Dallas Cowboys: Hiring Rod Marinelli Could Be Biggest Key to Defensive Shift

Peter MatarazzoContributor IFebruary 7, 2013

May 11, 2012; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli (middle) talks with the defensive linemen during rookie minicamp at Halas Hall.  Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Jones has delivered on his promise of keeping things uncomfortable this offseason. Just ask Rob Ryan if he saw his ouster coming from a mile away. So while these changes do not include replacing Jason Garrett, the Cowboys are banking on Monte Kiffin and a few of his old sidekicks to turn around this defense. 

One of those hires, Rod Marinelli, reunites Kiffin with the defensive line coach who helped guide the careers of players like Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice. Kiffin, a legendary defensive coordinator who has been kicking around a few college campuses of late, was fortunate enough to land his former Tampa Bay associate.

I view this as a tremendous hire for the Cowboys as they shift to a 4-3 alignment, although some will still point to Marinelli's time with the Detroit Lions and the dreaded 0-16 record. But there is no denying his prowess as a defensive assistant and his body of work.

During Marinelli's time in Tampa, which covered a span of 10 seasons, the Buccaneers had more sacks than any other franchise in the NFL. If you combine that with his experience and knowledge of the Tampa 2 along with the importance of the defensive line in this scheme, the Cowboys have possibly landed their most significant hire of 2013.

In this new scheme, the defensive linemen's responsibilities are to storm the line of scrimmage, provide pressure in passing scenarios and create tackling lanes by dominating the gaps. By having a line that can accomplish all of these things, it puts the rest of the defense in a situation for less blitzing and more playmaking.

Most people, as I've stated, probably remember Marinelli more for his disastrous tenure in Detroit rather than his knowledge of the Cover 2. But after leaving Detroit and becoming the defensive coordinator for Lovie Smith in Chicago, Marinelli's units produced some impressive statistics.

In his three years in the Windy City, the Bears have twice ranked in the top 10 in total defense. In all three of his seasons as the defensive coordinator, the Bears finished in the top five in defensive takeaways and had 44 in 2012 as opposed to the Cowboys' 16. Big difference?

Marinelli might not have a Warren Sapp, a Ronde Barber, a Derrick Brooks or a John Lynch on this roster, but it's his experiences throughout his career that make him a unique and important hire for Jerry Jones. Marinelli can offer this franchise a lot, including the eventual succession of Kiffin as the defensive coordinator, so it gives the Cowboys options. 

When the Cowboys hired Kiffin and, in effect, Marinelli, that spoke volumes about the type of philosophical changes that this franchise wants to adopt. To me it represented a back-to-basics approach that focuses on fundamentals and discipline.

Marinelli's military background makes the focus on discipline even more apparent, and that should create an element of excitement. By looking into the past at some of the greatest defensive units and the coaches who harnessed the schemes, the Cowboys may have ultimately answered questions regarding their present and future.

Don't underestimate the hiring of Rod Marinelli and his potential impact.