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Top Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Candidates After Dan Quinn's Departure

Dan Quinn is off to become the Washington Commanders head coach, culminating two offseasons of interviewing for head coaching vacancies, creating a significant void on Mike McCarthy's coaching staff with the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator position.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and McCarthy have several strong candidates already on staff, but could look outside the organization to replace Quinn as Dallas' defensive coordinator.

Here's a look at the top candidates defensive coordinator candidates who would be ideal fits for the Cowboys, including a pair of darkhorse candidates.

Al Harris

Harris is likely the clubhouse leader for the role, given his experience coaching under Quinn and his relatability with the star players in the Cowboys' secondary.

Originally hired as a defensive assistant in 2020, Harris has ascended to become one of the premier defensive backs coaches in the NFL. Under his tutelage, DaRon Bland set an NFL record in 2023 with five interceptions returned for a touchdown. Likewise, Trevon Diggs was named a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2021.

If Jones and the Cowboys aim to preserve continuity on defense, promoting Harris becomes an easy decision.

Ron Rivera

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 07: Head coach Ron Rivera of the Washington Commanders looks on against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of the game at FedExField on January 7, 2024 in Landover, Maryland.

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Shortly after his firing as Washington Commanders head coach, Rivera was linked to the Cowboys as a potential Quinn replacement. Rivera would arrive in Dallas with plenty of built in knowledge of the NFC East, has a track record as one of the most respective defensive minds in the NFL, and similarly to Quinn is a culture driver.

In recent weeks, Rivera also interviewed for the Eagles' defensive coordinator vacancy, prior to Philadelphia opting to hire Vic Fangio, instead.

Hiring Rivera would add a veteran coach with decades of experience, and a Super Bowl berth on his resumé to Mike McCarthy's staff, and could even present a fascinating option to replace McCarthy if the Cowboys falter, again, next season.

Mike Vrabel

Similar to Rivera, Vrabel's temperament, experience, and track record for fielding physical defenses would make him a strong fit for the Cowboys' personnel.

Vrabel has prior experience as a linebackers coach and defensive coordinator with the Houston Texans, and of course, was viewed as one of the leaders of the New England Patriots' defense during his playing days.

Given the Cowboys' defensive collapses in recent seasons, and postseason disappointment, adding a veteran coach who is as relatable to his players as Vrabel could prove to be an asset for McCarthy to lean on.

Joe Whitt

There's a strong possibility that Quinn brings Whitt along to the nation's capital as a member of the Commanders' coaching staff, perhaps even as Washington's defensive coordinator.

However, if that doesn't happen, Whitt has previously called the Cowboys' defensive coordinator role one of his two 'dream jobs.'

Whitt has spent 13 seasons working alongside McCarthy on staffs with the Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers, and that deep wealth of knowledge could make him a top choice of the Cowboys' head coach. Calling the Cowboys' defense would also be the first defensive coordinator role of Whitt's career.

Dave Aranda

AUSTIN, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 25: Head coach Dave Aranda of the Baylor Bears reacts in the first half against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 25, 2022 in

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Aranda is a bit of a darkhorse.

But, given that college football is experiencing unprecedented upheaval surrounding unregulated NIL, the transfer portal, and realignment, Jones and the Cowboys might find a willing, eager, and rising defensive mind two hours south of the team's Frisco, Texas headquarters.

One of the more highly respected minds in college football, if Aranda is looking for an escape hatch to the NFL, there aren't many more talented defenses in the league than the Cowboys. Hiring Aranda would bring a fresh voice and new philosophies into the Cowboys' organization, which might be what the franchise needs amid a 28-year NFC Championship Game drought.

Bill Belichick

The ultimate darkhorse, after being shut out of head coaching opportunities this cycle, hiring Belichick as Cowboys defensive coordinator offers significant upside for both parties.

Belichick would inherit a defense loaded with All-Pro caliber players at all three levels, combining his scheme and instincts as one of the most respected defensive minds in the sport. If the Cowboys make a Super Bowl run fueled by Belichick's defense, it could go a long way towards distancing the 71-yearold from three disappointing seasons in New England following Tom Brady's departure.

Likewise, Jones seems to have some affinity for the six-time Super Bowl champion.

"I know him personally and I like him," Jones told Yahoo. "There's no doubt in my mind we could work together. None."

MORE: Trevon Diggs Lobbies For Next Cowboys Defensive Coordinator