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Cowboys DC Dan Quinn tweaked defensive scheme ahead of joining Dallas

Following a roller-coaster five-plus seasons as the head coach in Atlanta, Dan Quinn could have taken a year off before leaping back into the fray. Instead, the new Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator dove headfirst back into the job.

Getting fired after an 0-5 start afforded Quinn time to contemplate his coaching style and scheme without sitting out a hiring cycle. The new DC told the Cowboys’ official team website he immersed himself in a self-examination.

“I wanted to do as big an after-action on my own self to make sure what I could learn from, things that went well and things that didn’t go well,” Quinn told David Helman of the team’s official website. “So, I wanted to kind of do a 360 on the whole process first, the scheme side.”

In the three months between getting fired and joining Mike McCarthy’s staff, Quinn said he stripped down his belief system, determining what would work for defenses in 2021.

“That included defensive cutups from 2013 to 2020, and that brought me into some of the system changes that I wanted to implement on the next lap around,” he said. “I didn’t want to do just another rinse and repeat. And, so, that was a big piece on what I wanted to do.”

That evaluation led to some philosophical changes for Quinn, a long-time 4-3, Cover-3 style coordinator. The 50-year-old coach surprised some during the draft when he mentioned adding 3-4 elements to that system. The Cowboys’ new DC wants to be more multiple than his clubs in Seattle and Atlanta — something Dallas attempted and failed miserably to implement last season.

“Certainly a combination of things that, the foundation that has been here, as well as some new things that I wanted to bring into it and how we play and the style that would do that,” Quinn said.

Quinn isn’t the first — nor will he be the last — coach to evaluate his system after failures at his previous stop. Famously, during the time after being fired in Green Bay, Quinn’s new boss convened what came to be known as The McCarthy Project, in which a group of former coaches gathered to dissect film together. Quinn’s previous boss, Pete Carroll, noted in his book “Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion” how his failures in New England led to a revamping of his defensive belief system, which ultimately brought him successes at USC and Seattle.

Quinn knows that tweaking his coaching style and dogmas isn’t enough if it doesn’t translate on the field.

“Much like a player, I guess I have to prove it,” he said. “And what I would say is what you can count on from me is somebody that’s real specific in how we’re going to go about it and get after it. And I’m very much looking forward to proving that.”

Tune in to the 2021 NFL Schedule release at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 12, on NFL Network, NFL.com and the NFL app.

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