December 15, 2017

Behind The Star: The Latest on the Dallas Cowboys

I wasn’t really planning on writing another column about the Cowboys until after free agency had started in March and before the draft in April, but with all of the changes on the coaching staff in the last three weeks I just couldn’t wait to add in my two cents.


Really didn’t believe they needed to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.  Sure his defense hasn’t performed up to standards the last two seasons but you really can’t penalize someone when half of his starting unit was on IR before Week 8.  Think about the injuries Dallas had on defense.  Middle linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter were both lost to toe and elbow injuries respectively. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff was never placed on IR but missed approximately half the season.  Free safety Barry Church missed just about all of the season with an Achilles tear.  Slot Cornerback Orlando Scandrick broke his hand forcing him on IR.  Defensive tackle Josh Brent was of course arrested for manslaughter in the deal of teammate Jerry Brown.  Even the best player on defense this season, linebacker Anthony Spencer, missed two games due to injury.  This doesn’t even take into account that future Hall of Fame linebacker DeMarcus Ware played all season with elbow and shoulder injuries that probably should have landed him on IR also.  I’m not getting on Jerry Jones for firing Ryan, but don’t place the blame at Ryan’s feet either.  Just one of those years where the injury bug reached up and took a big bite.


So who do the Cowboys hire to replace Ryan?  Monte Kiffin, 72 year old, Monte Kiffin.  Really don’t think this hiring makes much sense at all.  Kiffin runs a 4-3/Tampa 2 defense.  Dallas currently has a 3-4 defense.  Obvious problems exist.  Does Dallas have enough lineman to run a 4-3.  Answer, no.  How will Ware do lining up with his hand in the dirt, directly taking on a tackle?  His body is already breaking down.  This can’t be a good thing for him at this point in his career.  Does this mean that Spencer, who has had back to back big seasons, will be let go to free agency?  An even bigger question is how the secondary responds.  Tampa 2 is designed to have two ball hawking safeties play well off the line of scrimmage and take half the field  each.  The idea is to prevent the big play, force teams to dink and dunk.  Why you ask?  It’s hard to have 10+ play drives without making a mistake that short circuits the possession.  Sacks, penalties, or turnovers would theoretically get the ball back to the offense.  Once again the problem is the Cowboys don’t have the correct personnel to run this defense.  Everyone knows the safeties are subpar.  Have been since Darren Woodson retired.  The cornerbacks in this defense are also asked to play more zone than man.  This directly contradicts what Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne do best, play man to man defense.  Doesn’t make much sense when you just paid Carr a boatload of money and traded up in the 2012 draft to get Claiborne.  all of this may not matter if Dallas didn’t have other needs to fill on the team or if they had a ton of cap room, but Dallas also needs to address the offensive line in a big way, and they will be approximately $18-$20 million over the cap heading into free agency.  By the time Dallas is successful in the defense, Kiffin could easily be in his mid 70s.  Once again it looks like Jones wanted a name coach, wanted to make a splash instead of doing what was best for the team.


The good news about the hiring of Kiffin was that Dallas was able to hire Rod Marinelli to coach the defensive line.  Marinelli should instantly make the line better and could also take over the defense if/when Kiffin retires.


On offense Jerry Jones has basically neutered head coach Jason Garrett.  When Jones hired Garrett he stated that he wanted someone who would call their own plays, not wanting a stand around coach.  Well that didn’t work out now did it.  Although Garrett did seem to get better this season in that department it seemed pretty clear that he couldn’t call the plays and run a game at the same time, so those duties will now fall to offensive line coach Bill Callahan.  So let me get this straight.  Jones just gave a promotion to a coach, whose unit was the worst on the team.  So much for accountability.  Jones also forced the ouster of tight ends coach John Garrett, yeah, Jason’s brother.  To recap, he takes away the play calling responsibilities from his head coach, forces the head coaches brother to find employment elsewhere, changes the defense completely, and hires a coach (Marinelli) that could easily be the next head coach of the team.  You can write this in stone, Garrett is as good as gone if the Cowboys don’t win 10+ games or make the playoffs next season.


Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis is also no longer with the team, accepting a similar position with the Bears.  Running backs coach Skip Peete and kicking coach Chris Boniol are gone as well.  Didn’t kicker Dan Bailey just finish off the best two seasons any Cowboy kicker has ever had?  Oh well, maybe this is reverse accountability.  Do your job poorly, Marinelli, you get a promotion, do it well, Boniol, and you are let go.  This seems to be how things go in big D.

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