With only one game remaining for the NFL 2012-2013 season, it’s time to prepare for the dreaded offseason of intermittent news and information. Of course, to feed your Dallas Cowboys hunger pains, you can visit here, or better yet … sign up for automatic email notifications or RSS feeds. Rest assured, we’ll be hitting the streets and posting the very latest on the ‘boys during the dreaded offseason!
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The Super Bowl party has become one of the biggest social events on the calendar. A party up there in stature and anticipation like parties for New Year’s Eve, Halloween and WrestleMania.
And since many of you don’t bother to read this far and just skip to the list, much like how you will make a b-line to the beer fridge at the party, let’s just get to it.
This is the ideal The Boys Are Back reader. Just because this guy’s team was eliminated is no reason for him not to say why these two teams are terrible. You know, the two teams playing in the Super Bowl. Get ready for three hours of why his team will be playing in the game next year. Just nod your head and say, “Yeah, it sure does sound like next year is going to be the year for the Cowboys.” “No way it goes bad for Tony Romo again.”
Every time Colin Kaepernick does something great, this guy will be quick to tell you he picked up the young signal caller on the waiver wire last year and rode him to fantasy victory! Or drone on about how Mark Sanchez’s fumble sealed his title. What’s worse, this guy will likely show up with his fantasy football trophy and make you pose with him.
I’m just here for the commercials
At least one party guest will take great pride in the fact he doesn’t watch football and revel in his ignorance. And why he’s at a Super Bowl party, we have no idea. He’s also the (expletive) who becomes annoyed if you talk during the commercials (it’s the best part!) and can’t understand why you went outside to smoke during the halftime show. He’s guaranteed to root for the team you don’t want to win, too.
The misguided know it all
This fan is the opposite of the well informed The Boys Are Back reader! You can’t miss this guy because he’s going to talk louder than the TV, no matter how many times you continue to increase the volume. Best of all, most of his statements will be wrong. He’ll say things like, “I loved Coopernick (sic) when he played at UNLV.” Sure you did. He’ll often feel like he has to talk down to the women folk, most of whom has a better understanding of the NFL and will gleefully point out KAEPERNICK played at Nevada, not UNLV. That moment will probably be the highlight of your day.
Look who just got a brand new T-shirt from NFL Shop! But you can tell he isn’t a real hardcore fan by the surprise on their face when you say former Raiders receiver Jerry Rice actually started his career with the 49ers. Get ready to be stunned, but this is also likely a fan of the Yankees, Celtics and the Empire in “Star Wars.”. He does not know who Paul Tagliabue is or was, but the name sounds familiar. He insists he’s been pulling for SF or Baltimore for years! Testing this ‘fan’ is always interesting and entertaining.
This person loves the team, or at least that’s the conclusion we can draw from the back tattoo. So why and the hell are they here? Hardcore fans are no fun because if their team loses, we all lose. Most of us just want to sit around, enjoy the game and maybe crack a few jokes. You can’t do that if you have one hardcore fan there. You have to root for their team, or your life is miserable. And if there are hardcore fans from both teams, it’s even worse.
So don’t worry diehard fan, we’ll smooth things out with your spouse (who is likely making you go). You just sit home and enjoy the game.
Ok. Did we forget anyone? What kind of fan category do you fall into?
FORMER DC STILL FISHING: Dallas Cowboys ex-defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will not run St. Louis Rams defense
Remember when Rob Ryan agreed to be the St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator? Well, about that…
The Rams announced Tuesday that Ryan will not run their defense in 2013.
“After extensive conversations regarding defensive philosophy, the Rams and Rob Ryan agreed he was not the right fit for the club’s defensive coordinator position,” COO/Executive VP of Football Operations Kevin Demoff told the team website. “The Rams will continue the interview process with the club’s other candidates.”
The Rams seemed poised to add Ryan to an already strong defense that led the NFL with 52 sacks. Ryan’s boisterous persona, however, can rub some the wrong way. He proclaimed that he’d be out of a job for “like five minutes” when the Dallas Cowboys fired him earlier this month.
No details were given, but Ryan does prefer a 3-4 scheme to the Rams’ 4-3. That could have been the difference in philosophy, but it’s odd the team didn’t deny reports last week that Ryan had been hired, now calling them premature. It appears something changed in the last five days.
The Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints are the other teams still searching for a defensive coordinator. Ryan’s five minutes might turn into much more if he can’t make a late push for one of those two jobs, or isn’t willing to take a lesser position.
Courtesy: Kareem Copeland | NFL Around the League Writer
RELATED: Rams Continue Defensive Coordinator Search
– Despite reports over the weekend that the Rams had hired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator, the team confirmed Tuesday morning that those reports were pre-mature. In fact, the Rams went so far as to say that despite long conversations with Ryan concerning defensive philosophy, the sides couldn’t find a common ground and the team is actually moving on to interview other candidates.
– From COO/Executive VP of Football Operations Kevin Demoff:
“After extensive conversations regarding defensive philosophy, the Rams and Rob Ryan agreed he was not the right fit for the club’s Defensive Coordinator position. The Rams will continue the interview process with the club’s other candidates.”
– In other words, Rob Ryan will not be the hire. No specifics are available yet on what exactly the disagreement on philosophy was though one would imagine Ryan’s general preference for the 3-4 would have factored in at some capacity. The Rams run a 4-3 defense and the lack of scheme fit would be an obvious reason.
– No word on who some of the other candidates under consideration are but coach Jeff Fisher has traditionally taken his time and played such hires close to the vest.
– The team did announce the hire of Frank Bush as linebackers coach on Tuesday.
– More on this as it comes.
Source: Nick Wagoner – Senior Writer | Official site of the St. Louis Rams
Link to article (above): Click HERE to read the story
IRVING, Texas – It doesn’t matter whether the Cowboys play a 4-3 as expected, or the 3-4 defense, the position with the biggest question mark this offseason is defensive tackle.
Jay Ratliff is the latest Cowboys player to get arrested for a DWI, which occurred last week. It was revealed Monday that Ratliff’s blood-alcohol content was more than double the legal limit in Texas. His backup for three seasons, Josh Brent, is facing possible jail time after being charged with vehicular manslaughter for a drunk-driving incident that killed teammate Jerry Brown on Dec. 8.
