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REPORT: Cowboys DC Mike Nolan Not Returning in 2021

With only three games left in the 2020 season the Cowboys have the league’s worst run defense and have given up the most points in the NFL. Mike Nolan’s first year as Dallas’ defensive coordinator has been nothing short of abysmal and it now appears that it will be his last.

According to a report last night by Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Mornings News, Nolan is unlikely to return to the Cowboys in 2021.

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Cowboys DC Mike Nolan is not expected to return in 2021. Mike McCarthy will. But the team’s defensive scheme mishandle falls on McCarthy, too. https://t.co/o3tA8WQIwH

This news comes in the midst of repeated assurances from Dallas’ front office that Head Coach Mike McCarthy will not be fired this offseason. But the Cowboys’ poor performance this season demanded a scapegoat and Nolan is the most deserving candidate.

True, the COVID-19 pandemic took a wrecking ball to the usual offseason approach. This was especially damaging to team with new coaching staffs looking to install new systems, such as the Cowboys had this year.

But the regression on a team level and with individual players this year for the Cowboys has been beyond reason. Outside of DeMarcus Lawrence there hasn’t been a consistent difference-maker on defense and players like Jaylon Smith and Xavier Woods are playing the worst ball of their NFL careers.

The hiring of Mike Nolan has always been questionable, seeming more like a personal favor from McCarthy than a move which was truly in the Cowboys’ best interests. Dallas was willing to give McCarthy some latitude in his first year but now the Jones family appears ready to take back some of their control after one of the most embarrassing seasons in franchise history.

Nolan’s defense has been the biggest embarrassment of all. While there are some issues to address on the roster with the actual talent, the blame has to start near the top for such a widespread regression.

If this report holds true, then the Cowboys are clearly ready to admit to at least one mistake in their 2020 coaching hires.

What do you think?

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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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  1. Another blunder by the cowboys. The FA allows McCarthy to hire an unqualified DC as a favor. Really? I know coaches like to bring in guys they have history with but the team comes first. This is on Jerry and also reflects badly on McCarthy for recommending and bringing him aboard.

  2. Nolan is not being made a scapegoat, so stop using a word that’s already overused by writers. By ANY metric, he has failed miserably. He never should have been given the job, because he’s never excelled as a DC.

  3. Why couldn’t they have figure this out about two months ago?!! (How is it that a bunch of arm chair quarterbacks like us who know very little about the game of football compared to these professional coaches who have studied and been around the game for most of their life ) just how is it that we can see the problems that are Costing the team wins and even Championships but these guys can’t see it until the team is so far in a hole they can’t get out? Even Jerry has been in this Business long enough that he should know what to look for but he keeps making the same mistakes over and over! There again I guess if I was a billionaire and owned the Dallas Cowboys I would do what I wanted to do with the team also!

  4. Ask for Rex Ryan !!. Make the call Mike McCarthy. He is currently sitting around as a commentator wasting his time doing meaningless projections. He sure as heck couldn’t be any worse than Nolan’s “absolute train wreck”. McCarthy, your skills(??) (we are wondering…) are as a head coach, not as a DC. Make the call. Maybe ask Jerry or Stephen. Jerry likes to micro-manage and control everything else. At least Jerry won’t cost anything on the “overloaded no talent payroll”.

  5. I like the Matt Patricia idea! Nolan has turned a mediocre defense into an awful defense, that has shown no improvement over the season. Nolan has earned his pink slip along with the rest of the defensive staff.

  6. As for being qualified… He is very qualified. Has been a D coach and head coach and had success and failure as most coaches do. His changes in this type of year with these players has not worked out. Does not change the fact that he was qualified. I just love how so many people seem to be experts on everything while never actually having done anything.

  7. Well he sure wasn’t qualified to lead this squad, obstacles notwithstanding. When u are one of the historically worst defenses in history and the players by all appearances stop trying, u deserve whatever blame comes ur way

    Whether it was a bad hire or Nolan tried to cram a complicated scheme into a really short training camp, didn’t make the necessary in season adjustments or appeared unable to motivate his players not to quit on him, the arrow points back to him. He’s not the 1st DC to face obstacles. Kinda hard to say this wasn’t a bad hire.

  8. This organization is in a flat-spin. Jerry Jones is a consummate businessman. The correct business decision here is to fire the man who brought on a man who could not look at extensive data and video of reasonable, if not good, talent on the defensive side of the football and put together a scheme that would fit that personnel group. A particular “system” is only valid if the right personnel is in place. If not, fit scheme to personnel, not vice versa. and build personnel to change to “system” over time. Firing Nolan is a given. McCarthy should be fired for bringing Nolan in “as a favor”. GM should be fired as well at this point. Can’t fire the GM because it’s JJ? BS! He should realize his errors in judgement as a GM and recuse himself from that role. It’s a business decision. His refusal to do so would be strictly emotional. He knows better. It’s time. The Jones, Jerry and Stephen, should focus on building the brand and making the NFL better. They’re great at that. As for GM: I’d start a draft Troy Aikman movement in a heartbeat. He would be phenomenal. I believe he’d do it IF he were assured contractually he had full control of football operations. Status quo will not result in future Lombardis.

  9. The big problem is you have a new scheme and quite a exotic one at that. Our defensive ends are 4-3 guys. It takes year to learn the foot work in a 4-3 scheme. But with minimal work you implement a two stand DE and force the DT two play two gap??
    Those that thrived were those teams that have stable systems in place. Signing Griffin a 4-3 scheme guy was just near sighted.
    Jerry doesn’t need to stick his nose in the middle that has never worked. What needs to happen is get a guy that had a less radical scheme.
    Aldon is two old, there is no future with him. It’s a feel good story but there’s no juice left. Armstrong doesn’t have the play maker take over the game capability. There is NO PLAY MAKER.
    Except DLaw. Gregory has shown some spark but gets hurt to often. Where have the tough guys gone. Bradlee Anae, will be the surprise but the same experts who devised this defensive scheme that frankly sucks have left this jewel hiden. What are they expecting to happen the same ol guys doing the same ol last place stats?!

  10. KRIS RICHARD………..KRIS RICHARD…….HE SHOULD OF NEVER BEEN LET GO…..and a good OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR IS NEEDED AS WELL…..PLEASE…..

  11. Not word1 about an offense that can’t do anything much more than settle for 3 inside 5,yrs line. If it weren’t for the defense, the wouldn’t have scored at all, even putting it on the board FIRST! The injuries are so wide I thought maybe my.Mom could be put in to help, so coaching is to blame? Try looking at refs even the Saints can’t believe – EVERY GAME!!!!???!!! But be a freaking FAN, wouldya!!!?

  12. Jerry needs to fire himself! Knowing this won’t happen, I think M. Emeralds would be my target. Our LB group was at their best under his coaching. Bring him back as DC/assist. HC with a possibility of grooming him as McCarthy replacement.

  13. Looking at Gregg Williams record-for 20+ years has been one of top DCs in NFL, for a wide collection of teams
    (Titans, Bills, Rams, Jets, Browns, Washington, Saints) seldom staying more than 3 years due to disagreements with Head Coaches/superiors. If the Cowboys wish to CONTEND next year Williams is THE GUY. If the thought is one of rebuilding/long-term, McCarthy successor-Kris Richard.

  14. Yes, Nolan was horrible, but the defensive players (more especially the seondary) is even worse.Getting rid of Nolan is a good thing, but the same secondary will stilll be there.

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