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Troy Aikman approves of Cowboys decision to hire Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator, but has roster concerns

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Getty’s Carmen Mandato

Mike Nolan is out after just one year as defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, and it’s Dan Quinn attempting to ride into town and save the day in 2021. With the hiring of Quinn comes the expected falling of dominos on the defensive coaching staff beneath him, with more to come, as the Cowboys begin checking boxes to put him in the best possible position to succeed. At least one NFL legend believes things will work out well for both sides, and that person is Troy Aikman — someone who knows a little something about winning in North Texas. 

In speaking recently with The Musers on 96.7 FM in Dallas, the Hall of Famer gave a nod and a thumbs up at the move.

“I think it’s a good hire,” Aikman said. “I’ve always liked Dan, I think he’s a good coach. … I thought that Dan would be a good hire for them. … Dan took over for a couple years as defensive coordinator and they were number one for both years he was there in Seattle. [The Falcons] never were quite as good on defense as what I think a lot of people thought they would be — considering Dan’s background as a defensive coach — but yeah, I think he’s a really good football coach.”

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Aikman’s approval doesn’t come without a concern, though.

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“There are holes in the defense personnel-wise,” he pointed out. “Those things have to be addressed. I’ve always believed that on the defensive side of the ball it’s more of a mindset. If you can get guys rallying to the football and playing at a certain level that you can do a lot of good things on the defensive side of the ball, and you don’t necessarily have to have the best players.”

His point is one the Cowboys are far from naive about.

Owner Jerry Jones spoke with glee in 2020 at the possibility of overhauling his defense in a way that might allow them to match serve with the offense and, if not, to at least potentially climb out of the league’s basement and into a more manageable spot. To achieve that goal, they’ll need to do more than hit the reset button at coordinator — a wise move in and of itself — but to also address needs at key positions such as safety (outside of Donovan Wilson), cornerback (outside of Trevon Diggs) and on the defensive interior, while also making sure they refine their depth at defensive end behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory; with the jury still being out on the future of Aldon Smith in Dallas

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Quinn brings a reversion to the 4-3 with a slight caveat, which is a good start and U-turn from the failed hybrid system Nolan attempted to install, and without an offseason to do so. If the Cowboys can load his defense with talent, they’ll have something cooking in 2021.


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