The Cowboys made their first comments concerning the Ratliff situation today (Monday), releasing a statement from consultant Calvin Hill, a former running back from 1969-74, who has worked with in the player development staff for the last decade.
Dallas Cowboys statement:
Having recently experienced the most tragic of circumstances regarding this issue, we, as an organization, understand the ultimate consequences of driving while impaired.
We know that one incident is too many. The critical goal is to affect the decision-making process in the hours before the wrong decision is made.
Our player assistance programs in the areas of preventing incidents such as these are at the highest level in professional sports, but we are always looking to do better and for ways to improve. We will continue to draw upon the best expertise and resources available, both internally and from outside the organization, to work toward being the best in the areas of education, prevention and affecting the right decisions.
We have been in communication with Jay Ratliff regarding this incident, and we will monitor the legal process and work within the NFL guidelines for player behavior moving forward.
Obviously, the statement expresses the Cowboys’ concern with these last two incidents and the intent to prevent this from becoming even more of a pattern.
From a football standpoint, it also hints that the Cowboys’ intend to keep Ratliff in the mix next year.
Even before his Jan. 21 arrest, his future with the club was in question due to the combination of him being 32 years of age before next season, the fact he missed 10 games with two different injuries, his face-to-face altercation with owner Jerry Jones in the locker room and his high-priced salary vs. his production. Still, it’s possible Ratliff could remain on the team.
In the six games he played in 2012, Ratliff had 10 quarterback pressures, which was still good enough to rank fourth on the team behind DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher. He missed the first four games of the season with a high-ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason, which followed a foot injury that plagued him for most of camp.
After he played six straight games, Ratliff developed a groin issue that later required sports hernia surgery, forcing him to miss the final six games.
In the middle of those six weeks, Ratliff and Jones had a heated exchange in the locker room following the Cowboys’ 38-33 win over the Eagles on Dec. 9. Eyewitnesses said the two had to be separated and the argument stemmed from Jones’ attempt to encourage Ratliff to get healthy and return to the field for the final month of the season.
After that incident, Ratliff wasn’t around much at Valley Ranch and wasn’t one of the injured players who made the final road trip to Washington. The Cowboys took several players who were on IR for support in the do-or-die game with the Redskins. Ratliff was actually still on the 53-man roster since the Cowboys chose to leave him there in case they made a playoff run.
Last week from the Senior Bowl, Jones was asked about Ratliff’s future. That question occurred before the news had broke about Ratliff’s arrest, although Jones had already been informed of the incident.
“As far as I’m concerned, he is outstanding. He has given everything he’s ever had to the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones said of Ratliff. “With me, any of that emotion that was involved between us is only reflected back on the many times that we’ve had in our own way some emotional time with each other.
“And it in no way before was it ever contentious, so when you’ve got the kind of background we’ve got together, then if you have a moment that you might not have been on the same page, that’s like father-son, that’s like family, that’s like all that. That’s forgotten when you know each other has your best interests at heart. We both know that.”
If Ratliff is waived before June 1, the Cowboys would save about $1 million on the cap. If they cut him after June 1 or at least designated him as a June 1 cut, meaning he could be cut after the Super Bowl, but his roster wouldn’t come off the books until June 1, the Cowboys could save about $5 million on the cap this year, but then would get a $4 million hit next season.
As for Brent, Jerry Jones said just last week he’s not closing the door on having Brent back next year. He said the legal system will obviously dictate the status of Brent, who could be facing up to 20 years in prison.
“My thinking has been dictated by the legal process, so until we know more about timing, status, how that’s resolved there, then I won’t even think about where he is as far as his career is concerned,” Jones said. “We’ll see. We have to, and that involves ultimately league matters as well, and more importantly, where he is in the justice system.”
ETERNAL CONFIDENENCE: From Pro Bowl, Jason Witten displays optimism for the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys
Last year, it was Jason Witten who told reporters before the start of training camp that it “can’t be the same’ ol story” in 2012.
In reality, it was the sequel to 2011, about as similar as Hangover and Hangover 2. And now the Cowboys must figure out how to cure this hangover as well this year and not go down another 8-8 road where they miss the playoffs on the final week of the season.
At the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, a game that seemed to have better quality of play this year although it was still a scoring-fest, Witten wasn’t a big factor in the NFC’s 62-35 win. He had two catches for 12 yards as one of two Cowboys in the game. Anthony Spencer, playing most as a linebacker in a 4-3 scheme and wasn’t allowed to blitz, had a pair of tackles. Actually, Witten’s backup in the game, Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph, won MVP honors with five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.
But after the game, Witten was asked about the Cowboys’ chances of turning things around this year. And like always, the eternal optimist sounded confident – not only that things can get better next year, but the right people are in place.
In one 30-second answer on the field, Witten referenced the three people who have been taken the most criticism in the last year and last few seasons as well.
“Well it’s any time you don’t make the playoffs, it’s challenging,” Witten said. “I think we have a great head coach in Jason Garrett, and obviously great ownership – the Jones family – you trust they’re going to get you back to the top. It’s a commitment. It’s a tough league. But we have the right people – great leader in Tony (Romo). Hopefully we’ll bounce back and be better in 2013.”
At least Witten shares the same sentiments as most fans and critics of this team. The simple reference “bounce back” after an 8-8 season suggests 2012 wasn’t just a year that had some good and some bad. It’s a year where the Cowboys simply failed to get to their destination – once again.
He calls Romo a “great leader” but it’s Witten, and that attitude, is something these Cowboys need to adopt and follow.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell threatened to cancel future Pro Bowls if the players didn’t pick up the effort. He got his wish — for the most part.
The NFC won 62-35 and the game didn’t have any blatant episodes of guys loafing like the 2012 version. Part of that can be attributed to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who spoke to the entire group of participants (see article below) and called the last two years “unacceptable.”
“Peyton said some things and guys took it personal,” Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said during a sideline interview.
New York Giants star receiver Victor Cruz agreed.
“It was a little more high intensity than in years’ past,” he said. “It really did feel like a real game out there. People were hitting. It wasn’t touch football; guys were laying some licks. It had the energy of a real game. My body feels like it just went through a real game.”
Peterson’s teammate, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, was named Pro Bowl MVP after catching five balls for 122 yards during a second-quarter stretch when the NFC pulled away.
There were a few questionable moments. Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil pulled up when he had a blindside shot to sack Saints quarterback Drew Brees at one point. But there were also hustle moments. Saints punter Thomas Morstead chased down Chiefs safety Eric Berry from behind and was carried into the end zone during an interception return after a botched field-goal attempt. There were even a few solid hits.
