The smaller the lead, the less likely Kiffin's defense is to give it up -- Associated Press/Tony Gutierrez

Kiffin in the Fourth Quarter


I had a conversation with fellow Landry Hat writer, Mike Burke, around the cracker barrel about Monte Kiffin’s defense versus Rob Ryan’s. Mike Burke’s allegation was that Kiffin’s defenses will hold on to leads by remaining aggressive or being even more aggressive to force offensive mistakes, unlike Rob Ryan’s bend and don’t break defense. Although I already have a bias against Rob Ryan’s defenses after having done my monumental fourth quarter research on Romo, which showed Rob Ryan’s Cowboys defenses were among the worst in league history in surrendering 4th quarter leads, I decided to research the matter nonetheless.

The following is all of Monte Kiffin’s losses in Tampa Bay. The bolded portions are where his defense gave up fourth quarter lead. The margin is to the right of the season totals:

 

MONTE KIFFIN

1996 – GB, @DET, @DEN, SEA, DET, @CRD, @GB, @CHI, @CAR, @MIN 3,10

1997 – @GB, DET, MIN, @CHI, GB, NYJ, GB

1998 – MIN, @GB, @DET, @NO, @TEN, @JAX, DET, @WAS 4, 9

1999 – NYG, @MIN, @GB, @DET, @RAI, @RAM 4, 1

2000 - NYJ, @WAS, @MIN, DET, @CHI, @GB, @PHI 11, 3

2001 - @MIN, @TEN, PIT, @GB, CHI, @CHI, PHI, @PHI 3, 10

2002 – NO, PHI, @NO, PIT

2003 – CAR, CLT, @SF, NO, @CAR, GB, @JAX, ATL, @TEN 21, 4

2004 – @WAS, SEA, @RAI, DEN, @RAM, @ATL, @CAR, @SD, NO, CAR, @CRD 10, 1

2005 – @NYJ, @SF, CAR, CHI, @NE, WAS

2006 – BAL, @ATL, CAR, @NO, @NYG, NO, @CAR, @DAL, @PIT, ATL, @CHI, SEA 1, 4

2007 – @SEA, @CLT, @DET, JAX, @HOU, @SF, CAR 6

2008 - @NO, @DEN, @DAL, @CAR, @ATL, SD, RAI 3, 4, 10

 

As you can see, out of the 101 losses under Monte Kiffin, only 20 of them were due to blown fourth quarter leads. So 19.8% of the losses in Tampa Bay from 1996-2008 were due to Kiffin’s defense giving up a lead with a point average of 6.1. That means Kiffin’s defense blowing a lead cost the Buccaneers 1.5 games annually. Here’s a breakdown of the lead margins:

 

1-3 points: 7

4-9 points: 7

10+ points: 5

How does this all compare to the Cowboys’ most recent defensive coordinator?

 

ROB RYAN

2004 – @PIT, @HOU, @CLT, DEN, NO, @SD, SD, KC, @ATL, @KC, JAX 3, 3

2005 – @NE, KC, @PHI, SD, @KC, DEN, MIA, @SD, @NYJ, CLE, @DEN, NYG 3, 1

2006 – SD, @BAL, CLE, @SF, @DEN, @SEA, DEN, @KC, @SD, HOU, CIN, RAM, KC, @NYJ 6, 3, 7

2007 - DET, @DEN, @SD, KC, @TEN, HOU, CHI, @MIN, @GB, CLT, @JAX, SD 1, 3, 1, 3, 1

2008 – DEN, @BUF, SD, @NO, @BAL, ATL, CAR, @MIA, KC, @SD, NE 9, 12, 1

2009 – MIN, @DEN, @BAL, CIN, @PIT, GB, @CHI, BAL, @DET, @CIN, SD 6, 6

2010 - @TB, KC, @BAL, ATL, @PIT, NYJ, @JAX, @BUF, @CIN, BAL, PIT 4, 1, 3, 7

2011 - @NYJ, DET, @NE, @PHI, @CRD, NYG, PHI, @NYG 14, 13, 3, 7, 12

2012 – @SEA, CHI, @BAL, NYG, @ATL, WAS, NO, @WAS 1

 

27/98 = 27.6% of losses due to blown 4th quarter leads

Point average: 5

Average games per season lost by defense blowing leads: 3

Good gosh! Look at that: Rob Ryan has had another incident where his defense gave up five fourth quarter leads en route to a loss. As we’ve seen, that’s got to be a league record. Here’s his point margin breakdown:

 

1-3 points: 15

4-9 points: 8

10+ points: 4

 

Kiffin and Rob Ryan are comparable when it comes to giving up leads of 4-9 points and leads of 10+ points. In fact, Peyton Manning’s Monday Night Miracle from 2003 happened under Kiffin’s watch. But where Kiffin separates himself from Rob Ryan is in the 1-3 points department. Kiffin gave up only half as many leads. The most Kiffin ever gave up in a season was three, in 2008, his final year in Tampa Bay. Kiffin also has years where his defense never gave up a fourth quarter lead: 1997, 2002, and 2005. 2012 was the only year where Rob Ryan’s defense didn’t give up multiple fourth quarter leads in the season.

