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Could Ken Norton Jr. Return as Dan Quinn’s Potential DC Replacement?

The Dallas may soon be looking to replace both their offensive and defensive coordinators as and Dan Quinn are actively interviewing for several head- openings. If Quinn does end up leaving Dallas in his rearview, could former Cowboys Ken Norton Jr. potentially return as his replacement?

Norton has been the defensive coordinator for the the last four seasons. He also served as the Raiders’ DC from 2015-2017, his first coordinator gig after coaching the Seahawks’ linebackers from 2010-2014 during the “Legion of Boom” era.

Prior to his coaching career, Norton was an All-Pro linebacker for the Cowboys and during the 1990s. He was a key part of three-straight Champion teams, 1992 and 1993 with Dallas and then 1994 with the Niners.

Ken had the distinction of being one of the first “cap casualties” when the NFL’s was instituted in 1994 and changed forever. The Cowboys decided to let Norton leave in 1994 rather than meet deservedly high salary demands, and the All-Pro went and joined Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and to beat Dallas in the Championship Game and later the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.

Norton’s NFL checks two boxes for the . Of course there’s having been a core member of those two Super Bowl teams in the 90s; a nostalgic and ego-massaging point that you know likes.

But more importantly and practically relevant, Norton comes from that same Seattle coaching tree that Dallas has picked from in recent years. He served as the LB coach under Dan Quinn from 2013-2014 and Gus Bradley for three years before that. Norton left for the Raiders job in 2015 when the Seahawks named the successor to Quinn.

Dan Quinn
Cowboys DC Dan Quinn

In addition to making Quinn their defensive coordinator in 2021, Dallas recently had Richard on staff from 2018-2019 as their DB coach and . During that , Kris was unofficially “co-coordinating” the with .

So yes, the Cowboys like former Seahawks coaches and former Dallas icons. But there are some red flags with Ken Norton Jr. as a potential defensive coordinator well.

At both stops with Las Vegas and Seattle as their DC, Norton’s defenses never were among the league’s best. While he did help have great individual success with the Raiders, Ken’s defenses overall were often in the middle to bottom-half of the league.

There are mitigating arguments about the overall talent of those groups, especially during this last run with the Seahawks. The lack of talent across Seattle’s has been a hot topic for a few years and will likely lead to a complete rebuild this , with even being expected to find a new home.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to point to a time that Norton’s work as a defensive coordinator has helped to elevate the talent he had to work with. If anything, there are some instances from his Raiders years where the group underachieved.

Additionally, much of Norton’s coaching career has been propped up by a longtime relationship with Pete Carroll. After playing for Carroll with the 49ers, Ken joined him at USC as an and then followed him to the NFL. Except for those three years with the Raiders, Norton’s spent the last two decades working for the same man.

Of course, we don’t know even know yet if Dallas will need a new defensive coordinator. Dan Quinn still has to be offered jobs and accept one of them, but the number of teams including him in their coaching searches right now makes his staying a daunting prospect.

If Quinn does leave, Ken Norton Jr. is just one of many potential replacements. But given his history with Quinn and with the Cowboys, his possible return to Dallas is certainly on the table.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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4 Comments

  1. Best case scenario? Dan Quinn doesn’t get any of the HC jobs.
    Second-best case scenario? Whoever the Raiders hire as GM and HC make a typical Raiders move and bring in their own DC. That would free up Gus Bradley to pick right up where Quinn left off.

    Likely scenario? McCarthy talks Jerry into letting him bring in Dom Capers, who promptly tries converting the D to a 3-4 and sets us back 3-5 years.

    J/K 😉

    I wouldn’t be surprised if McCarthy and the Jones decide to promote from within and elevate Joe Witt or George Edwards.

    • Lonewolfz28… that’s my thought as well in that they will just promote from within with either Whitt or Edwards. My money would be on Edwards if that’s the route they go considering he actually interviewed for the DC job prior to them hiring Quinn. The thought process in keeping it “in-house” would be keeping as much consistency as possible in voice, approach and scheme with what was successful with the players this year rather than starting from scratch so to speak with a new DC from outside.

      • Yup, it also makes it easier to clean house next year if McCarthy still can’t get the team properly prepared. Sadly, they seem intent on retaining him for this season. But, you have to think he’s on very thin ice.

        Why bring in a new DC that may or may not fit a new regime in a year? I’d only bring in an outside DC that I would seriously consider elevating to HC if McCarthy doesn’t get results.

        Now, that could cause some friction by either lighting a fire under McCarthy, or by making him shutdown and ride out the year to collect his substantial salary before a “mutual parting of ways” next January.

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