Goodell got what he wanted. Defenders actually tackled. No one was injured. There was a reverse on a kick return and a trick onside kick. Watt even got bloody early in the game.
“It definitely was better, especially compared to last few years,” said Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, who played in a record-tying 12th Pro Bowl. “That’s all they (NFL decision-makers) really want to see. It felt more like a real game. No one let people run past them.”
The overall feeling was that Sunday was a marked improvement from recent Pro Bowls.
Kareem Copeland | NFL.com Around the League Writer
Left photo: Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) and linebacker Anthony Spencer (97) pose with hula girls U’ilani LaBoy (right) and Aureana Tseu (left) at NFC media day. Right: Dallas Cowboys mascot Rowdy poses with Polynesian dancers at the 2013 Pro Bowl tailgate party.
AFC free safety Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills (31) runs with the ball after recovering a fumble by Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. Byrd was tackled by Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
Left photo: Tight end Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys (82) watches during the NFC practice. Right: Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer (93) arrives at NFC practice. Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Whitney Isleib of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders performs at the 2013 Pro Bowl tailgate party at Richardson Field in Honolulu, Hawaii
President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, have two daughters. If they had a son, Obama isn’t sure that football would be an option for him.
“I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” he said in an interview with the New Republic. “And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence.
“In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.
Obama isn’t asked what changes could be made, nor does he indicate if he’ll have a role in making changes happen. He believes a bigger concern for the sport comes from the college level, which acts as the NFL’s feeder system.
“I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they’re grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies,” he said. “You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about.”
The NFL has taken steps to improve player safety, and Obama touches on the fine line the league must walk on this issue. The NFL has the responsibility of protecting the long-term health of its players while continuing to produce an exciting and profitable product. In a game with inherent violence and injury risk, that’s no easy task
Dan Hanzus | NFL Around the League Writer
The team has indeed interviewed several candidates, including former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley, who had reportedly agreed to take the job. But as of this (Sunday) morning, the Cowboys are still exploring all options.
Dooley did interview with Jason Garrett last week at the Senior Bowl. The head coach for the Vols the past three years,
He spent three previous three years at Louisiana Tech as head coach but his ties to the Cowboys stem from Jason Garrett. The two worked on Nick Saban’s staff with the Dolphins in 2005-06 when Garrett was quarterbacks coach and Dooley coached the tight ends.
Considering the Cowboys have interviewed candidates for the position, it likely means the end for Jimmy Robinson, at least as receivers coach. He also held the assistant head coach title but according to team sources, Robinson could be moved to a consultant position and remain with the organization.
The Cowboys have yet to officially hire a running backs coach to replace Skip Peete or tight ends coach to replace John Garrett. Peete is now coaching the backs in Chicago while Garrett is the wide receiver coach in Tampa Bay.
Among the names being linked to those positions include Sam Gash, a former player in the NFL for 12 years who coached the Lions running backs for the last five years. Also, current Cowboys assistant offensive line coach Wes Phillips, who has held multiple roles as an offensive assistant the past six years, could be a leading candidate to take over as tight ends coach.
The Cowboys have not officially hired special teams coach Rich Bisaccia but he has been released from his contract at Auburn and is expected to replace Joe DeCamillis. Bisaccia worked with Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli in Tampa Bay for nine years.
Editors Comment: Last night it appeared that Derek Dooley was going to join the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff. There is still a lot going on with regard to the offensive side of the ball. With three offensive position coaches yet to be announced, and the status of Jimmy Robinson up in the air, I think we can expect a major shakeup. It’s possible that the Dallas Cowboys intend to hire an offensive coordinator in the coming weeks. If they have targeted someone on the Baltimore Ravens or San Francisco 49ers staff, we’ll have an announcement after the Super Bowl. Hiring an offensive coordinator could explain the delay in filling these position roles because the new coordinator would want to bring in his own people. Either way, we should know what’s going on offensively in the next two weeks.
IRVING, Texas – Former University of Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley is set to join the Cowboys’ staff as the new receivers coach, according to multiple sources.
Dooley, who was a position coach alongside Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett for two years with the Dolphins, will reportedly get the job after interviewing with Garrett. Dooley was the tight ends coach and Garrett was the quarterbacks coach in Miami for the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
While the majority of Cowboys staff watched the Senior Bowl practices at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, most of Garrett’s time in Mobile, Ala., was spent interviewing potential position coaches, including Dooley. The Cowboys still need to fill positions for running backs coach and tight ends coach, and the leading candidates for those positions appear to be Sam Gash and Wes Phillips, respectively.
Dooley’s hiring would mark the first new position coach with a direct coaching history with Garrett. The Cowboys brought on defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and special teams coach Rich Bisaccia this offseason, all of whom worked together previously with the Buccaneers.
The move means former wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson will either hold a new role or leave the staff. He’s been the receivers coach the past two seasons.
Dooley’s only professional coaching experience occurred in those two years alongside Garrett with the Dolphins. Prior to that, Dooley spent three seasons as SMU’s wide receivers coach and five seasons in different roles with LSU. He was on the Tigers’ staff while Marcus Spears and Nate Livings played at the school.
After his time in Miami, Dooley then spent three seasons apiece as head coach at Louisiana Tech and, most recently, with the Volunteers, where he replaced Kiffin’s son, Lane. Dooley compiled a 32-41 total head coaching record between the two schools.
The Cowboys staff will now include three members in Kiffin, Marinelli and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan who’ve served as head coaches at the collegiate or professional level.
Editors Comment: Jimmy Robinson is the coach you see on the sidelines with Dez Bryant during both good and bad situations. He has a calming influence and is seen teaching and coaching during all phases of the game. He’s the coach that works most closely with Dez and is responsible for some of the progress we’ve seen from Dez recently. I hope the Dallas Cowboys find a way to keep Robinson on the staff. He’s one of those people behind the scenes that can help this team in the long term.
IRVING, Texas – Monte Kiffin remembers well the chain of events that allowed then-USC defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to join forces with him in Tampa Bay, long before the duo would rejoin paths in Dallas.
Kiffin became the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator in 1996, where he led a group chocked full of future NFL head coaches, including then-position coaches Lovie Smith and Herm Edwards.
