- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – Of all of the introductions to the Cowboys’ assistant coaches Thursday, the most impressive was defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.
Some might find that strange considering Marinelli was the head coach in Detroit when the Lions went 0-16, but there is no doubt in my mind that Marinelli is the key defensive hire.
There was almost a sense that Monte Kiffin and Marinelli are in reality co-coordinators, even if Marinelli carries just the defensive line designation. With the departure of Jimmy Robinson to a consultant role, the assistant head coach title is now open.
“He’s something now,” Kiffin said of Marinelli. “He’s an icon now. Believe it.”
Tampa Bay’s run to the Super Bowl under Jon Gruden was forged by its defense, led by Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber. On Thursday, Kiffin mentioned Marinelli’s work with guys like Greg Spires and Chartric Darby, castoffs from other teams turned key players with the Buccaneers.
“You can ask any of those guys ... when you come to work, you had better bring a lunch pail with Rod Marinelli,” Kiffin said. “And like Rod says, and we all say it, it starts up front. 'You get a hard hat, let’s go! Get after that quarterback, OK?' ”
Kiffin and Marinelli were together for 10 years in Tampa Bay. The chance to reunite with the Cowboys was something Marinelli couldn’t pass up.
“There’s a bond and a floor, I should say, of a belief that there’s no compromise on, and we understand that,” Marinelli said. “There are things maybe you do differently here and there over the course of the year. But that foundation, the fundamentals of what we do, is the core belief for us, that kind of unites us. That’s why I wanted to be a part of this and be back with him.”