Time for a change?

Who should be the Cowboys' defensive coordinator?

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    6%
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    5%
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    60%
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    29%

(Total votes: 6,258)

EBERFLUS
MARINELLI

Eberflus offers blend of styles

Archer By Todd Archer
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

I'm on record saying that Monte Kiffin should not return as the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator in 2014.

The Cowboys allowed the most yards in franchise history, saw four quarterbacks throw for 400 yards against them, saw five quarterbacks have four-touchdown games against them and allowed 388 first downs, the most in franchise history. I could add a few more stats, but you get the picture.

It wasn't pretty for Kiffin.

Then why do I want to turn over the defensive coordinator job to somebody on the staff?

Oh, I'm not talking about Rod Marinelli, the defensive line coach. He did a terrific job as the Chicago Bears coordinator under Lovie Smith. He made it work well enough this year with seemingly a new defensive lineman coming in every week. He is a ball coach.

But I'm going with linebackers coach Matt Eberflus as the next coordinator.

He relayed Kiffin's calls into Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Justin Durant and DeVonte Holloman, or whoever was healthy and available to take his calls. He had to deal with a ton of injuries during the year as well, losing Lee, Carter, Durant, Ernie Sims and Holloman. He was able to teach Kyle Wilber to play strongside linebacker on the fly late in the season, and Wilber performed well.

Eberflus has never been a coordinator in the NFL, but that doesn't matter much to me. He was Missouri's defensive coordinator from 2001-08 before joining Rob Ryan as the linebackers coach with the Cleveland Browns.

He followed Ryan to the Cowboys in 2011. The Cowboys made sure he did not leave last year when a couple of teams were seeking permission to speak with him about other vacancies.

To me, Eberflus offers a blend of styles needed in the NFL today.

Kiffin was too stubborn in his zone-coverage principles. When Kiffin took over last year, he told his defenders to study what the Seattle Seahawks did, especially with their corners. The skill level might not be the same, but did the Cowboys secondary play like Seattles?

The Cowboys rarely used a dime package (six defensive backs) all season and did so only because of injuries. They were lit up by quarterbacks of all levels. Quarterbacks completed 64.7 percent of their passes against the Cowboys, which is a ridiculous figure even when the rules favor the offense so much.

Eberflus' experience in a 4-3 defense predates his time with the Cowboys. While at Missouri, he spent time with Lovie Smith when Smith was with the St. Louis Rams. He had to learn a lot from Kiffin and Marinelli as well in 2013. With Ryan, he learned the 3-4 scheme and different packages.

If Ryan went too far with the amount of things he tried to implement and Kiffin did not go far enough, then Eberflus can bring that balance.

Heck, as long as he would bring a dime defense, that would be an upgrade.

Marinelli has proven his value

Watkins By Calvin Watkins
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

If you want to replace Monte Kiffin as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator, there is just one man on the staff capable of making what's a mess of a defense into one of substance: Rod Marinelli.

I know Cowboys fans don't like what they saw from the defense last season and want to blame everyone on the staff.

But Marinelli's defensive line was probably the most productive of all the units. He made something with a bunch of backups who were playing with DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher.

He turned around the careers of George Selvie and Nick Hayden, who were left on the NFL scrap heap. Marinelli saw potential and turned them into viable starters. Selvie finished second on the team in sacks and Hayden moved into the one-technique role of challenging centers and guards on a weekly basis. The Hayden move allowed Hatcher to have a career year as the three-technique role that was designed for Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, who was the soul of the defensive line all those years in Tampa Bay.

Injuries hampered the defensive line in 2013, forcing Marinelli to use a rotation of unknown players, such as Everette Brown, Drake Nevis, Jarius Wynn and Corvey Irvin.

Marinelli brought a toughness to the group from the moment he arrived at Valley Ranch. He changed the name of the defensive line room to Rushmen because they were the key to forcing turnovers. Marinelli wanted his linemen to pressure the quarterback, forcing hurried throws so the secondary and linebackers could make plays on the ball.

Sean Lee, the middle linebacker, had a team-leading four interceptions during the season. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick, two interceptions and 13 pass breakups, had his best year as a pro, taking a starting job away from former first-round pick Morris Claiborne.

Marinelli's value with the Cowboys is so great that the team wont allow him out of his contract for any reason, unless he was going to be a head coach and they would have no other choice but to do so.

His track record of success as a defensive coordinator is evidenced by three solid seasons in Chicago. His defenses finished ninth, 17th and fifth in total defense and fourth, 14th and third in points allowed. In 2012, the Bears' defense led the NFL in takeaways with 44.

If Marinelli is running the entire unit, things will improve for the Cowboys. And with head coach Jason Garrett entering the final year of his contract, a sense of urgency is important.

If the Cowboys decide to go with a new defensive coordinator, Marinelli is the right choice.

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