“That’s a pretty good staff to start with,” Kiffin said.
Kiffin, head coach Tony Dungy, Smith and Edwards gathered with general manager Rich McKay as they were putting their cast together. They heard about a talented defensive line coach on John Robinson’s staff at Southern California and decided to investigate.
“We went out and interviewed him,” Kiffin said. “Coach Dungy really liked him, so he had me interview him at the combine after he hired me, and we just hit it off. The rest is history. He was a special guy. That staff we hired with Herm Edwards as the secondary coach, he’d come from Kansas City, but Lovie was a college coach from Ohio State. We all just came together, put it all together, and went on from there.”
Marinelli stayed with the staff in Tampa Bay for 10 seasons as the defensive line coach from 1996-2005, also picking up the title of assistant head coach in 2002. The all-star staff led one of the premier defenses in the league throughout that span, finishing in the top 10 in total defense nine times in that 10-year span.
They also finished as the league’s top defense twice, including in 2002, when the Bucs would go on to win the Super Bowl, sacking Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon five times and picking off five passes in that game. Tampa Bay ranked in the top 10 in sacks five different seasons during Marinelli’s tenure as line coach.
“Rod’s an icon,” Kiffin said. “He’s something else. Everybody will see it. He’s tremendous. We’ve been together 10 years, and then he went to Chicago and did a great job with Lovie.”
That transition from Tampa Bay to Chicago didn’t happen immediately. Marinelli spent three trying years as the head coach in Detroit, compiling a 10-38 record in that span. But Marinelli soon returned to a role on defense he’d always excelled at, teaming up again with Smith on the Bears.
He coached Chicago’s defensive line and served as an assistant coach in 2009 before becoming the Bears’ defensive coordinator the next three seasons, helping guide one of the most revered defenses in the league the last few years.
Chicago led the league with 24 interceptions and also ranked in the top 10 in sacks and forced fumbles in 2012, while finishing with the league’s No. 5 total defense. Four different Bears players finished with at least six sacks, led by Julius Peppers’ 11.5.
Marinelli resigned from his post in Chicago after the Bears let Smith go at the end of the season. It didn’t take long for him to fly down to Dallas to interview with the Cowboys’ staff, including owner Jerry Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones and head coach Jason Garrett.
Kiffin was ecstatic when he found out he’d be able to work with Marinelli again for the first time since 2005.
“It was really special,” Kiffin said. “He came down and had an opportunity to go a lot of places. When he interviewed down there, he really liked Mr. Jones and Stephen, and of course the head coach, Coach Garrett. They all hit it off, so we’re pretty fired up.”
Now the process begins for the “Tampa 2” masterminds to turn a 3-4 defense into a 4-3 defense they’d perfected in Tampa Bay.
“Coaching is teaching to get your players better,” Kiffin said. “The first rule of getting better is show up. When you show up, you better get coached. So that’s our job. It’s like a teacher. If you’re a bad teacher, it’s not going to be stimulating. But you show up here, you’re going to get better.”
Former Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback Stephen McGee has signed a future contract with the Houston Texans. McGee was not on a roster this season after the Cowboys cut him Sept. 1, days before the season opener.
The former Texas A&M standout, a fourth-round pick in 2009, had tryouts with several teams during the season, including the Packers and the Patriots. But no one signed him, and he spent the season working out in College Station.
The Texans also signed former University of Houston quarterback Case Keenum, who was on their practice squad this season. Their two returning quarterbacks are starter Matt Schaub and backup T.J. Yates. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak is a former A&M quarterback, like McGee.
McGee played in three games in his three seasons in Dallas, with one start. He completed 46 of 82 passes for 420 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Cowboys went with only two quarterbacks this season. Tony Romo started every game, and Kyle Orton served as his backup.
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have found their new replacement for special teams coach.
After a statement that was released by the University of Auburn on Friday, Rich Bisaccia will head to Dallas to replace Joe DeCamillis and coach the Dallas Cowboys special teams.
Bisaccia joined Auburn’s staff as running backs/special teams coach on Jan. 3 but has been released from his contract and will join the Cowboys to reunite with former Tampa Bay assistants Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli.
“Rich had an offer that he felt he could not turn down and we wish him nothing but the best,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Friday in a statement.
For the last two years, Bisaccia served as the Chargers special teams coach. Having worked with Norv Turner, a close friend of Jason Garrett, it’s likely he was highly referred on that front as well, along with his ties to the new defensive coaches.
Bisaccia spent nine seasons in Tampa Bay as special teams coach from 2002-10, working alongside Kiffin and Marinelli.
The past two years, San Diego has been around the middle of the league under Bisaccia’s guidance. The Chargers ranked 15th in punt return average and 13th in kickoff return average this past season, however, they did have three punts blocked.
The Cowboys did have a key punt blocked and returned for a touchdown this season in Seattle, but had just a total of three blocked in DeCamillis’ four years with the club.
Last year, the Cowboys were up and down on special teams, including two losses where the kicking game proved to be costly. Against Seattle in Week 2, the Cowboys lost a fumble on the opening kickoff that resulted in a field goal, followed by the blocked punt for a touchdown that put the Cowboys in a 10-0 hole early.
Against the Ravens, a game the Cowboys lost by just two points on a missed field goal in the final seconds, they allowed a 108-yard kickoff return to Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones.
On the flip side, the Cowboys did find a dynamic returner in Dwayne Harris, who averaged 16.1 yards per return, which ranked second in the NFL. Dan Bailey made 29-of-31 field goals, including all 26 from inside of 50 yards.
The Cowboys had also looked at hiring Bruce DeHaven and Alan Lowry, who were both recently let go from their previous teams. Both had also served as the Cowboys special teams coach at one time. DeHaven was here four years with Bill Parcells from 2003-06, while Lowry was on the Cowboys’ staff from 1982-90, including the first five years as the special teams coach.
Looking back at the Cowboys’ 2012 draft and the obvious name that jumps out is Morris Claiborne. The LSU cornerback was clearly the best defensive back in the draft and arguably the draft’s best defensive prospect overall.
The Cowboys had him as the top defender and second overall player (behind only Andrew Luck) on their board and traded a first- and second-round pick so they could move up and select him at No. 6 overall. Claiborne appears to be a nice piece for the foreseeable future. But what else did the Cowboys get out of the other six selections they made?
According to ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, they didn’t get much. Kiper regraded each team’s draft on Thursday and the Cowboys’ original C+ grade was moved down to a C.
