Loyalty is a great virtue - as long as it is directed towards you and not someone else.
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys benefited from the loyalty Rod Marinelli felt for Lovie Smith. When Smith was fired as the head coach of the Chicago Bears (despite a 10 win season), Marinelli declined to remain with da Bears as defensive coordinator. He chose instead to come to Dallas to join his old friend and co-worker, Monte Kiffin, giving the Cowboys what was widely seen as a two-for-one hire. Through the 2013 season, Marinelli managed to create at least the semblance of an NFL defensive line out of a constantly changing collection of players who couldn't find a job anywhere else in the league. That was a good thing.
Now, after a one-year hiatus to collect the $5 million severance money from Chicago, Smith has landed back with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Marinelli has not tried to hide the fact that he would gladly go to rejoin his other friend and boss, especially if Kiffin is not retained by the Cowboys.
With the rather horrid showing put up by Dallas defensively this season, Kiffin's chances for staying seem to be lower than our expectations for integrity in politics. However, the important people (read: Jerry Jones) seem to be impressed with the job that Marinelli did with the motliest of crews. Coming into the offseason, he seems to be the favored candidate to take over as defensive coordinator.
This may have been the plan all along when Dallas signed Marinelli to a two-year contract. If they want him to helm the defense in 2014, they can keep him, giving him the option of being the defensive coordinator, or retiring. He would be unable to take another NFL job until 2015 in that case.
But would he have his heart in it if he was more or less forced to stay and take the job, after Kiffin was booted out by the Cowboys? Would he take the option to retire?
These are things that were likely under discussion Thursday night.
Rod Marinelli is at Valley Ranch tonight presumably talking about his future, be it with the Cowboys or the Bucs. Should know soon.— Jeff Sullivan (@SullyBaldHead) January 3, 2014
If Marinelli is reluctant to replace Kiffin, and the Cowboys are not going to keep Kiffin, then there may be no reason to try and keep him. The only thing you would do by not releasing him to rejoin Lovie Smith would be to keep him out of the game for a year.
Unless you can leverage his release into an advantage. Dallas has several other options it can take, as laid out cogently by Mike Fisher. Leslie Frazier and Jim Schwartz are both out of a job as head coaches, and may be two more examples of great coordinators that are not good at the top spot. Frazier is reputed to be the second choice for Smith if Marinelli is off the market.
And that leads to the speculative part. Jerry Jones loves to make a deal. Right now, he has something of value: Rod Marinelli's rights. They are of value to Lovie Smith, which makes them of value to the Buccaneers. The question is, how much are they worth?
The answer: Whatever Tampa is willing to pay for them.
It is a basic and largely overlooked law of economics: Anything is only worth what someone will pay for it. But if someone wants it badly enough, it can very valuable indeed.
And Tampa Bay has a history of paying for coaches, in the unique currency of the NFL: draft picks. They shipped two first-round picks off to the Oakland Raiders for Jon Gruden, and the payoff was Chuckie taking them to a Super Bowl championship (with some help from people like Kiffin, Marinelli, Mike Tomlin and Rich Bisaccia on his staff). They gave up four picks plus a bunch of cash, including two first-rounders, for one head coach. So who knows how much they might give up for Marinelli?
The way you find out is to see what they say. In order to speak to Marinelli, the Bucs have to get permission from the Cowboys. Jerry Jones would want to take that call himself, and, as Mike Fisher also noted, he needs to lay out his reasons for wanting to keep Marinelli - and then he should listen.
I think something like this is exactly why there are conflicting reports out about what is going on with the DC job in Tampa Bay. First, word came out that Leslie Frazier was getting the job. Then ESPN had a report that Marinelli was the hire. That quickly got shot down by reports that Dallas had not granted permission for the Bucs to even talk to Marinelli. I think all these various stories came out of what was going on between the two clubs. The lines of communication were already open, and all that was being determined was the price. Word leaked about possibilities, and they were reported as done deals.
There is a wide range of ideas about how much the Bucs would be willing to send to Dallas. Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com floated the idea during his daily podcast of swapping places in the first round, which would give Dallas the seventh overall pick.
If Jones can get anything out of the deal, he should take it. I am not wild about the idea of having a discontented coordinator going through the motions. I am not saying that Marinelli would do less than his best. I am just saying I am not sure about that. And he could opt to retire (or basically sit out a year, the way Smith did after Chicago fired him), leaving the Cowboys nothing but a burning need for one of the available coordinators. If Frazier is in the mix, there could also be discussions going on with both teams there.
Anything, even one late-round draft pick, would be a plus for the Cowboys. The team is badly in need of an infusion of talent, with several former stalwarts likely to be gone this year, particularly in the defensive line. Not being on good terms with the NSA, I am not able to find out what Jerry Jones might be discussing on the phone tonight. But I bet it has some bearing on the DC situation here and in Tampa. We'll never know for sure what was brought up.
But it is always fun to guess.
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