In hindsight ...
When will we see Kiffin's greatness?
At the end of last season, Jerry Jones pointed out a Week 2 loss at Seattle as the beginning of the end for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
While coach Jason Garrett loved Ryan, Jones didn't, at least his football way of doing things.
There were too many not-enough-men-on-the-field issues and complex schemes where if the offense did this, you did that. Despite many injuries, the Cowboys finished 19th in total defense, 19th against the pass and 22nd against the run.
Jones got rid of Ryan and hired Monte Kiffin, a veteran of more than 20 years, and asked him to convert the defense from a 3-4 scheme to his famed Tampa 2 4-3 alignment.
So ask me where the Cowboys are from a defensive standpoint after nine weeks? No better than they would be with Ryan.
As of today, the Cowboys rank next to last in total defense and against the pass. The rushing defense is 25th overall.
Kiffin has dealt with numerous injuries this season, much like Ryan last season. He's lost defensive end DeMarcus Ware for three games, didn't have projected starting defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and used end Anthony Spencer for only one game before his knee needed to be surgically repaired.
In the secondary, veteran Will Allen was benched and eventually cut. His replacement, rookie J.J. Wilcox, took over and then hurt his knee in practice. Starting corner Morris Claiborne injured his shoulder and lost his starting job to Orlando Scandrick.
Carter is confused about his role, not sure if he's starting or sitting.
Of course, that's how the Cowboys' defense has looked at times in 2013. They've allowed an NFL-record four quarterbacks to throw for at least 400 yards. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson caught 14 passes for a 329 yards, the second-best day for a player at his position in league history.
Kiffin, in his whisper of a voice, is trying to solve these problems. He's got a wonderful veteran coach in Rod Marinelli, who is doing wonders for the defensive line.
The players like the other coaches on the defense, but when you give up 20 consecutive points to the San Diego Chargers, then 51 to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos and follow that up with 24 points allowed in the fourth quarter to Detroit, you begin to wonder about things.
This isn't to say Ryan is the greatest defensive coach in league history, but at some point you're waiting for Kiffin's greatness to show up.
Ryan's scheme didn't work in Dallas
Knowing what we knew in January, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett made the right move in not bringing back Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator in 2013. Knowing what we know now, I still think it was the right move.
Injuries have hurt the Cowboys this year, especially on the defensive line. So has the less-than-stellar play of two cornerstone players like Bruce Carter and Morris Claiborne. But Ryan's second and final season as the coordinator here was also racked by injuries. He didn't have Sean Lee, Carter, Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff, Orlando Scandrick and Barry Church for most of the season and had a one-armed DeMarcus Ware at the end of the season.
If Ryan could not be excused for injury, then that can't be used as an excuse for Monte Kiffin.
Why I think the Cowboys made the right move in moving on from Ryan has more to do with his scheme and organization.
In his first year, Ryan brought in all of these exotic looks and the Cowboys' players just could not pull them off. They were thinking too much. He wanted to be the genius and get that much sought-after head-coaching gig.
In his second year, he scaled back the defense, but the players were still out of position. Calls from the sideline were late. Players were confused. How many 12-men-on-the-field penalties did the Cowboys have?
Ryan's penalty at Cincinnati in which he engaged with right tackle Andre Smith in some not-so-friendly trash talk was over the top. He had lost his poise. That just can't happen. Coaches have to remain calm at all times. At least at crucial times.
Players loved playing for Ryan. They have at every stop he's had. But some also wondered if he was just trying to outsmart everybody to show his genius rather than being simple.
Maybe he has scaled it back in New Orleans. Maybe his ego took a hit. Maybe Sean Payton is on him more. He is having success in New Orleans. Good for him. But it wasn't going to work here.
Thankfully this question has nothing to do with Kiffin. The Cowboys felt they had the pieces in place to make the move to the 4-3 this season and the assimilation would not take too long. After nine games, the Cowboys are 31st in yards allowed per game. I'm sure Ryan is smiling somewhere in the French Quarter about that.