“Despite getting a very good player in Morris Claiborne, this draft looks worse after a full season,” Kiper wrote. “You can’t just say the trade up to get Claiborne at No. 6 was a brilliant move, because that’s analyzing the pick in a vacuum. In terms of overall value, the Cowboys got Claiborne at the cost of a valuable second-round pick. So while the fact that Claiborne is a good one is a credit to Dallas, he also came at the cost of a pick that would likely turn into a starter. (Dallas has landed Bruce Carter, Sean Lee, Mike Jenkins, Anthony Fasano and Marcus Spears in Round 2 in recent years.) And beyond Claiborne, there isn’t much here.
“Tyrone Crawford looks like a depth addition, and Kyle Wilber isn’t a future starter. The one guy you might point to is James Hanna, who caught 8 passes and showed some upside down the stretch. But overall, the draft is about Claiborne, a very good player, but one who came at a cost. I just can’t say there’s anything here of significance beyond that selection.”
Kiper was correct that Carter (2011), Lee (2010) and Fasano (2006) were second round picks made by the Cowboys, but Mike Jenkins (2008) and Marcus Spears (2005) were both selected in the first round.
The Cowboys’ other three 2012 selections that weren’t mentioned included safety Matt Johnson (135 overall), wide receiver Danny Coale (152) and linebacker Caleb McSurdy (222). All three missed the majority of the season with injuries.
The Philadelphia Eagles (B+), Washington Redskins (B+) and New York Giants (C+) all finished with higher grades than the Cowboys.
Editors comment: Too early to put a final grade on this draft class. Consider the source … coming from an outsiders point of view. Mel Kiper is hit and miss, just like any ‘so-called expert” in this area. If you agree with the C, which I think is a little low, that’s a reasonable rate of success in this inexact science called the NFL Draft. The grades should improve as these players complete their 2nd and 3rd seasons. By then, you’ll have a better overall picture. For more information or a reminder of the Dallas Cowboys 2012 NFL Draft, click HERE.
SI.com pegged Ohio State defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins (6-3, 320) as the Dallas Cowboys choice at No. 18 in the first round.
NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt, the Cowboys’ former vice-president of player development, had the Cowboys taking former Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher (6-7, 305) at No. 18. The SI.com mock draft has Fisher going two picks earlier, at No. 16, to St. Louis.
2013 NFL Draft – Top 12 Defensive Tackles – Click HERE for more details about each player.
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MOBILE, Ala. – The switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense will come into effect next season for the Cowboys.
Now the challenge becomes fitting the current personnel into that scheme, but defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and owner/GM Jerry Jones aren’t concerned about growing pains or the subsequent changes that alteration could cause for the Dallas defenders.
“I think the personnel, looking at it, we looked at some things that might fit a 4-3,” Kiffin said. “I don’t believe we were going to hire a 4-3 coach. I don’t think that was ever the plans for Coach (Jason) Garrett. He just wanted to get the coach he thought would fit.”
That coach would be Kiffin, and now the job of fitting people into place belongs in large part to the defensive coordinator. He must figure out which players are suited best for a move to the 4-3, the same way he did masterfully in his 13 seasons as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator. The head coach for the Bucs at that time was Tony Dungy, who said he thought it might take a couple years and drafts before Kiffin gets the right personnel for his scheme in Dallas.
Kiffin isn’t planning to wait that long for his defense to work.
“We were starting from scratch there at Tampa Bay,” Kiffin said. “It’s a process, but we want to hit it running. This isn’t a rebuilding four or five-year plan type deal. So hopefully we can get the process, speed it up a little bit.”
It’s possible Kiffin slightly tweaks his schemes to fit the Cowboys’ defense, which isn’t completely foreign to using four down linemen. As Jones mentioned, this defense has utilized more of a hybrid scheme in recent seasons than a straight 3-4.
“In training camp last year, I was asking some of the coaches, I said, ‘OK, let’s identify what we are,’ and they just wouldn’t go there,” Jones said. “They said, ‘We’re a combination of 4-3 and 3-4.”
Kiffin said it’s the coaches’ job to be able to fit his players into whatever defense he wants to call. He said a good coach should be able to lead any scheme.
“I totally believe that,” Kiffin said. “You could run a 4-4. As long as you’ve got 11 guys. Just make sure you don’t have 12. If you have 10, you’re not very smart.”
The Cowboys have utilized the 3-4 defense since Bill Parcells made the switch during his coaching tenure. Jones said he’s known “for some time” that he’s had the personnel to switch to the 4-3 defense, and the down linemen and linebackers have gone into a 4-3 defense “a reasonably good percentage of the time” in recent years.
He indicated there could be changes in technique and how the new defense is implemented, but he remains confident his current personnel can handle the switch.
“When we drafted (Tyrone) Crawford last year, we knew he could be an outstanding 4-3 lineman, not just handling the 3-4,” Jones said. “I look at who we drafted over the last several years, and we don’t have anyone that doesn’t fit in both schemes. (Kyle) Wilber, our linebacker, could easily be a Sam linebacker in the 4-3. We’ve always tried where we can to keep our options open there.”
The Cowboys hope a change in defensive philosophy might help stop division rivals in Washington and Philadelphia, both of which now have the personnel or coaching staff to implement fast-paced rushing schemes.
Kiffin said the read option is “making a name for itself,” but he’s more concerned with his own team’s staff and players than he is about his NFC East competitors at the moment. He said he’s in the process of figuring out where his front seven can play, and he emphasized the importance of finding the right fit for each player. But he doesn’t want to rush that decision.
If he doesn’t like a certain fit with his current personnel, he said the Senior Bowl offers a few prospects that could properly fit into the 4-3 scheme he wants to implement.
“To tell you the truth, we’re just trying to get our staff together and get the players in the right place,” Kiffin said. “We’ll run a 4-3, and we’re not going to make any quick decisions. We want to make sure we get the right people, the right place, and of course down there at the Senior Bowl, we’ve got some good players there. You’re always looking to upgrade, so we’re kind of busy with that right now.”
There have been a number of changes in the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff over the offseason. Here’s an updated list of the assistant coaches and links for more detailed information on each of them. This page will be updated if any other changes are made.
