Due to Rod Marinelli’s past success, are the Dallas Cowboys asking their defensive coordinator to do too much with too little talent in Dallas?
The Dallas Cowboys offense is viewed by many as one of the top in the NFL. And that’s mainly due to their talented cast of players. But rarely does anyone credit offensive coordinator Scott Linehan alone for that success. The same can not be said about the Dallas defense.
On that side of the ball, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is king. And it’s his genius and experience that is credited for motivated what many view as a try-hard group to become much better than their assumed talent-level would lead you to believe.
Right or wrong, that appears to be the overwhelming perception of the defense. But when Cowboys’ brass themselves start drinking that same Kool-Aid, you may have a problem. Although Marinelli is certainly a coach who is able to motivate his players, he’s far from the miracle worker many believe he is. His record as a head coach, 10-38, certainly proves that.
But under Marinelli, the Dallas defense has improved every single season. After ranking dead last in the NFL in total defense back in 2013, the Cowboys “D” rose all the way up to 14th last year.
Regardless, the Cowboys brass can not start believing Marinelli can somehow make ordinary players into superstars. Dallas must give him the tools he needs to succeed. And that means drafting and/or signing highly-talented players on that side of the ball. But a recent exodus of defensive players via free agent could hurt that effort.
"“Dallas might be relying too much on Marinelli to work his magic,” wrote Gregg Rosenthal, Around The NFL Editor, on an article that recently appeared on NFL.com. “The Cowboys had a competitive group last season, but the team’s defensive strength in the secondary has almost completely turned over. Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox can all be replaced individually, but all in all, that’s a lot of snaps to replace for a team that wasn’t deep to begin with. In Rod they trust.”"
Now, this is not a knock on the old ball coach here. The point is Marinelli needs talented players to coach. And although the 67-year old coordinator surely wants his “kinds of players” (high-motor, high work ethic, nasty streak), Dallas’ front office must make overall talent their priority. And if the Cowboys are not going to bring in pricey free agents to fill those roles, then they must use their high draft selections to do so.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys scouting department doesn’t have very many victories when it comes to finding quality defensive players high in the draft. While the book is still out on players like linebacker Jaylon Smith, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and safety Byron Jones, the Cowboys scouts have had some fairly big misses. Names like cornerback Morris Claiborne, linebacker Bruce Carter and safety J.J. Wilcox instantly come to mind.
Bottom line: Although Rod Marinelli is by all accounts a great motivator of men, he must have talented players on the field to execute his plays. Buying into the belief he can somehow change water into wine when it comes to restocking the defense this offseason would be a mistake.