FRISCO (105.3 The Fan) - It is a most dubious distinction, and it's not completely fair, because what happened with the 2020 Dallas Cowboys defense wasn't solely the blame of the now-departed coordinator Mike Nolan.
But he held the title. Then he got the axe. And now he gets the distinction.
Football Outsiders has created a list of NFL head coaches and coordinators who performed at the bottom of their profession in 2020.
And for being at the bottom, Nolan floats right up there near the top.
The top two "dishonorees'' are former head coaches Adam Gase of the New York Jets and Matt Patricia of the Detroit Lions. Nolan was the assistant with the highest percentage of votes as "worst.''
The 2020 Cowboys defensive numbers tell part of the story here. Dallas was ranked as the fifth-worst defense in the NFL, and for most of the season was, by the numbers, the poorest scoring defense in franchise history.
In the end, the Cowboys finished 6-10, allowed the most points in franchise history (473) and finished 31st in the league in run defense.
And then Nolan, one of head coach Mike McCarthy's closest friends, was dismissed.
This, of course, creates the impression that Nolan was the problem, and that Nolan "is a bad coach.'' In fact, for those in Cowboys Nation who choose to pay attention
*It was the Jones family that decided Dallas defense should be "more like New England's, more multiple.''
*It was the newly-hired McCarthy who promised he could do that.
*It was McCarthy who hired Nolan, essentially without conducting any interviews. (A mistake that the Joneses did not allow to happen this year, as a front-office rep was involved in the quartet of coordinator interviews leading up to the hiring of Dan Quinn.)
*It was Jerry, Stephen and McCarthy who all OK'ed the ridiculous idea of installing a new defensive system without the benefit of having even gotten to know the players in a face-to-face way. The new system was installed, taught and coached largely via Zoom-style Webex meetings.
*When defensive players complained, first inside The Star and later publicly, about the complicated switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme, it wasn't just Nolan who didn't listen; McCarthy ignored their pleas and complaints as well, finally overseeing some alterations that improved the unit's performance - though not enough to save the job of a coach who has a long history of being perfectly capable ... but who now has a crappy imaginary trophy to put on his mantel.