DALLAS COWBOYS HEAD COACH
Jason Garrett was named the eighth head coach in Dallas Cowboys history on January 5, 2011. Garrett, who played for or worked alongside four of his predecessors, became the first former Dallas Cowboys player to become the team’s head coach.
DALLAS COWBOYS COACHING STAFF
|Offensive Coaches||Defensive Coaches||Specialty Coaches|
Asst. Head Coach/Wide Receivers
Strength and Conditioning
|To Be Determined
Tight Ends/Passing Game Coord.
Assistant Special Teams/ Kickers
Assistant Strength and Conditioning
Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
Assistant Offensive Line
Off. Quality Control/Wide Receivers
MOBILE, Ala. — Jerry Jones wanted uncomfortable. He openly spoke about an offseason with everyone being on edge.
Wish granted. This is what it feels like.
NFL personnel people pulling friends aside and wondering, “What’s going on with the Dallas Cowboys?” The team’s owner speaking with reporters for 30 minutes to address the issue of who will take over as offensive play caller, only to leave those listening with merely an indication of the team’s direction. Jones and head coach Jason Garrett both embracing a reality neither has supported in the past.
Oh, and the Cowboys still trying to climb out of a ditch, as Jones put it.
Yup. These are the Dallas Cowboys of 2013. The reality is, these circumstances are setting Garrett up for a make-or-break season, which of course is better than not having the opportunity to return in the first place.
“We’ve got a lot of things about our team — the problem is a deal called 8-8,” Jones said while sitting on the NFL Network set following a Senior Bowl practice Tuesday. “When you’re 8-8 and the rules say, ‘We want everybody to be equal,’ you’ve got to break out of the ditch that we’re in at 8-8. That’s promoting some of the changes we’re making. To step this thing up.”
What have the Cowboys done this offseason, which began abruptly after Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins took Dallas’ playoff spot in a de facto NFC East title game? Plenty of restructuring.
Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan likely will call plays, taking over the role from Garrett. Soon-to-be 73-year-old Monte Kiffin, back in the NFL after a lackluster stint in the college game, will be the team’s defensive coordinator. Former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is the defensive line coach. Jason Garrett’s brother, John, was re-routed to Tampa Bay to become the Buccaneers’ receivers coach. There will be more tinkering.
NFL people raised their eyebrows about the move to hire the master of the Tampa 2. Could be genius. Could be … not. For his part, Kiffin laughed about his age.
“I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t think I could do it,” Kiffin said. “I’m excited. I know before the game, they don’t say, ‘How tall are you, how much do you weigh, how old are you?’ They don’t as a player. It’s, ‘Let’s go play.’ So, ‘Let’s go coach.’ “
As Kiffin slowly morphs the defense, installing the 4-3 scheme for which he believes the personnel is better suited, Garrett will watch the offensive adjustments from not quite as close. In his new role, Garrett will be free to focus on in-game situations, time management and other head-coaching duties he had no choice but to short-change while simultaneously serving as offensive play caller. Jones says Garrett encouraged this shift. Perhaps that’s true. But on Tuesday, while speaking with local reporters before Jones had officially announced the news, Garrett simultaneously supported a move away from calling plays while pointing out that there’s nothing that says a coach can’t call plays and master in-game situations. Um, OK then.
“I’ve been on teams where it’s worked a lot of different ways,” Garrett told reporters. “This idea that there’s no way you can call plays and handle the game situations … We’ve come back in a lot of games and handled game situations really well, and sometimes we haven’t handled them as well.”
The Cowboys love Garrett as a leader. The brass was especially pleased with his delicate and masterful handling of the off-the-field drama that followed the death of practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown and the related DWI incarceration of defensive tackle Josh Brent. And it was noted that Garrett somehow managed to sidestep a PR disaster when Brent appeared on the sidelines for a game after the incident by making sure it wouldn’t happen again while also refusing to treat Brent as an outcast. The doors of the facility were always open to Brent. Players noticed. Everyone did.
In an unfortunate coincidence, Garrett and the Cowboys suddenly found themselves facing another drunk-driving issue: Starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff was arrested and charged with DWI early Tuesday after his pickup truck struck an 18-wheeler. The coach’s handling of this situation will be closely monitored.
But the fight the Cowboys showed in 2012 when they were down in games — which happened frequently — demanded attention. Oh, and Garrett also helped the ‘Boys overcome a slow start to win five of their first six in the second half of the season, putting them in position to … lose their final two games and come up short for the playoffs.
Now, it seems, he has one more year to make it happen. Is it playoffs or bust? It might not be so simple. What if the Cowboys start out slow and look anemic, as they did this past season? Could Garrett withstand a limp out of the gate?
What if they make the playoffs and lose? Does he have enough job security to handle that?
The Cowboys believe in Garrett. They have since they sunk millions into him as an offensive play caller. They’ve believed in the process. It took them to the brink of the playoffs, but no further.
And now? They have stripped away the foundation and rebuilt. New defense. New offensive play caller. A new focus for the head coach. And a new view of the timetable facing Garrett going into his third full season at the helm.
Only time will tell if the new approach yields different results.
Courtesy: Ian Rapoport | Reporter, NFL.com and NFL Network
Editors comments; Pardon the negativity from the official National Football League’s website, much of which (NOT ALL) was edited out. The interpretation of the Valley Ranch changes should be one of optimism and one of an owner (and general manager) searching for answers …and a turnaround. Listen to the actual words from Jerry Jones in the video to get a sense of what the real intention are here. Try to overlook the NFL websites attempt to kill the golden goose (Dallas Cowboys). Without the Dallas Cowboys, what is the NFL? The irresponsible reporting from Ian Rapoport and Gregg Rosenthal (editor) are beyond contempt. It’s beyond me how the official website of the National Football League can justify bias reporting and pandering against the Dallas Cowboys. You’d expect a balanced, factual based account of all 32 teams … not idiotic statements from these two jackass yahoo’s in a suit. Publish facts as responsible journalists and let the readers decide.
I published this post to make several points. Namely, listen to the actual voices (in there entirety) of role-players (and decision makers) that matter … Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, Jason Garrett, coaches, staff, and players … and rely on this blog if you want ACTUAL factual coverage of the Dallas Cowboys and their quest to remain America’s Team. 99% of the time you’ll find articulate and accurate representations of facts from skilled and informed sports journalists … the ones that have earned trust.
