Most of us thought it would come much sooner, but change has finally come to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff. Yesterday, the Cowboys announced moves on both offense and defense. For the purposes of this article, we'll look at the defense change. The Cowboys under Garrett have been searching for the right defensive coordinator, and along the way they changed the base defense scheme. Dallas abandoned the 3-4 defense with the departure of Rob Ryan, settling into a 4-3 with the hiring of Monte Kiffin. Now, after one abysmal year stats-wise on defense, the Cowboys have not exactly parted ways with Kiffin, instead choosing to pull the proverbial "kick him upstairs" move. Kiffin is now assistant head coach/defense, a position that sounds much like an in-house consultant. Taking the reins as defensive coordinator is Rod Marinelli. While still coaching the defensive line (somewhat), Marinelli will now be responsible for the entire defense.
I suppose that most of the Cowboys fanbase will treat this as very good news. Kiffin, while well-respected, hadn't fielded a really good defense in a while including his college days. It's been suggested that Kiffin's expertise in a traditional Tampa-2 hasn't translated well to the need for a modified Tampa-2 for the more modern passing game of the NFL today. The common theme was that the game had passed by Kiffin's old scheme, and he wasn't up to adjusting to the new. Maybe it was just injuries, maybe it was combination of both those things. Whatever the truth, Kiffin's unit was historically bad by the end of the year in many stat categories.
The bright spot on defense, though, was the extraordinary coaching job put forth by Marinelli in keeping a serviceable defensive line on the field while dealing with the most disproportionate number of injuries that I can remember for one position group. It was nothing less than a miracle that the Cowboys defensive line was able to play at a passable level, and the job done with George Selvie is of particular note.
But the real, overwhelming good news from this move is that under Marinelli, the Bears defense had some outstanding years. If he can work that same magic in Dallas, the Cowboys will be greatly improved. Dallas will still run the same basic defense under Marinelli as they did under Kiffin, so there will be very little change in the move.
There is still one thing that could rain on the Marinelli Parade, and that's injuries. For two straight years the Cowboys defense has been devestated by injury, if it happens this season the way it has the past two, not even Marinelli will be able to save it.