Dallas Cowboys: Greg Manusky

IRVING, Texas -- Statistically, Rob Ryan’s first season with the Cowboys was an improvement from what the defense did in 2010.

When the defense was as bad as it was in 2010 that’s not exactly saying much.

The Cowboys were ranked 23rd in yards and 31st in points in 2010. They finished 14th in yards and 16th in points in 2011.

Again, it was better but not good enough.

Much has been made about the lack of an offseason together because of the lockout. Maybe Ryan wasn’t able to institute his full plan or do it the way he would have with a full complement of organized team activities and mini-camps but the lack of offseason work is too much of an excuse.

Wade Phillips took over a defense that finished 30th in yard and 29th in points in Houston in 2010 and turned it into the second- and fourth-ranked defense in yards and points.

Vic Fangio, whom Jason Garrett interviewed for the coordinator gig before Ryan, took over a San Francisco defense that finished 13th (yards) and 16th (points) in 2010 and the Niners improved to fourth and second in 2011.

Dick Jauron took Ryan’s job in Cleveland and the Browns went from 22nd in yards and 13th in points in 2010 to 10th in yards and fifth in points in 2011.

For as bad as everybody thought Juan Castillo did in Philadelphia this year, the Eagles were eighth in yards allowed and 10th in points a year after they were 12th and 22nd.

Of the 12 new coordinators in 2011, only three did not improve the numbers from 2010 to ’11 and one was San Diego’s Greg Manusky, who also interviewed with Garrett. The Chargers were first in yards and 10th in points in 2010 and were 16th and 22nd in 2011. The other two drops happened in Carolina and Minnesota.

Report: Greg Manusky headed to Chargers

January, 13, 2011
It looks like the Dallas Cowboys' search for a defensive coordinator suffered another setback, with one of the candidates apparently deciding to take the same position with the San Diego Chargers.

Greg Manusky, who interviewed with the Cowboys on Wednesday, will instead head to the Chargers, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. However, the deal isn't finalized.

Vic Fangio also met with Cowboys officials, but it appears he's leaning toward the San Francisco 49ers.

Miami Dolphins assistant coach Todd Bowles spoke to the Cowboys last week about their head coaching position before it was given to Jason Garrett. But Bowles hasn't been invited back despite being a defensive coach and knowing the Cowboys personnel, having coached here for a few years. The Cowboys would need permission again from the Dolphins to interview for the defensive coordinators position based on league rules.

Thursday, Paul Pasqualoni, who finished the season as Dallas defensive coordinator, left to become the head coach at the University of Connecticut.

There are two veteran coaches experienced in the 3-4 scheme who are available in Rob Ryan and Eric Mangini, but whether the Cowboys reach out to them is uncertain.

Todd Grantham, who is the defensive coordinator at Georgia, is a former Cowboys defensive line coach. He could come into play as well.

Next DC candidate: 49ers' Greg Manusky

January, 12, 2011
San Francisco defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is scheduled to visit Valley Ranch today to speak with coach Jason Garrett about the Cowboys' job opening.

Manusky has been the 49ers' defensive coordinator the last four seasons. Last year, the 49ers' defense finished 13th overall. The last three seasons, Manusky's defense has finished no higher than 13th. It finished 15th in 2009.

Manusky has become a hot coach because of his skills to teach the 3-4 defense. He interviewed with Arizona on Tuesday and is expected to get a look in San Diego.

The Cowboys have also talked to Vic Fangio, but he's expected to take over in San Francisco for new coach Jim Harbaugh. Fangio worked for Harbaugh at Stanford.

As for Manusky, the Cowboys tried to hire him from San Diego in 2007, but he couldn't get out of his contract.

With Harbaugh trying to hire his own staff, he's given Manusky permission to seek other jobs despite being under contract with the 49ers.

Coordinator candidates' turnover records

January, 11, 2011
The most important statistic in the NFL, other than points, is turnovers. Jason Garrett has stressed that constantly since taking over as the Cowboys’ head coach.

It’s logical to believe that the ability to create turnovers will be heavily considered in Garrett’s search for a defensive coordinator.