NEW COACHING GAMEPLAN: Jason Garrett stepping back from play-calling provides a more objective look at the team
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said a step back away from play-calling provides a more objective look at the team. But whether it makes a head coach a better game manager is not settled in his mind.
“If you watch football every week, there are game situations that are handled by coaches that call plays, there are situations that are handled by coaches who don’t call plays. Sometimes they’re handled well, sometimes they’re not,” Garrett said Tuesday at the Senior Bowl. “This idea that there’s no way you can call plays and handle the game situations – we’ve come back in a lot of games and handled game situations really well. Sometimes we haven’t handled it as well. That’s my responsibility. I have to make sure we do it better. That’s independent of whether I call ball plays or not.
“Coaches who don’t call plays don’t have the corner on handling game situations the right way. But having said that, when you are calling plays, that’s an added responsibility you have during the game that you have to work through.”
Garrett and the Cowboys are considering using another play-caller next season. Owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday back-to-back 8-8 seasons have him open to changing his mind that the head coach should be calling the plays on one side of the ball or the other.
Garrett said he can coach either way and that he has seen the benefits and drawbacks of both methods.
“It’s been done both ways,” Garrett said. “There are a handful of coaches in the league who call offensive plays, or defense, probably more on offense. But obviously, my role as the head coach, if I’m not the play caller, will be significant. It gives you an opportunity to step back a little bit and really get yourself engaged in the other two aspects of the team. And I’ve always tried to do that. I’ve always sat in on defensive meetings. I’ve always had good communication with other coaches. When you remove yourself a little bit more from one side of the ball or the other, that opportunity to do that is even greater.”
RELATED VIDEO: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joins NFL Network at Senior Bowl
06:54 – Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joins NFL Network at the Senior Bowl to talk personnel changes and coach Jason Garrett role as the teams play-caller. Click HERE to watch video.
No more whistles, no more playbooks, no more coach’s dirty looks. Sure, not quite as catchy as the iconic “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks,” but we’re talking football grades here, not math, science and social studies.
The biggest difference in grading pupils and players is expectations. All students are created equal; not so much for a professional football team. Just doesn’t make sense to hold Miles Austin, one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the game and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and Cole Beasley, an undrafted free agent rookie, to the same standard. Ditto for DeMarcus Ware, headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and some dude signed off his couch midseason. Not even Batman.
Without further ado, here are our final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys:
Tony Romo – B
This one is difficult, because for 80-plus percent of the season, 13-of-16 games, Romo played as well as any quarterback in franchise history. Yes, including Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. His numbers for those contests include 303.1 yards per game, 24 touchdown passes, seven picks and a 100.2 rating. Even with the other three games – vs. the Bears and Giants and at the Redskins – Romo had the league’s sixth-highest rating by Football Outsiders, behind only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.
He threw for nearly 5,000 yards, and on many occasions was his own best pass protector in terms of finding an extra second or two. There were times when he was brilliant, and never before has he shown the leadership he did this season. Still, in the end, Romo flunked his final. Again. That’s not easy to write. Romo has been sort of the teacher’s pet these last five years, but there is no excuse for those final two picks at Washington.
Kyle Orton – I
He broke Clint Longley’s 38-year-old mark for highest passer rating (minimum 10 attempts) with a ridiculous 137.1. Played just the one game, though, giving him an incomplete.
DeMarco Murray – C
A disappointing season for the second-year back who was expected to anchor the offensive load. Didn’t rush for 100 yards after Week 1 at the Giants and rarely showed the explosiveness from his rookie season with just five 20-plus carries. Finished tied for 21st in the league with 2.5 yards per attempt after contact. He also picked the worst of times for his first two NFL fumbles. His durability has also become a concern as he has missed nine of the team’s last 19 games with injuries.
Felix Jones – C
Finished with more offensive touches than expected, was much improved in picking up the blitz, caught the ball well, and for the most part, maximized his rushing yards with the gaps provided. He averaged just 3.6 yards per carry after entering the year at 5.1 for his career.
Lance Dunbar – B
Was impressed with the free agent rookie from North Texas from the first preseason game through Week 17. Finished with eight special teams tackles, was solid if unspectacular on kick returns and showed a little burst on offense. Should play a bigger role in 2013.
Phillip Tanner – C
Solid on special teams with 10 tackles, although he didn’t show much in limited action carrying the ball.
Lawrence Vickers – C
Showed promise catching passes, that little dump-off was seemingly always available. But his blocking was average and his four penalties in 305 snaps was the highest percentage of any fullback playing 25 percent of his team’s snaps.
MOBILE, Ala. – As Bill Callahan’s name gets brought up as a possibility for the new Cowboys’ play-caller, his calling of plays for a previous team 10 years ago has been brought to the forefront.
Callahan said he was “shocked, saddened and outraged” in a statement released Tuesday night regarding the allegations made by former Oakland receiver Tim Brown that the former Raiders head coach tried to sabotage the team by changing the game-plan on the Friday prior to Super Bowl XXXVII.
Former Oakland receiver Jerry Rice later came forward on ESPN and sided with Brown, stating that Callahan disliked players on the team and wanted the Buccaneers to win the game. Tampa Bay beat Oakland, 48-21, in one of the more lopsided Super Bowls.
Here is Callahan’s full response:
“There are many people who are disappointed by the outcome of Super Bowl XXVII, but none more than me. While I fully understand a competitive professional football player’s disappointment when a game’s outcome doesn’t go his team’s way, I am shocked, saddened and outraged by Tim Brown’s allegations and Jerry Rice’s support of those allegations made through various media outlets over the last twenty four hours. To leave no doubt, I categorically and unequivocally deny the sum and substance of their allegations. Like every game I ever coached on the professional or collegiate level, I endeavor to the best of my professional ability to position my team to win. To suggest otherwise, especially at this time when it involved the Super Bowl, is ludicrous and defamatory. I have always honored the spirit of competition that drives us to sport as children and, for the luck few, sustains us in adulthood. Any suggestion that I would undermine the integrity of the sport that I love and dedicate my life to, or dishonor the commitment I made to our players, coaches and fans, is flat out wrong. I think it would be in the best interests of all including the game America loves that these allegations be retracted immediately. I want to extend my personal and my family’s deep appreciation to the coaches, players and fans who have come forward and thoughtfully spoken out against these ill-conceived allegations.”
