Commentary

Monte Kiffin experiment a failure

Cowboys defense is so bad, Jerry Jones is rethinking decision to fire Rob Ryan

Originally Published: November 11, 2013
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

NEW ORLEANS -- When you coach one of the worst defenses in the Dallas Cowboys' illustrious 54-year history, you get fired.

Frankly, letting a spare running back such as Mark Ingram, who entered Sunday night's game with 50 yards rushing this season, gain 145 yards should be a fireable offense.

New Orleans 49, Dallas 17.

FYI: This is Jason Garrett's worst loss as a head coach.

Goodbye, Monte Kiffin.

[+] EnlargePierre Thomas
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsCowboys safety Jeff Heath dives in vain as Pierre Thomas scores on a 1-yard pass play. Dallas allowed a franchise-worst 625 yards, breaking the mark set just two weeks ago against the Lions.

When the season ends and Kiffin's one-year contract expires, it's time for owner/general manager Jerry Jones, Garrett and the franchise to move in another direction defensively.

Again.

Kiffin's defense has been so bad this season, it has Jones rethinking whether he should've fired Rob Ryan.

"We thought that it was best for us to go in that direction, and that doesn't look good right now," Jones said after Sunday's debacle. "It's embarrassing to lose. It's embarrassing to not be representative, not be competitive, all of those things."

What's embarrassing is for Jones to keep making the same dumb reactionary mistakes season after lost season. Firing Ryan would've been fine if Jones truly believed the defense kept the Cowboys from winning more games last season.

But he didn't.

If Dallas had beaten Washington in the final game -- the one in which Tony Romo threw three interceptions -- then Ryan still would be the Cowboys' defensive coordinator.

Jones fired Ryan because he needed a scapegoat for yet another 8-8 season, and he wasn't going to fire himself as GM -- even though every other NFL owner would have done so given Jones' record, poor drafts and lack of playoff success since 1997.

Jones didn't want to fire the coach or get rid of the quarterback. That left one move: Getting rid of the defense, which is why he scrapped Ryan and the 3-4 scheme less than two weeks after the 2012 season ended.

Then he hired Kiffin, a 73-year-old defensive guru who hadn't coached in the NFL since 2008.

Even if it had worked out, Jones' rationale was poor. The decision, however, has been a disaster.

The Cowboys had never allowed more than 600 yards in a game since their inception in 1960 until Kiffin's unit did it twice in the past three games, including a franshise-worst 625 yards by the Saints.

The Cowboys are the first team to allow four 400-yard passers in a single season, and Drew Brees nearly became the fifth, passing for 392 yards and four touchdowns.

By the way, the Saints also set an NFL record with 40 first downs -- the Cowboys ran only 43 plays -- while becoming the first team since 1960, according to pro-football-reference.com, with more than 230 yards rushing and 380 yards passing in the same game.

Here's one final indignity: The Cowboys had allowed 49 points or more only three times in franchise history before this season, and it has happened twice in 2013.

This after what several players called a strong week of preparation. Kiffin said the defense had a walk-through practice in a hotel ballroom earlier Sunday and it went well.

We can only imagine how poorly the defense would've played if the walk-through had been poor.

"It doesn't matter what you do in a ballroom or a walk-through, you better play on Sunday night," Kiffin said. "We didn't coach very well and we didn't play very well.

"We gave up all those yards running and passing -- I don't want to hear about injuries -- that's bad ball. You have to do better than that."

Yes, a multitude of injuries have compromised the Cowboys' raggedy defense.

Everett Dawkins, signed off the two-win Minnesota Vikings' practice squad this week, became the 17th defensive linemen the Cowboys have used this season.

Middle linebacker Sean Lee suffered his annual injury with about 13 minutes left in the second quarter and Cowboys leading 10-7. This year it's a hamstring.

Who knows how long he'll be out.

DeMarcus Ware, struggling with the quadriceps injury that forced him to miss the previous three games, provided little impact, and defensive end Jason Hatcher missed the game with a stinger.

Ryan didn't get to use injuries as an excuse last season, and Kiffin shouldn't get a pass this season.

This defense doesn't stop the run. Or the pass.

New Orleans had nine plays of 20 yards or more and scored on seven of eight possessions from 8:14 in the first quarter until 3:43 in the fourth quarter. It would've been an 8-for-8 stretch, but Garrett Hartley missed a 37-yard field goal.

"We gotta get their confidence back," Kiffin said. "No doubt about it. That's a big part of being a coach."

Good luck.

The Cowboys are playing defense with a bunch of street free agents and rejects from other teams.

Kiffin has two weeks until the Cowboys play the New York Giants to find some answers as they try to win football's worst division. And Jones has until the season ends to figure out who will be the defensive coordinator next season.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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