Let's face it; had the flare-up between Jay Ratliff and the Dallas Cowboys not taken place, it is highly unlikely that we would have ever seen Jason Hatcher have the type of season that he is having in 2013. Rather than being the top dog at the three technique, Hatch would have most likely seen action as the Cowboys nose tackle while Ratliff filled the role of the penetrating interior pass rusher. In fact, Monte Kiffin was not even sure that Hatcher could be effective in the three tech slot that seemed tailor-made for the man who was once affectionately known as "Rat". At 6'6" Hatcher was considered too tall to fit what Kiffin and Marinelli wanted from the position.
The probable move inside to fill the one technique position was one that Hatcher did not want to make. Although he later said that the comment was made in jest, Jason was quoted earlier this week as saying "I'm not a nose tackle. I probably would've been asking to be traded or something. I don't like to play the nose." Thankfully we did not have to find out if Hatcher was joking or not.
It was only the lingering doubts about Ratliff that forced the defensive coordinator's hand. With his likely prospect at the three technique on the PUP list, Kiffin turned to the next most likely fit.
"I don’t know if I knew that for sure. If you’re too tall, you don’t fit as a 3-technique. You’re more of a defensive end-type of player. They’re special guys who can do that. He’s one of those guys — and we talked about it. When he first got here, I said, ‘You might want to take a look at him depending upon Ratliff and this and that.’ And it worked out." - Monte Kiffin on being asked if he knew that Hatcher would excel at the three technique
Special player indeed. The absence, and eventual departure, of Jay Ratliff allowed Jason Hatcher the chance to prove what his teammates knew that he was capable of doing.
"I know the way Hatcher has played in the past, he has never had that many opportunities to get out there and make plays, but now he’s out there 24-7. He’s out there playing really well. And he’s sort of defining himself and becoming a great player." - DeMarcus Ware
Twelve games into the 2013 season, Jason Hatcher leads the Cowboys with nine sacks on the season. This already exceeds Ratliff's career best of 7.5 sacks, recorded in 2008. At his current pace, Hatcher will finish the season with 12, which is more than the total number of sacks that Ratliff has recorded since that 2008 career season. As Hatcher has said, "I’m making plays and having a helluva year, so I’ve got to keep it up."
Would Jay Ratliff have been able to revitalize his career in the Cowboys current defensive scheme? Possibly, but we will never know. Looking over the career path that he has been on since 2008, Ratliff appears to have been on the decline over the past few seasons and history tells us that such players generally do not "turn it around". Looking at Hatcher's performance over the same time span we see a man, at basically the same age as Ratliff, whose career is on the upswing. Of course this will likely be Hatcher's "career season", but what a season it has been. Outside of the money that was paid out to Ratliff, the Dallas Cowboys seem to have gotten the better end of the deal.
So what do you think, Blogging The Boys? Did the Jay Ratliff Conundrum lead the Cowboys into playing the better man at the three technique?