When Jerry Jones hired Rob Ryan to be the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys I was horrified. Two years later, when Ryan was unceremoniously fired, I was mystified.
After the “bounty bowl,” in which Rob’s daddy allegedly offered some of his Philadelphia Eagles players rewards for taking out Troy Aikman and kicker Luis Zendejas before their Thanksgiving Day meeting in 1989, Buddy Ryan became public enemy number one in Big D. He held that title until another egomaniac named Terrell Owens one-upped him. When Jones brought Son of Buddy into the Cowboys fold, I thought it as odd as when he brought Owens in after his antics on the sacred star.
When Jones promised changes at The Ranch, I thought that removal of head coaching duties from Jason Garrett was too much to hope for. I did hold to a glimmer of faith that bringing in an offensive coordinator to assume play calling duties might be a realistic option. Getting rid of one of the few people in Dallas who deserved a pass for a sub-par season seemed unthinkable. I guess that’s what I get for thinking where the Dallas Cowboys are concerned. It’s out with the old and in with the really old as Monte Kiffin is taking over the Cowboys defense at 72.
Although Ryan was unkempt and uncouth to say the least, it has been widely documented since his firing that he made some improvements to the Cowboys D despite having to do so with a patchwork group at best. In my humble opinion, it was the perceived need for a change in culture within the Cowboys organization that was Rob Ryan’s undoing. His blustery behavior on the sidelines, most notably when he drew a 15-yard penalty for jaw-jacking with a player in the Cincinnati game, probably didn’t go unnoticed by the owner of America’s Team. Providing bulletin board material for opposing teams didn’t do him any favors either. Jones did some of that himself when he invited fans to come to Dallas and watch a New York Giants butt kicking that never materialized. However, we didn’t really expect Jerry to fire himself.
Nov 18, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on the field before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Browns 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
As the Cowboys move forward, it is with cautious optimism for the soon to be revamped Cowboys defense. It will be interesting to see what Kiffin, the much ballyhooed godfather of the Tampa 2, has in store for 2013. A look back at Kiffin’s days with the Tampa Bay Bucs shows an average rank of fifth against the pass over his 13-year tenure there. Dallas spent a pant-load to bring in free-agent Brandon Carr and draft pick Morris Claiborne to improve their secondary and hopefully the Tampa 2 will provide more opportunities for turnovers for a team that ranked 27th in takeaway/giveaway differential in 2012.
While other NFL franchises, most notably the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, have been successful with aging defensive coordinators, Kiffin coming in at the ripe old age of 72 is a bit concerning. We hope the reports that Dallas kept an eye on his endurance during his time at USC are accurate and that Kiffin is up to the challenge of the stress and strain of training camp and practice in the NFL.
Kiffin’s success in the pros can’t be disputed. His short stint in the college ranks as the defensive coordinator for his son Lane’s USC Trojans, though, ended on a sour note. During the last five games of the 2012 season, the Trojans’ opponents rolled up massive amounts of yards. The worst effort came at the hands of the Oregon Ducks when USC allowed 730 yards of offense and nine touchdowns, both school records.
As has been proven time and again, coaching at the college and pro levels are two very different things. Kiffin’s legacy has earned him a shot at bringing the Cowboys back to the top of the league. I sincerely hope he is up to the challenge.