done a good job coaching the linebackers for the New Orleans Saints the last few years and got the Patrick Willis-era in San Francisco started.
Adding Nolan as the defensive coordinator signifies the end of an era for the Tampa-2 defense in Dallas, which began with Monte Kiffen in 2013 then continued by Rod Marinelli. Kris Richard ushered in more cover-3 techniques, but a lot of that same philosophy was present for much of the last seven seasons.
There are still quite a few decisions to be made on the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, but this was one of the big dominoes to fall. Now we wait to see if this signifies a change in defensive philosophy moving forward.