Veteran safety Keanu Neal recently signed a one-year deal to join the Dallas Cowboys. In an interview this morning, Neal credited his former Falcons coaches Dan Quinn and Joe Whitt Jr. as why he chose Dallas over other suitors in free agency.
Quinn took over as Defensive Coordinator this year in Dallas after the firing of Mike Nolan. Quinn has previously been head coach for the Atlanta Falcons since 2015 and has coached Keanu Neal for his entire NFL career.
Joe Whitt Jr. just joined Dallas' staff as Secondary Coach and Passing Game Coordinator. He was with Quinn in Atlanta in 2020 following a brief stint with the Browns and many years before that in Green Bay. He only worked with Neal for one season in Atlanta but apparently made an impression.
#Cowboys S Keanu Neal tells myself and @BobbyBeltTX he chose Dallas over Jets because of familiarity with Dan Quinn and Joe Whitt Jr. On Quinn: “extra father figure for his players. Brings a lot of energy” Coaching style? “Very hands on” Will show or teach you in his Jordan's 😂
#Cowboys S Keanu Neal equally complementary of Joe Whitt Jr. “very smart coach. Very knowledgeable of the game.” Says he's not a guy who yells but still gets point across. Another fun fact? Tells @BobbyBeltTX and I that he & his wife expecting first child in 3 weeks. A baby boy.
Hearing that a player followed these coaches to Dallas is very positive news after 2020. Mike Nolan's one season as Defensive Coordinator was a disaster both on the field and in the way players seemed to respond to him.
Last year, Jaylon Smith openly criticized the coaching scheme after the team's early losses. In October, Xavier Woods made a public statement about his own lack of effort and insinuated the same from some of his teammates.
Say what you will about former defensive coaches Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard, but you never had these kind of comments and issues under their watch.
The Cowboys fired Nolan shortly after the regular season and soon hired Dan Quinn to replace him. While his defenses in Atlanta never really came together as exceptional units, he was the man behind the “Legion of Boom” with the Seattle Seahawks.
Former Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright once praised Quinn as a “defensive mastermind” when the coach departed to take the head coach position with the Falcons.
Dallas' hiring of Quinn is based on the hope that he will undo Mike Nolan's damage restore solvency to the defense. Hopefully, Keanu Neal's decision to follow Dan and Joe Whitt to the Cowboys is a good sign for what these men will bring to the team in 2021.