While Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones tries to navigate the “uncomfortable" offseason he promised following another regular season let down, the defensive coordinator position is the gaping hole in the staff at this time. This week’s release of Rob Ryan was followed by indicators of “philosophical change” concerning the defense.
It’s no secret that Ryan’s unit was devastated by injuries throughout the regular season, but the sum of two years with Ryan offered some justification for making a move.
In short, Dallas’ defense was historically bad during the two seasons following Ryan’s arrival.
So word now is the Cowboys are eying 72-year-old Monte Kiffin as their next DC.
And I am all for that.
While not a fan of Kiffin’s son Lane, who can destroy a pro franchise or college program in just weeks, Monte is a different story completely.
Monte is a guru of the 4-3 defense and specifically the Tampa 2, made famous by the Buccaneers defense in 2002, which was among the top defenses ever to line up in the NFL. If you know an Oakland Raiders fan, ask them what they think about it.
Kiffin’s defensive philosophy is to prevent the big play in the air. His secondary schemes are similar in philosophy to that of former head coach Bill Parcells in his 3-4 schemes. With either, the pass rush is absolutely required in order to disallow opposing quarterbacks the time to read the defense and take a deep shot.
But if the ball goes down field, it’s a sizable risk given that both safeties are often left deep in the secondary with most passes happening in front of them. This is when interceptions happen most often.
Kiffin certainly won’t gamble the way Ryan sometimes did while asking his players to fit his system.
In this scheme, Kiffin will tailor the scheme to the players, and he should be pretty well stocked for a 4-3.
True, outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware will be moved to defensive end, but it’s important to remember that Ware played this position at Troy. It’s not like he’s never done this before.
In fact, I believe that every defensive player on the Dallas roster played a 4-3 defense in college.
Anthony Spencer remains an offseason priority given that another defensive end will be required to compliment Ware, a position never really filled while former Cowboys end Greg Ellis was in town.
Obviously future-stars Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, two linebackers from standout 4-3 defensive programs at Penn State and North Carolina, respectively, still have a home in Dallas.
Even Ernie Sims, an obvious 4-3 linebacker from Florida State, is a more interesting guy to possibly keep given his smaller build. Last season he was signed off the street out of desperation and he could be a real bargain as well.
Kiffin would be the first “guru” class coordinator I can recall since the days of Ernie Zampese, offensive coordinator after Norv Turner left for Washington after Dallas' second-straight Super Bowl win in 1993. Interesting thing there is that Turner cut his teeth under Zampese so that transition was pretty seamless.
Experience matters and the Cowboys are not rich with that, especially in the front office.
Over two years ago I asked whether Dallas needed to scrap this 3-4 defense that they have never really stocked the right way. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones has never wanted a nose guard and understands that Dallas’ entire championship legacy was built around legendary head coach Tom Landry’s 4-3 alignment.
So this would be a coming home party for the Dallas defense.
Looks like Kiffin might be driving the car.