Yes, Kiffin is one of the most accomplished defensive coordinators in NFL history. And yes, the Cowboys defense was awful at times in 2012. They ranked 19th in the NFL in yards allowed (355.4 per game) and 24th in opponents' points per game (25.0).
But if the Cowboys improve on those numbers, it won't be because of Kiffin's presence. It will because they finally got some good fortune.
The Dallas D was decimated by injuries and suspensions this season. On the defensive line, Jay Ratliff (sports hernia) missed time and Josh Brent was suspended for his intoxication manslaughter charge.
At linebacker, Anthony Spencer (pectoral, calf) missed a few games and DeMarcus Ware (neck, shoulder) played through injuries.
And in the secondary, Gerald Sensabaugh (calf), Barry Church (quadriceps), Matt Johnson (hamstring) and Morris Claiborne (concussion) all missed time during the season.
Although every NFL team must deal with injuries, the Cowboys were missing an alarming number of key contributors this season. If they can manage to stay relatively healthy in 2013, their defense will naturally improve
As for Kiffin, I'm not sold on him being the right fit for the Cowboys. Hiring Kiffin would signal a shift from the 3-4 defense to the 4-3, which would require DeMarcus Ware to play as a hand-down defensive end for the first time in his career.
This would be a disaster, as Ware's body is already starting to betray him. The last thing the 30-year-old needs is to be fighting with massive offensive linemen on every play. He would be more effective—and more likely to stay healthy—if he could continue to rush off the edge from a standing position.
The Cowboys could also run into issues in the secondary, as Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr are pressure cornerbacks. They excel when they can get in the face of receivers, but Kiffin's system requires more zone coverage.
It's unclear if either player would adjust well to this system, and after investing heavily in Claiborne and Carr, it would be smart to play to their strengths. The Cowboys used their first two picks in the 2012 NFL Draft to select Claiborne, and Carr received a $50 million contract during the last offseason.
Besides the personnel issues, Kiffin didn't exactly impress at USC this season. Granted, college is much different than the pros, but it's never a good sign when your defense allows 38-plus points on three occasions.
One of those games was against the Oregon Ducks, who shredded the Trojans by producing 730 total yards and 62 points. The Ducks run a read-option offense, similar to the one employed by Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.
Maybe it's just me, but it seems like a bad idea to implement a defense that will likely get destroyed by your main division rival.
Of course, Jerry Jones often laughs in the face of logic. He is all about big-name signings, and Kiffin is the most high-profile candidate available. I wouldn't be shocked if he is named the Cowboys' defensive coordinator by the end of the day.
But his presence actually resulting in significant improvements? Now that would be a surprise.