Dallas Cowboys: Oregon Ducks



Monte Kiffin’s worst nightmare came true: He’ll have to face Chip Kelly’s offense twice per season now.

Kelly, who was hired Wednesday as the Philadelphia Eagles' head coach, schooled the 72-year-old Kiffin in the college game. Kelly’s Oregon offenses averaged 601 yards and 50 points against Kiffin’s USC defenses, with the Ducks winning two of those three games.

Kiffin simply never figured out how to stop Kelly’s zone-read-intensive spread offense. The most humiliating USC-Oregon matchup for Kiffin was the last time they met, when the Ducks rolled up 730 yards in a 62-51 Oregon win in November.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota had 400 total yards in that game, completing 20-of-23 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 96 yards on 15 carries. Oregon running back Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns on 38 carries.

Sure, the Cowboys have a heck of a lot better defensive personnel than USC did. But you don’t reckon that LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, among other Philadelphia offensive players, would look pretty good in those wild Oregon uniforms?

Oh, and Oregon isn’t the only zone-read spread team that lit up Kiffin’s defense last season. Unranked Arizona racked up 588 yards in a 39-36 upset over USC, when the Wildcats had a 350-yard passer, a 250-yard receiver and two 100-yard rushers. The Trojans weren’t at a talent disadvantage in that game.

It remains to be seen how much zone read the Eagles will run under Kelly. That will likely be determined in large part by whether he keeps Michael Vick – and whether Vick can stay healthy – or goes with Nick Foles as quarterback.

There’s little doubt, however, that the Eagles will feature a fast-paced offense. The Patriots, who picked Kelly’s brain and borrowed heavily from his system, had the NFL’s fastest average snap time at 24.9 seconds last season, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Oregon’s average snap time last season was 20.9 seconds.

Even if the Eagles don’t run much zone read, the Cowboys better get ready for it.

It’s a staple for the team they’re chasing in the NFC East, the Washington Redskins, although Robert Griffin III’s serious knee injury could certainly slow that down. Same with the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton. The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, a couple of teams that look like contenders for years to come, also run some zone read with electrifying young quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. And there are more of those dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks coming up through the college ranks.

The NFL game has changed since Kiffin’s legendary tenure with Tampa Bay. Unfortunately for him, it’s starting to look a lot like those Pac-12 teams that gave him so many problems.

Does Monte Kiffin make sense for Cowboys?

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
12:50
PM ET


Monte Kiffin is the leading candidate to become the Cowboys’ next defensive coordinator, ESPN’s Ed Werder reports.

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Ed Werder discusses the Cowboys coaching changes with Ben and Skin. Werder says that Monte Kiffin is the best choice to replace Rob Ryan, next season's offensive playcaller is up in the air and Jason Garrett has been destabilized.

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Would that be a wise move?

The 72-year-old Kiffin, credited as the inventor of the famed “Tampa Two” 4-3 scheme, earned a reputation as one of the legendary defensive coordinators in NFL history during his 13-year tenure with the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay ranked among the NFL’s top 10 in scoring defense 11 times and total defense 12 times under Kiffin. The Bucs were top five in both categories six times, including a double No. 1 overall rank during their Super Bowl championship season.

You won’t find many NFL defensive coordinators with more impressive resumes. However, the Tampa Two zone would be a curious scheme fit for a franchise that made two major investments in press-man corners last offseason, giving Brandon Carr a five-year, $50.1 million deal and trading up to draft Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick.

And Kiffin didn't enjoy nearly as much success during his foray into college football to coach on his son Lane’s staffs at Tennessee and USC. In fact, Kiffin’s last season at USC was awful.

The Trojans became the first team in 48 seasons to go from being No. 1 in the preseason polls to unranked at the end of the season. USC finished the season 7-6, losing five of its final six games, a skid that started when Kiffin’s defense allowed 39 points to Arizona and 62 points to Oregon. USC ranked 40th in the nation in scoring defense (24.3 points per game) and 60th in total defense (394.0).

Oregon’s dominance of Kiffin’s defense is especially alarming. The Ducks racked up 730 total yards in their win at Los Angeles Coliseum, with running back Kenjon Barner rushing for 321 yards and five touchdowns.

Chip Kelly stayed at Oregon instead of taking the Eagles’ job, but the Cowboys will still have to face a team that runs a lot of zone read out of the spread twice per season, assuming Robert Griffin III recovers from his serious knee injury. The Redskins just so happen to be the team that ended the Cowboys' season and could dominate the division for the next decade.

How can the Cowboys be confident that Kiffin can help them catch up with the Redskins?

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