FRISCO - The coaching profession is often a "who-you-know'' business. And in the case of new Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, maybe a "who've-you-known-longer'' business.
Back when Mike Nolan became the head coach in San Francisco, his first major hire meant McCarthy's first major job, as the Niners offensive coordinator. Now Nolan has been fired by Dallas ... and McCarthy - who hired him a year ago to run the Cowboys defense - is going back to the well of friends for what he hopes is a hire he has some control of.
Enter Joe Whitt Jr.
Two sources told CowboysSI.com at year ago that at one time, the Dallas pick for defensive coordinator was going to be Joe Whitt Jr. Whitt Jr., like Nolan, is also highly-credentialed. Whitt Jr., 42, joined McCarthy's Packers staff in 2008 as a quality-control assistant, and then spent a decade as a top aide on defense, first as the secondary coach and then in 2018 - McCarthy's final season in Green Bay - as his defensive passing game coordinator.
Whitt Jr. held that role in Cleveland before the staff was fired, good timing for him to be free to join McCarthy to begin 2020. ... and then, according to people close to the situation, a shift at The Star: Nolan would get the top defensive job.
Whitt Jr. then joined the Falcons as their secondary coach. But with Nolan gone, it's time for more help for McCarthy build the defense.
Why did Mike Nolan get chosen over Joe Whitt Jr. Maybe because he's a better and more seasoned coach. Or maybe - given the fact that McCarthy's career was once jump-started by being hired by Nolan - he's just an older friend.
The danger, as always in these matters, is that who-you-know trumps quality. For instance: Whitt's title with the Falcons is "secondary/defensive pass coordinator'' ... and Falcons were the worst passing defense in the NFL this season, giving up 294 per game.
Our lists of prospective coordinators (see below) includes a number of McCarthy associates. ... but also some who are "Jones'' associates and others who are "outside the circle'' of The Star.
"Associates'' are not necessarily bad candidates. There is nothing "wrong'' with, say, George Edwards or Marvin Lewis. Additionally, what if the Whitt hire has a tie that leads to him bringing along, say, Dan Quinn as a staffer?
But as we also mention ... maybe the Whitt decision and any others having to do with the defensive staff will involve more than just McCarthy's unilateral thoughts this time.