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Cowboys Defense: Monte Kiffin Digging In

The embattled defensive coordinator for the Cowboys is only focused on doing better.

Monte Kiffn is Jerry Jones' man for now.
Monte Kiffn is Jerry Jones' man for now.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

After last season, the Dallas Cowboys parted ways with Rob Ryan after a poor performance by the defense. Now, with things going at least as badly this season as they did last year, there are many calling for the team to cut ties with Monte Kiffin, who was brought in to install the 4-3. The push is for the reins of the defense be turned over to Rod Marinelli.

For the remainder of this season, at least, that looks highly unlikely. And making a change after the season, either firing Kiffin and promoting Marinelli, or cleaning house completely on that side of the line of scrimmage, makes little sense.

Kiffin addressed the situation this week as the team is still licking its wounds from the bashing by the Bears.

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin isn't leaving.

"Not really," Kiffin said. "I don't think so. Hadn't really thought about that. I would say that would be kind of like a player, 'Let's throw it in, let's throw in the towel.' Like telling your players, 'Don't play that hard anymore. Let's give it up.' It ain't happening."

Head coach Jason Garrett agrees.

It was interesting to hear coach Jason Garrett say he doesn't expect any structural changes within the defensive coaching staff. On offense, Garrett moved quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson to the press box so he could relay the play calls of Bill Callahan to Tony Romo to help with the communication.

Garrett said a potential change, such as moving Kiffin to the field or switching defensive-line coach Rod Marinelli to the press box, isn't happening.

The theme continues that the problem here is not the scheme as much as it is the lack of talent on the field, both due to injuries and not acquiring enough good players. Despite that, it seems clear that Kiffin still takes personal responsibility for not doing enough with what he has. He is showing a determination to do better to help the team with trying to make the playoffs by winning the final three games of the season.

Despite what happened in the cold of Chicago, the Cowboys are still very much alive. And with a chance of facing backup quarterbacks the next two games, there is an opportunity for redemption here.

Besides, it is almost certain Marinelli would strongly resist any attempt to put him in charge. His loyalty to the people he works for is why he wound up working for Kiffin in the first place. If he was not willing to stay in Chicago when Lovie Smith was fired, it is hard to imagine him agreeing to step in if the man he came to Dallas to work with was pushed out. They are going to be handling the defense the best way they can until the season ends, however it turns out.

If things do not turn out well for Dallas and they miss the playoffs, it is fairly predictable that calls will come from many directions for Jerry Jones to dump Kiffin and Marinelli and go with someone else. But I think that would be unwise. It would basically mean starting over again. Continuity is important in building a successful NFL program. The team is still learning the new system, and based on past history it is not expected to get things fully up to speed until midway through 2014 or later.

To fix things, really fix them, the Cowboys need an infusion of better players. They should get some help from injured players who hopefully will return next year, but the team needs to go and get a lot of defensive help in the draft. KD Drummond took a long and perceptive look at what the team could do, and one of the things he covers is that Dallas should be sitting on a lot of draft picks. Many of them are late round, but the team has a history of finding players who can contribute with those picks as things are winding down in the draft. They have also done well with UDFA acquisitions in recent years, and seventh-round picks allows the team to go out and get players it likes without having to compete with other teams who might also have an eye on them. Dallas could have as many as seven picks in the last round, as KD laid out, and that could be a tremendous help in bringing in overlooked or small school players who still have something to offer. Given the fact that the offense appears to be in better shape, the 2014 draft should be skewed towards stocking up the defense. It makes more sense to give Kiffin a year to build with a fresh infusion of talent than to bring in someone else who would have to make changes to adapt to their own system in addition to folding in new bodies.

Based on what he has been saying so far, that seems to be the direction that Jerry Jones is headed. It may not please the fans who expect the Cowboys to fix everything right now and win it all. But it is a much more rational approach than trashing large amounts of the coaching staff. KD talked about rebuilding the team by cutting or trading a lot of fading or insufficient players, and he is probably correct in his suggested approach. That would be done much more effectively with a coherent long-term plan. Firing a bunch of coaches and trying to rebuild the staff at the same time would not help that at all. Kiffin and Marinelli should get another season or two before any decisions are made about whether they are the right men to have in their jobs.

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