The coaching news has been coming fast and furiously for NFL teams that are not still involved in actually playing games. Two teams have already hired new coaches, and a lot of people have cleaned out their offices.
Among all this activity, the Dallas Cowboys have been a comparative sea of calmness. Outside of Rich Bisaccia getting calls to interview for head coaching jobs, not much seems to be happening.
There have certainly been attempts to stir things up. For several days, the big question was whether Lovie Smith, the newly hired head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was going to try to get his old defensive coordinator out of Dallas. After some authoritative sounding reports in the national media that Rod Marinelli was the choice to take the job in Tampa, the Bucs hired former Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier for the job. Then word came out during Smith's press conference as the new head coach that the Marinelli hire was nothing more than someone's idle speculation in the first place.
Lovie Smith said he loves Rod Marinelli like a brother but also said "Rod is a Dallas Cowboy." Didn't ask for permission to speak with him
— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) January 6, 2014
Confusing, to say the least. Meanwhile, all indications are that things are proceeding in an orderly fashion as the top leadership of the Cowboys franchise figures out what they want to do about the assistant coaches.
Besides getting another lesson that it is usually wise to pay more attention to what the Dallas beat writers are saying when they have a different message than the national reporters, we may have gotten an indication that Marinelli was always part of the plan for 2014 in Dallas. Whether Smith was basing his comments on personal discussions with Marinelli back when Smith was still unemployed, or just was acknowledging that Marinelli still has a year on his contract with the Cowboys, it seems nearly a given at this point that Marinelli is not going anywhere. Now the Dallas staff just has to figure out how to finesse the Monte Kiffin situation, since mishandling the task of easing him out of his job as the coordinator may be the only thing that could mess up things. I think that the only important consideration for this year is who is actually calling the defense, and perhaps getting Marinelli more in charge of the game plan. This may allow some face saving in keeping Kiffin around, even if his job is one that is more in name only.
Realistically, of course, I think they will ease Kiffin out and turn the reins over to Marinelli. And that may be a good thing, based on this explanation Marinelli gave of how he builds a defensive lineman.
I mentioned that the information from those closer to the Cowboys is often more accurate. Using that principle, I was intrigued by a surprisingly optimistic take on the defensive line from Bryan Broaddus, who was one of those reminding everyone that Marinelli was not going anywhere without permission. He thinks that the team may have more than just a bunch of desperation replacements from the past season. And now they can take the best candidates from a season-long search for players into the offseason to develop.
If there was a bright spot among all the injuries that this defensive front had to endure, it was that they got the opportunity to look at several different combinations at both the tackle and end. This is where I felt like that Rod Marinelli, Leon Lett and the scouting department did their best work. The front office kept bringing in players and these coaches kept coaching them no matter the situation and it appears that in the long run, there might actually be some players that could help with the depth next season.
Let me say that Broaddus is far from a Cowboys cheerleader, even if he does work for DallasCowboys.com. He never blows any sunshine where it doesn't normally shine. In his article, he reinforces the importance of Marinelli's coaching for the future of the Cowboys. And points out the growing role of Leon Lett on the field, and Will McClay in the scouting department.
I am certain things are not settled for the coaching staff in Dallas, but it is starting to look like the changes are not going to be as big and disruptive as many thought. This is not set in stone, of course, and this may be the calm before the storm. But for the moment, it looks like it is just the calm way things are going to proceed this offseason for the Cowboys.