June 11, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett (left) talks with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin after minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Last week we learned that head coach Jason Garrett will be back for a fourth year. If there is any possibility that the Cowboys will finish better than 8-8, it will not come from a new head coach and certainly not a new GM or owner. So, how can Dallas get off of Mediocrity Island? New Coordinators, that’s how.
In a two part post, I am on a mission to find the Cowboys new offensive and defensive coordinators. Part one will focus on the defense, because it is in the most dire need of attention.
In case you have lived under a rock or maybe just want to be in denial, the 2013 Dallas Cowboys defense was bad. Worse than bad. Abysmal would be a better term. 6,645 total yards allowed, over 400 yards per game including almost 4,600 yards allowed passing. It’s almost miraculous that the Cowboys did finish 8-8 with absolutely no help from this side of the ball. If Rob Ryan got fired for leading a unit that gave up almost 1,000 total yards and passing yards less, it’s a no brainer that Monte Kiffin needs to be shown the door as well.
So, if not Monte, then who?
Here are five candidates I think would be intriguing and better options for 2014, starting with the least desirable option to the best.
Sept. 9, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Seattle Seahawks linebacker coach Ken Norton Jr. looks on during the second half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals beat the Seahawks 20-16. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
5. CARNELL LAKE
* Current position – Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Backs Coach
Lake is 47 years old… or over 25 years younger than Kiffin. While his current job is his first coaching experience, he is clearly doing as well as he used to as a five time Pro Bowl safety during his playing days, largely for the franchise he’s currently employed by. In his three years as defensive backs coach for the Steelers, Pittsburgh has been in the top 10 each year in passing yards allowed. This includes two straight years as the best in the league against the pass. It’s no mistake that this translates into overall defensive success as the Steelers have been top ten in points allowed in two of those three years.
The danger, and why he is the fifth choice, is that he has had no formal experience coordinating an entire defense and no other experience coaching aside from this gig. Ultimately, I would be more intrigued by this option than pleased but the visionary attempt would at least be something new and fresh which may help rid this franchise of its mediocrity.
4. KEN NORTON, JR.
* Current position – Seattle Seahawks Linebackers Coach
Norton, also 47, is a former leader of the Dallas Cowboys as the middle linebacker on back-to-back Super Bowl teams in 1992 and 1993. He has been coaching since 2004, first with the USC Trojans and most recently with the Seattle Seahawks, running the linebackers for both teams. In Norton’s five years at USC, the Trojans boasted a top ten rush defense in four of those years. Three times, the USC defense finished in the top ten in the entire nation in total yards allowed. That included being third, second and first in points allowed as well. Norton mentored future pro linebackers such as Lofa Tatupu, Keith Rivers, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga during his time at Southern Cal.
In his three years as Seattle’s linebacker coach, his success has continued. Each year he has been there, the Seahawks have had a top ten overall defense. Twice they have finished in the top ten in both passing yards and rushing yards allowed and have led the entire league in points allowed.
Like Lake, the downside to hiring Norton as a defensive coordinator is that he has never had that position before. With ten years as a positional coach though, as well as his history with the organization, if Dallas was to give Norton a shot, I would be fully on board. Being a former player, especially a former Cowboy and being relatively young are all positives in my eyes.