 

Another thing I did was look at how both coordinators’ defenses performed in overtime. First, Monte Kiffin:

 

2008: 2-1 (In ATL game, defense played 1; in KC game, defense never played; in CHI game, defense played 1+)
2006: 0-1 (In CHI game, defense played 1+)
2005: 1-0 (In ATL game, defense played 1+)
2003: 0-2 (In CLT game, defense played 1; played 1+ in CAR game)
2002: 0-1 (In NO game, defense never played)
2001: 1-1 (In TEN game, defense played 1; in CIN game, defense forced fumble)
2000: 0-2 (In WAS game, defense played 1+; in GB game, defense played 1)

Overtime: 4-8

When defense doesn’t play: 1-1

When defense plays 1 possession: 1-4

When defense plays 1+ possessions: 2-3

 

Here’s how Rob Ryan compares:

2012: 2-1 (In CLE game, defense played 1; in PIT game, defense played 1; in NO game, defense played 1)
2011: 2-1 (In SF game, defense played 1; in WAS game, defense played 1; in CRD game, defense played 1)
2010: 0-1 (In NYJ game, defense played 1+)
2009: 0-1 (In CIN game, defense played 1+)
2008: 1-0 (In NYJ game, defense played 1+)
2007: 0-1 (In DEN game, defense played 1+)

 

Overtime: 5-5

When defense doesn’t play: N/A

When defense plays 1 possession: 3-2

When defense plays 1+ possessions: 1-3

 

You’ll notice that Rob Ryan’s defenses only played 1 possession in overtime when Romo was the quarterback. Also, you’ll notice that Monte Kiffin’s teams have a better record when taking the field multiple times in overtime compared to Rob Ryan’s.

According to the numbers, Kiffin’s defense should be able to hold on to the stingiest of leads. The 21-point meltdown against Peyton Manning skews the averages. Without that, Kiffin’s points given up drops to 5.3, and the largest loss his defense would have given up would have been 11, a margin that all four of Rob Ryan’s 10+ margins have exceeded.

Here’s how Rob Ryan and Monte Kiffin compare to the rest of the Dallas defense coordinators going back to 2000:

 

MIKE ZIMMER

2000 – PHI, @CRD, SF, @NYG, JAX, @PHI, @BAL, MIN, @TB, NYG, TEN 8, 1, 10, 6

2001 - TB, SD, @PHI, @RAI, @NYG, @ATL, PHI, DEN, @SEA, @CRD, @DET 3, 10, 3, 1

2002 – @HOU, @PHI, NYG, @CRD, SEA, @DET, @CLT, SF, PHI, @WAS 3, 1, 10

2003 – ATL, @TB, @NE, MIA, @PHI, @NO, @CAR

2004 – @MIN, NYG, PIT, @CIN, @GB, @BAL NO, @PHI, @NYG 10, 1, 9

2005 - WAS, @RAI, @SEA, DEN, @WAS, RAM 13, 7

2006 – @JAX, @PHI, NYG, @WAS, NO, PHI, DET, @SEA 7, 1, 7

 

19/65 = 29.2% of losses due to blown 4th quarter leads

2.7 games a year blown by defense

Point average: 5.8

1-3 points: 8

4-9 points: 6

10+ points: 5

 

2005: 1-1 (In NYG game, defense never played; in DEN game, defense had 1)

2003: 1-0 (In NYG game, defense played 1)

2002: 0-1 (In CRD game, defense played 1+)

2001: 0-1 (In NYG game, defense played 1)

2000: 1-2 (In CAR game, defense never played; in JAX game, defense played 1; in PHI game, defense played 1+)

 

Overtime: 3-5

When defense doesn’t play: 2-0

When defense plays 1 possession: 2-2

When defense plays 1+ possession: 0-2

 

BRIAN STEWART

2007 – NE, PHI, @WAS, NYG 3

2008 – WAS, @CRD, @RAM, @NYG, @PIT, BAL, @PHI 10

2/11 = 18.2% of losses due to blown 4th quarter leads

1 game a year blown by defense

Point average: 6.5

2008 – 0-1 (In CRD game, defense never played)

 

WADE PHILLIPS / PAUL PASQUALONI

2009 - NYG, @DEN, @GB, @NYG, SD, MIN 4, 3

2010 – @WAS, CHI, TEN, @MIN, NYG, JAX, @GB, NO, PHI, @CRD 4, 3, 2

5/15 = 33.3% of losses due to blown 4th quarter leads

2.5 games a year blown by defense

Point average: 3.2

1-3 points: 3

4-9 points: 2

10+ points: 0

2010: 1-0 (In CLT game, defense played 1+)

2009: 1-0 (In KC game, defense played 1+)

Overtime: 2-0

 

OVERALL 2000-10

26/91 = 28.6% of losses due to blown 4th quarter leads

2.3 games a year blown by defense

Point average: 5.3

1-3 points: 12

4-9 points: 8

10+ points: 5

 

Overtime: 5-6

When defense doesn’t play: 2-1

When defense plays 1 possession: 1-3

When defense plays 1+ possessions: 2-2

 

Among defensive coordinators, Mike Zimmer is the only one whose defense didn’t give up a fourth quarter lead, as reflected in the 2003 campaign. Dallas made the playoffs that year, just as Kiffin’s ’97, ’02, and ’05 teams were playoff worthy. Cowboys defenses gave up 6 more fourth quarter leads in 10 less games than Kiffin’s Buccaneers. The Cowboys had a point average of 5.3, which is what Kiffin’s would have been if not for the 2003 Monday Night Miracle. Overall, Kiffin’s defense only gave up 1.5 leads a season compared to the Cowboys’ 2.3 a season. But the contrast that jumps out is the 1-3 point margin. Kiffin only gave up 7 of those games in his entire 13-season Tampa Bay tenure. Poor ol’ Mike Zimmer had given up 8 in over half the time.

That’s where the games have to be won. If Kiffin’s defenses can protect the smallest of leads, presuming Romo and the offense is playing to form, the Cowboys should be able to avoid the comebacks they’ve had to mount just to be relevant in Week 17.

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