The Dallas Cowboys announced Friday afternoon that they have fired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan after finishing with a 6-10 record in his first season with the team.
The Cowboys had one of their worst defensive seasons in franchise history in 2020. Dallas allowed the most points (473) and touchdowns (57) ever in the history of the team. The Cowboys allowed 218 points in its first six games, the most by an NFL team since 1954.
Nolan inherited a defense that in recent years had been based on simplified schemes and patterns. He complicated that defense and, without the benefit of a preseason and a shortened training camp, the Cowboys had difficulty adjusting. Dallas began to scale back its defense when mental errors piled up but they had already dug themselves into a hole as the Cowboys finished the season ranked amongst the bottom 10 in almost all defensive categories.
Improving the run defense will be a specific point of emphasis for Dallas this offseason. The Cowboys ranked second-worst in the league in rushing yards allowed with 2,541 and rushing yards allowed per game with 158.8. While playing the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens, the Cowboys allowed at least 260 rushing yards and at least seven yards per carry in each game.
For these reasons, the decision to remove Nolan is not altogether surprising. Head coach Mike McCarthy would not be the one to go as he is just one season into a five-year contract.
In Nolan’s final game with the Cowboys, his defense allowed three first-half touchdowns to a Giants team that finished the 2020 season second-worst in the league in points scored.
Nolan is no stranger to New York, having coached for the Giants as a defensive coordinator for four seasons from 1993-1996. The Giants were 31-33 during that stretch and made one trip to the postseason.