Dallas Cowboys: Has Kris Richard lost his luster?

RENTON, WA- CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Kris Richard of the Seattle Seahawks poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Renton, Washington. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
RENTON, WA- CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Kris Richard of the Seattle Seahawks poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Renton, Washington. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) /

Dallas Cowboys passing game coordinator and defensive back coach Kris Richard was a hot name as a head coaching candidate last year. Has that now changed?

Emerging last season as a hot head coaching candidate after helping to transform the Dallas Cowboys defense to one of the most elite in the NFL, the waters seem to have cooled around Kris Richard as the team’s spiritual co-defensive coordinator this year.

The Cowboys passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach joined the staff back in 2018 after eight years with the Seattle Seahawks. Richard helped the legendary Legion of Boom take shape and delivered the Seahawks their first Super Bowl championship in 2013.

The 40-year old spent his last three seasons in Seattle as the team’s defensive coordinator. And when the organization parted ways with Richard after an injury-plagued 2017 season, there was some mystery as to why. It was speculated that he may have been too aggressive in his playcalling, but only Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll really knows.

So Richard’s arrival in Dallas was a pleasant surprise. And his decision to move former first-rounder Byron Jones from safety to cornerback proved to be a stroke of genius as it resulted in his first Pro Bowl nomination.

In 2018, the Cowboys defense ranked seventh in yards allowed per game (329.3), 13th against the pass (234.7), fifth against the run (94.6), and ranked sixth in points allowed (20.3). In Week 13, this unit limited the New Orleans Saints high-powered offense that averaged 31.5 points per game to just 10 points in a 13-10 victory. It was a primetime game that marked the defense’s prowess in Dallas and helped to make Richard a hot name on the NFL’s head coaching carousel.

Unfortunately, that trend did not continue upwards for the Cowboys in 2019. The Dallas defense has clearly regressed this season. And as the defensive playcaller, Richard’s reputation and coaching prospects have likely taken a hit as a result. That might include any shot of taking the reins of America’s Team as well.

If the Cowboys actually opt to retain Jason Garrett as head coach throughout the rest of the season, it’s hard to imagine Richard filling that possible vacancy over other top coaching candidates. Especially after the lackluster performance Dallas has put on display so far this season. Yet, when looking purely at the numbers, the defense seems pretty comparable to last year.

This season, before Thursday’s loss to the Bills, the Dallas defense ranked ninth in offensive yards allowed per game (321.6), seventh against the pass (215.2), 15th against the rush (106.4) and eighth in points allowed (19.7).

Where the defense really struggles is in creating turnovers. The Cowboys are the worst team in the NFL when it comes to interceptions, recording a league-low four total picks so far. But that’s not a new issue as this unit has struggled with takeaways for years.

Although the stats may look comparable to last year, the results are drastically different. After a slow start in 2018 and a midseason trade for wide receiver Amari Cooper, the Cowboys finished the season rattling off seven wins in their final eight games. Dallas posted a 10-6 record, won the NFC East crown, and defeated the 11-6 Seahawks in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

This season, the Cowboys have a 6-6 record heading into December. They’ve lost three of their last four games. And that’s despite possessing one of the top offenses in the league, averaging 432.8 yards per game (2nd), 305.2 passing yards per contest (1st), and scoring 25.8 points a game (8th).

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Kris Richard should still be a solid coaching candidate for this upcoming offseason due to his track record prior to 2019. But the Dallas Cowboys defensive struggles and their inability to take full advantage of their top-tier offense is certainly a blemish on his résumé.