That search so far includes three known coaches with experience as NFL defensive coordinators. Vic Fangio, Greg Manusky and Paul Pasqualoni all have mixed results in the turnover department.

Fangio’s Carolina defense ranked fifth in the league in turnovers each of his first two seasons as a coordinator, creating a combined 75 takeaways in 1995 and 1996. But his defenses ranked in the top 10 in turnovers only once in his other nine seasons as a coordinator, which included stints in Carolina through 1998, in Indianapolis from 1999 to 2001 and in Houston for the Texans’ first four seasons from 2002 to 2005. Those defenses ranked in the NFL’s bottom third in turnovers seven times, including dead last during Fangio and Dom Capers’ last season in Houston.

Manusky’s defenses ranked in the bottom five in turnovers in three of his four seasons as San Francisco’s coordinator. The 49ers had a turnover spike in 2009, when they forced 33, tied for the fifth most in the league.

Pasqualoni has the least NFL defensive coordinator experience of the trio with two and a half seasons. The Dolphins tied for fifth in the league with 30 turnovers forced in 2008 then dropped all the way down to tied for 27th with 21 the next season. Pasqualoni couldn’t fix many of the flaws with the Cowboys defense he took over in midseason, but he did figure out a way to force 20 turnovers in eight games, a rate that would have led the league.

New DC must fix recent first-round picks

January, 11, 2011
It won’t matter how smart the defensive coordinator Jason Garrett hires is if he can’t cure whatever ails the Cowboys’ recent first-round picks on that side of the ball.

Wade Phillips didn’t suddenly become an X’s and O’s idiot last season. Phillips had a ton of success using the same scheme in which the Cowboys struggled miserably in the first half of the season. It’s foolish to think the NFL suddenly caught up with the scheme after all those years, suddenly figuring it out after the Cowboys closed the 2009 regular season with the first back-to-back shutouts in franchise history.

This defense was a disaster because the personnel failed. That’s the simplest explanation for the Cowboys going from the second-ranked scoring defense in the league to second to last in points allowed.

In particular, the drastic regression of outside linebacker Anthony Spencer and cornerback Mike Jenkins destroyed the defense.

There are other holes that need to be filled, specifically at safety and defensive end. But the 2009 Cowboys had an elite defense with average players at those positions in large part because Spencer and Jenkins played up to their first-round potential.

Spencer, who might have been the Cowboys’ most dominant defensive player down the stretch in 2009, had a mediocre season. He disappeared for long stretches and didn’t make nearly enough plays against the run or pass. After showing such promise as a pass-rusher – finishing with eight sacks in the last eight games the previous season, including the playoffs – he had only five sacks in 2010. And it took a pair of sacks against Philadelphia’s backup tackles in the season finale to get that total.

Jenkins had a miserable season after earning a trip to the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2009. According to Stats Inc., receivers caught 54 of the 87 intended for them when Jenkins was covering them. He allowed 935 yards, the second-most in the league. He picked off only one pass, a dropoff from five the previous season. He led the league with six pass interference penalties and was flagged twice for defensive holding and one for illegal contact.

And here’s the ugliest stat of all from Jenkins’ third season: Quarterbacks had a 113.0 passer rating when throwing his way. By comparison, Tom Brady’s 111.0 passer rating was the best in the NFL.

It doesn’t take a ton of football knowledge to figure out that it’s a lot easier for the defensive coordinator if he can count on an outside linebacker to be a beast against the run or produce constant pressure on the passer and a cornerback to consistently cover his man with little or no help. Stars make schemes look good. That’s what’s expected from first-round picks.

Spencer and Jenkins can’t just be considered draft busts. They’ve demonstrated the ability the Cowboys believed they had when they traded up to get Spencer with the 26th overall pick in 2007 and Jenkins with the 25th overall pick in 2008.

That’s why getting the recent first-round picks right needs to be a top priority for the Cowboys’ next defensive coordinator, whether it’s Vic Fangio, Greg Manusky, Paul Pasqualoni, Todd Bowles or somebody else.