Dallas Cowboys: Something’s gotta give at defensive coordinator

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 26: The Dallas Cowboys helmet in the endzone at Cowboys Stadium on September 26, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 26: The Dallas Cowboys helmet in the endzone at Cowboys Stadium on September 26, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

With the Dallas Cowboys dealing with two defensive coaches at opposite ends of their careers, something has to give in deciding their futures.

It feels like just about every year the defense of the Dallas Cowboys is a focal point heading into the offseason. This year will be no different due to upgrades that are needed from a personnel standpoint on the field as well as potential changes that could be happening to the defensive coaching staff. The biggest coaching change that could take place would involve current defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

Rod Marinelli, 68, is on record saying he does not want to retire and has all intentions of returning next year. Owner Jerry Jones and Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones have both publicly stated numerous times that both coordinators will be returning for next season. Also, both Marinelli and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan received contract extensions last offseason. With those three factors everything should be squared away for Marinelli to return as defensive coordinator next season, right?

There is one giant variable to the entire situation and that is former linebackers coach Matt Eberflus. Eberflus is considered by many to be a very promising up and coming defensive coach in the NFL but has yet had the opportunity to run his own defense.

The Cowboys and Eberflus have had a tit for tat relationship just over the last year. Last year the Cowboys offered Eberflus a multi year extension to remain with the team which he ultimately turned down deciding to bank on himself receiving a large pay day and a defensive coordinator position in the very near future. That decision seems to be paying off in a big way for Eberflus.

During that same time span of Eberflus denying a contract extension with the Cowboys, the Cowboys also denied the San Francisco 49ers request to interview Eberflus for their defensive coordinator position, which they had every right to do as he was still under contract.

However, recently reports have been circulating that Marinelli is privately contemplating retirement. Even if Marinelli does decide to return to the Cowboys next year, will they be willing to bring him back at the expense of losing Eberflus?

The Cowboys are currently in a standstill on defense. While there is certainly optimism with some of the younger players they have brought in through the draft along with the development of guys like defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and defensive tackle David Irving, the reality is that this is still not a defense capable of shutting down big play offenses as was on full display in the L.A. Rams, Green Bay Packers, and Philadelphia Eagles games this season; just to name a few examples as there are many more.

The Cowboys have a big decision to make in regards to their defensive coordinator position. They currently have two coaches at opposite ends of their careers. Marinelli has accomplished a lot and earned a ton of respect around the league during his career but I think most would say his best years of coaching are behind him. Eberflus is a coach just getting ready to enter the prime of his career and is waiting for a chance to build and run his own defense.

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Could Eberflus be the young, forward thinking coach that could end up being a game changer for this organization? Also, would the Cowboys be willing to pay out the remainder of Marinelli’s contract in order to essentially move on and promote one of their own promising young coaches? These decisions will need to be made in the near future as teams are beginning to interview coaching candidates and assemble their coaching staffs, putting someone like Eberflus in the crosshairs for many organizations.