Rod Marinelli has been coaching football for a very long time. While starting out as a high school coach in the early 1970s, Marinelli then proceeded to coach in college football as a defensive line coach for twenty years. In 1996 Marinelli got his big break and landed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their defensive line coach. In 2002, he was also named assistant head coach in continuation of his trek to earn a head coaching role for himself. On January 18, 2006, Marinelli was named head coach of Detroit Lions, a position he would hold for the 2006-2008 seasons. He went 3-13 (2006), 7-9 (2007), and 0-16 (2008) which was the worst all-time record for an NFL season and ended up costing him his job. Jim Schwartz took over the following season and is still employed with the club. Marinelli landed on his feet and reunited with former Tampa Bay assistant Lovie Smith in Chicago the following season in 2009 in his familiar role of defensive line coach and assistant head coach.
Once the Chicago Bears terminated Smith on 12/31/12, Marinelli’s loyalty to the Bears ended. The Cowboys fired Rob Ryan and a good portion of his staff on January 8, 2013, and then went ahead and brought in Monte Kiffin three days later. A week later the Cowboys were able to convince Marinelli to join up with another former Tampa Bay associate and became a part of the coaching staff in his familiar role of defensive line coach.
While Kiffin’s Tampa Two/Cover Two scheme has been implemented, the defense is still being learned by the players and is a work in process. A true comfort level with the defense should not arrive until year two, so fans should be excited to see how it all comes together next season.
The defense was drawn up with a fearsome foursome on the defensive line. On paper, a line of DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, and Anthony Spencer seemed pretty imposing, and got the organization very excited to see what type of pressure that foursome could put on a quarterback. Unfortunately, this group was never able to see the field together in this new scheme. Jay Ratliff missed the entire season for the team and was waived last week. Anthony Spencer got to play a handful of plays in Week 2 in Kansas City before being placed on the season ending injured reserve. DeMarcus Ware was healthy for three games before injuries started to crop up in Week 4 in San Diego. Hatcher has been the only healthy & consistent player of this grouping. The depth that was there that caused Jerry Jones to state “defensive line is our deepest position group on the roster” was tested almost immediately.
Tyrone Crawford went down for the season on the first night of training camp. He was supposed to be the swing end/tackle and first rotation player used off the bench. Ben Bass was right behind Crawford in the same role on the depth chart, but went down in the last preseason game and was out for the year.
The pro scouting department has been great in finding guys to fill these holes along the line. The team brought in Nick Hayden and George Selvie to camp in late July. Below are some are some other key signings that have played roles on this beat down defensive line:
Jason Vega signed on August 21st
Edgar Jones was acquired August 31st
Ceasar Rayford was acquired on September 3rd
Drake Nevis signed on September 24th
Jarius Wynn signed on October 15th
Marvin Austin was added earlier this week.
While all these guys had talent which allowed them to be on the NFL radar, they had all flamed out at prior stops before becoming Cowboys. What has changed for these players in Dallas is Rod Marinelli. He has got these guys to buy in and play hard, all while heavily substituting to keep them fresh. He has taught them to go after the ball, follow it until the play is whistled dead, and play with a high motor. He has coached these guys up and held them accountable.
Due to Marinelli, these “No Names” have played well for the team, and have the Cowboys at 4-3 through 7 games. Cowboys Nation hopes this success can continue through the remainder of the season. Jerry Jones needs to have keeping Marinelli (64) on the Cowboys staff a priority unless he wants to leave for a head coaching role. Simply put, Marinelli is putting on a MVP performance this year in working with the players he has had at his disposal.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH