The performance of the Dallas Cowboys' defense has taken many twists and turns this season. Monte Kiffin's unit started out the 2013 campaign with such promise by generating six turnovers in the win over the New York Giants, despite giving up over 400 yards and 30 points.
Finally, maybe finally, the Cowboys were going to establish themselves as a team that would consistently cause turnovers, give the offense more possessions and parlay those opportunities into points. But while the creation of turnovers has been encouraging, the defense as a whole has been an epic fail.
Anybody miss Rob Ryan now? Anybody thinking if he just had one more shot with a healthy roster, this team would be in much better shape? Well, let's look at the statistics. Remember, numbers don't lie, people do.
The Cowboys currently allow the most yards per game of any team in the NFL, Kiffin's unit has allowed four 400-yard passers to shred this defense, and the New Orleans Saints amassed a staggering and NFL record 40 first downs.
Want more? How about giving up over 600 yards of offense in games to the Detroit Lions and the Saints in a three week span. And, oh yeah, the inability to even remotely slow down Calvin Johnson while he played on a bothersome knee.
So after 10 games, and a critical six game stretch in the schedule looming with major implications, just who is to blame for the struggles of the Cowboys' defense this season?
If you even need to think about this for more than 10 seconds, chances are you haven't been tracking the Cowboys since the completion of last season. The person responsible is none other than Jerry Jones. Yes, that's correct, Mr. Jones.
After last season's 8-8 finish, Jones vowed to make things uncomfortable. He kept true to his word by shaking up the assistant coaching staff, but his biggest move came with the parting of ways with Ryan. Jones and Jason Garrett pegged Kiffin to be the replacement as they were looking for fundamentals over exotic blitz packages.
Kiffin is now dealing with the same rash of injuries that Ryan endured, but even while playing with a healthy unit, opponents are simply having their way with this defense. Receivers have too much room to operate, the linebacker corps has suffered with disappointing play by Bruce Carter and the street free agent defensive line shuffle is starting to get exposed.
But let's focus on the person responsible for all of this. Some people will still blame Kiffin, but there was no way he was going to pass up this job when it was offered to him. After hanging around the college game to support his son Lane, Kiffin was never ever going to pass up a shot at a return to the NFL.
That's why the blame can only be placed on Kiffin so far. Has the game passed him by? Does he have the right personnel? Is it simply time for him to step down? All of these questions are legitimate in nature, but let's face it, there is no Warren Sapp or Derrick Brooks or John Lynch on this team.
The Cowboys simply never had the correct personnel to execute this defense from the beginning. Maybe if the Cowboys had the front four they envisioned and a healthy Tyrone Crawford, we could be having a different conversation, but football is a brutal sport and injuries are imminent.
Last time I checked, Jones is responsible for every facet of this franchise, which includes the football operation. This isn't about second guessing the decision to oust Ryan because you simply can't change it. This is about managing the cap, the roster, the personnel moves and having the vision and foresight to see that you can never have enough talent on either side of the ball.
That's why Jones is responsible. The lack of success and the struggles that exist on the defensive side of the ball are all consequences of the decisions Jerry Jones made from the start of free agency to the draft. Jones hangs his hat too much on having enough talent at starting positions while trying to get cute with depth.
It simply does not work. Yes, Nick Hayden and George Selvie are pleasant and cost effective surprises, but they do not have the ability to change and consistently impact the game. Jones placed too much stock in a defensive line in which he couldn't see the flaws.
DeMarcus Ware was coming off shoulder surgery and already showing signs of breaking down, the Jay Ratliff situation turned into a full-scale debacle and Anthony Spencer's knee should make you wonder if there were missteps there as well.
Remember to keep this one specific detail in mind: The Cowboys used a second-round pick on a tight end to use in more 22 personnel situations. Well, Gavin Escobar has not recorded a catch since the Denver Broncos game. Jones didn't want same old, same old on the offense.
Do the same rules apply to the defense? Anytime you need to think about where to sprinkle blame when it comes to this franchise just remember that the initials of that individual start with the letter J.