NFL analyst criticizes Dan Quinn for mismanaging highly-touted rookie

This remains a contentious issue.
Dan Quinn
Dan Quinn / Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Quinn has come in for his fair share of criticism from the Dallas Cowboys' side since joining the Washington Commanders. One could point to the fierce historical rivalry between the two franchises as a reason. But there's no doubt he'd like to have some decisions back after things flamed out quickly once the postseason arrived in 2023.

Quinn deserves credit for taking on their once-struggling defense and turning it into a productive unit. They fluffed their lines when the Green Bay Packers came to town, but he can look back at his overall accomplishments with a sense of pride nonetheless.

This progression coupled with his previous track record leading an NFL franchise was enough for the Commanders to give him a second head coaching chance. Quinn is eager to take on harsh lessons learned from his two previous stops and put them to good use in a different environment. It's still early days, but the signs are positive this was the correct hire.

Dan Quinn can silence his critics by turning the Commanders around

It's time for everyone to move on. That didn't stop Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus from taking another shot at Quinn. This was for his supposed mismanagement of Mazi Smith's development, which took away from the strengths that made him a first-round pick in 2023.

"[Mazi] Smith weighed 323 pounds at the NFL Combine, and the one thing he excelled at in college was stuffing the run and anchoring the middle of the line. The Cowboys inexplicably then asked him to drop a ton of weight and seemed confused when he made little impact as a rookie. Smith finished 2023 with a 34.9 PFF run-defense grade and offered little as a pass-rusher, with only eight pressures all season. The Cowboys know they need more from him in 2024, with Jerry Jones himself saying he has to do a lot better in Year 2. Coordinator Mike Zimmer brings a new defense and a new eye to Dallas, and Smith can only hope that he will show his college form if he can pack the weight back on and finally provide the stout run defense in the middle the team has been looking for."

Sam Monson, Pro Football Focus

This wouldn't be Quinn's decision alone. He'd have a big - and probably final - say. However, the coaching staff will have discussed this heavily before concluding.

There's also a chance Smith might not be that good. Quinn is a fine judge of talent. He's also got proven credentials to help players reach or often far exceed their targets. Taking a drastic measure with the Michigan product hints that the former defensive coordinator didn't like what he saw and took drastic action.

We'll find out one way or another what Smith is capable of next season. Quinn could be berated further if he takes off. At the same time, there will be vindication if the player continues to struggle.

That will be of no consequence to Quinn. He's fully focused on getting the Commanders back among the NFL's elite. That could take time, but demonstrating encouraging progress in Year 1 seems like the minimum requirement amid so much offseason optimism.

If Quinn achieves this objective and gets the Commanders challenging for honors once again, nobody will care what or how things went down in Dallas. All it'll do is make the perennially underachieving Cowboys start to nervously look over their shoulders.