The Dallas Cowboys have relieved defensive coordinator Mike Nolan of his duties after one season, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero confirmed Friday, via an informed source.
FOX Sports first reported the news.
In addition to firing Nolan, the Cowboys also fired defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, Pelissero reported, per a source. Tomsula was hired three days after Nolan last January. The team later confirmed both moves.
"I am appreciative of my relationships with both Mike and Jim, and I am grateful for the contributions that both of them made to our team under difficult circumstances in 2020," coach Mike McCarthy said in a statement. "These are never easy decisions to make, and we wish them, and their families, the very best in the future."
The 2020 campaign was far from an ideal venture for Nolan, Tomsula and everybody involved with the Cowboys defense.
Although it played with a bit more fervor during the second half of the season, Dallas struggled mightily to keep opponents out of the end zone. The club finished ranked 11th in passing defense (227.6 YPG), 28th in scoring defense (29.6 PPG) and, most glaringly, 31st in rushing defense (158.8 YPG). Dallas also set a franchise record for points allowed (473).
Getting to the quarterback was an issue for much of the year, as well, as Dallas finished 20th in sacks (31). Fourteen of those came during the team's late-season surge.
The Cowboys entered their Week 10 bye with a 2-7 record. The defense generated only seven turnovers, four of which came in a loss to the Eagles in Week 8. Six of their nine opponents in that span scored 25-plus points; Dallas lost four of those games.
Astonishingly, the Cowboys found some energy following the bye, winning four of its last seven games. The defense was at the center of those efforts as it generated 16 turnovers and surrendered 25 or more points four times.
Thanks to a weak NFC East, the Cowboys entered Week 17 with a chance at the playoffs but fell to the Giants in a showing that looked a lot more like the pre-bye version of Nolan's unit.
Cowboys brass spent much of the offseason making moves to re-fortify a group that finished ninth in total defense in 2019. Some of those moves panned out (rookie Trevon Diggs, Aldon Smith) but most did not (Everson Griffen-- traded; Gerald McCoy -- injured and cut prior to start of the season; Dontari Poe -- released; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix -- released prior to start of the season).
It also didn't help that players the team plans to build around (Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch) either underperformed or were hampered by injury. To their credit, Demarcus Lawrence -- Dallas' sacks leader (6.5) -- and Randy Gregory, who finally returned after a tumultuous two-year absence, strung together a few encouraging performances here and there.
Whoever is next in line to lead Dallas' D will inherit some promising, young pieces but there's still a lot of work to do on that side of the ball. Friday's move, while expected, shows Jerry Jones' desire to give the team a fresh start in hopes that it'll lead to improvement in 2021.