Since the January 16th firing of defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, the Dallas Cowboys have yet to stir up any speculation as to who his replacement may be. Nearly a month later we can at least begin to crank up the rumor mill. ESPN's John Clayton is reporting that the team could possibly be interested in recently fired Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Clayton's report does not suggest that the Cowboys have reached out to Pendergast, but his Cowboys connection at least makes sense.
Pendergast, as you all may know, is no stranger to Valley Ranch. The 41-year-old coach spent seven seasons in Dallas (1996-2002). From 1996-1999 he held the title of defensive assistant/quality control/linebackers coach. In 2000 he took over nickel responsibilities before becoming defensive backs coach in 2001 and 2002. Although Roy Williams may have recently talked his way out of town, Pendergast is said to have been instrumental in his development early on.
A Pendergast hire would be interesting because of the creativity that he brings to the table. In his five seasons as Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator, Pendergast has developed a reputation for his mixed fronts and deceptive blitz schemes. The Cardinals defensive unit finished 19th in the league in total defense, but played well in the secondary despite average pass rush personnel. Pendergast's history of developing young talent in the defensive backfield may in fact be what makes him most intriguing. In an era of impact safeties, Pendergast has been ahead of the curve. Adrian Wilson is a special athlete, but Pendergast's scheme has allowed him to roam and make big plays all over the field. Roy Williams has never gotten his forever promised "freedom to roam", and Pendergast may be the one guy who could get some production out of him if he is retained.
The real question here is how hands-on will Wade Phillips be with this defense going forward. If Jerry Jones insists on Wade calling all the plays, then the Cowboys may be better suited by finding a more green positional coach who can learn the ropes under Phillips' guidance. However, if the Cowboys new defensive coordinator is going to be a real defensive coordinator, then a creative guy like Pendergast would be a great guy to pair with Wade Phillips. If the two were to collaborate, they ought to cook up some pretty exotic and unpredictable looks. We should see a sprinkling in of a true 4-3, and some more of Wade's 46 defense. Most importantly, the heat would keep coming, as both guys are quite fond of the blitz.
Clayton also mentioned former Cowboy assistants Todd Bowles and Paul Pasquoloni as possible candidates.