FRISCO - By early September, the Dallas Cowboys' two-year dance with Earl Thomas was over. He'd popped into their locker room in late 2017, they'd made an NFL Draft time trade offer (the 50th overall pick) to Seattle in 2018, and they flirted with signing him before the Ravens overpaid in spring 2019.
By September 2020, they'd learned enough. They'd had enough.
"You,'' a team source said of my Thomas-to-Dallas persistence, and really, of theirs, "are wasting your time.''
But suddenly, there is a natural inclination to revisit the Earl Thomas "connection'' with the Dallas Cowboys.
Dan Quinn is the new defensive coordinator. He will run the same 4-3 defense that Dallas ran before the Mike Nolan-led debacle of 2020. It'll be the same defense that then-Cowboys aide Kris Richard helped oversee in 2019.
Richard was one of the reasons observers wondered if Thomas' wounded career could be salvaged in Dallas.
Now Dan Quinn is one of those reasons.
The Cowboys' interest in the troubled-but-talented 32-year-old Thomas, a seven-time Pro Bowler who plays the glaring Dallas need position of safety, obviously waned over time. And then it disappeared. But did it disappear because Thomas isn't right physically anymore? Or because Thomas isn't right in another way?
I never understood how Dallas could think Darian Thompson was better than Earl Thomas. I never understood why Dallas didn't "cross the street'' down to Austin, where Thomas lives, to have dinner with him - a real investigation into his present state of mind and behavior.
I know for a fact that the Cowboys, as recently as September, discussed signing Thomas. I know that they (like the rest of the league) have discovered some unfortunate things about his behavior. And we all know that NFL teams are obliged to be in the "never-say-never'' business, and the business of "24/7 player evaluation.''
Quinn's arrival on the scene at The Star changes none of those things. He can have his insights into what makes Earl Thomas tick, but they will largely be insights gleaned from 2013-14, when Thomas was a future Hall-of-Fame safety and Quinn was the hottest assistant in football and the No. 1-ranked Seattle defense was leading the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.
It's worth noting that last year's awful Atlanta team, head-coached by Quinn, had one of the poorest-performing secondaries in the NFL. And yet ... Dan Quinn didn't sign street-free-agent Earl Thomas to the Falcons.
While Thomas (who is working out in Austin, so we assume he still wants to play) would surely endorse Quinn, even if Quinn endorses Earl ... his knowledge is a half-decade old. And in that sense, nothing about the Cowboys' low-to-no interest in Earl Thomas has changed.
Dallas still owes itself an evening with Earl.