Brown said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that Callahan changed the game-plan from a run-heavy attack to a pass-heavy attack late in the week, taking away from the Raiders’ advantage on the offensive line. He said Callahan did it because of his disdain for the organization and his friendship with Bucs head coach Jon Gruden.
The comments that Oakland lost simply because of Callahan’s late switches and not because of Tampa Bay’s defense essentially ripped both current coordinators for the Cowboys, as Monte Kiffin led the Bucs’ defense in that game. The Tampa Bay defense led the league in total defense and interceptions that season, picking off Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon five times in the Super Bowl.
The Raiders entered the game with the top total offense in the league, averaging 67.5 more passing yards per game than the rest of the NFL. They didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher that season and averaged six fewer rushing yards per game than the rest of the league.
Oakland rushed 10 times and passed 17 times in the first half of the Super Bowl game, entering the second half trailing, 20-3, while averaging just 1.8 yards per rush. The Raiders ran just one more time the rest of the game, as they played catch up the rest of the way.
MOBILE, Ala. – For the second time in two months, a Cowboys defensive tackle has been arrested for a DWI-related incident.
This time, there were no serious injuries, but it’s definitely a serious situation for Jay Ratliff, who spent Tuesday morning in jail in Grapevine. Ratliff was released on bond later that morning.
Soon after midnight, Ratliff was reportedly involved in a crash with his Ford pickup truck and an 18-wheeler on Highway 114.
Cowboys officials said Ratliff did not sustain any major injuries, nor did the driver of the 18-wheeler. However, Ratliff was arrested at the scene for suspicion of driving while intoxicated after reportedly refusing to take a breathalyzer test.
This comes less than two months after the Dec. 8 accident that killed linebacker Jerry Brown. Defensive tackle Josh Brent was driving and arrested for vehicular manslaughter.
At the funeral for Brown, Ratliff was seen hugging Brent, a close friend, for several minutes.
Ironically, the two play the same position and were both missed on the playing field toward the end of the season. Ratliff suffered from a groin injury that required sports hernia surgery and Brent was placed on the non-football injury reserved list following the accident.
Ratliff had a season to forget in 2012, which included a foot injury that forced him to miss most of training camp, followed by a high-ankle sprain in the third preseason game. That kept Ratliff out until the sixth week of the season, and while he played well for a few games, it wasn’t long before the groin injury occurred that ultimately ended his season.
And along the way, there was a locker-room incident with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Dec. 2 following the Eagles game at Cowboys Stadium. Eyewitnesses said Ratliff and Jones had a face-to-face shouting match that occurred after Jones confronted the defensive tackle and inquired about his injury.
Ratliff has not been available for comment since before the groin injury. On Tuesday in Mobile, Ala. at the Senior Bowl, Jones was asked about the incident and his relationship with Ratliff.
It’s expected that Jones was fully aware of the incident when he made this comments about Ratliff:
“As far as I’m concerned, he is outstanding. He has given everything he’s ever had to the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones said. “With me, any of that emotion that was involved between us is only reflected back on many times that we’ve had in our own way some emotional time with each other.
“And it in no way before was it ever contentious, so when you’ve got the kind of background we’ve got together, then if you have a moment that you might not have been on the same page, that’s like father-son, that’s like family, that’s like all that. That’s forgotten when you know each other has your best interests at heart. We both know that.”
With or without this latest incident, Ratliff was a player who could be released for salary-cap reasons. If Ratliff is waived before June 1, the Cowboys would save about $1 million on the cap. If they cut him after June 1 or at least designated him as a June 1 cut, meaning he could be cut after the Super Bowl but his roster spot wouldn’t come off the books until June 1, the Cowboys could save about $5 million on the cap this year, but then would get a $4 million hit next season.
DEFENSIVE CONFIRMATION: Monte Kiffin verified switching defense to 4-3; his coaches set for new season
MOBILE, Ala. – The second day of Senior Bowl practices are underway, with several coaches and scouts filling up the grandstands at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett has addressed the media. It does appear the defensive coaching staff has been set.
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin not only confirmed what we all expected in the team will be switching over to his 4-3 scheme, but said after meeting with several candidates, the defensive coaches are locked in.
“We’ve been trying to get our staff together and get the right players in the right place,” Kiffin said.
The biggest change will be defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who was the Bears defensive coordinator the last three years and has worked with Kiffin in Tampa Bay. But the Cowboys are also planning to keep linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, two coaches who came with Rob Ryan from Cleveland.
The Cowboys are also expected to retain assistant defensive backs coach Joe Baker, assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett.
“It’s exciting,” Kiffin said Tuesday morning. “It happened really quick. We put together the staff and I think the staff is real important. The Joneses and Coach Garrett, they like certain people there they wanted me to interview. It was real good to put our heads together – Coach Garrett and myself. But there’s some real good coaches there right now. To bring in Rod Marinelli as our defensive line coach, he’s an icon.”
RELATED: Jerry Jones says Cowboys won’t complete staff during Senior Bowl week
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he does not expect to complete the coaching staff before the Cowboys leave the Senior Bowl.
He said the Cowboys, who have assistant coaching vacancies in at least four positions – tight end, defensive line, running backs and special teams – are interviewing this week at the all-star game but that there is no deadline.
“No, not at all. We have no timetable pressures here,” he said after watching the South team practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, where the Senior Bowl will be played Saturday. “I don’t look for anything such as a finalization of decisions on staff while we’re here.”
Asked about Houston Nutt’s visit to Valley Ranch last week, Jones declined to comment but promised to talk more about staff decisions later in the week.
“It’s going to be real limited on staff because we’re not going to sum it all up for competitive reasons and negotiating reasons,” Jones said. “We just are going to let that come out as we make those decisions about adding any new staff members.”
A lot has been made about the Cowboys’ switch from the 3-4 defense to Monte Kiffin’s 4-3, and rightfully so. Although a great defense ultimately comes down to talented players executing a well-crafted scheme, it’s not as if elite players can simply line up at any position and succeed. If the chances of success at a particular position are optimized at a certain height, weight and speed, it follows that getting farther from those ideal traits will lower the probability of succeeding.
Kiffin’s defenses have typically emphasized speed over size at most positions, and that’s certainly a plus for a Cowboys defense that seems as if it hasn’t kept up with the NFL’s pass-happy evolution. Still, the truth is that the best defensive coordinators tailor their scheme around their personnel.
Kiffin’s version of the 4-3 in particular, known as a 4-3 Under, could potentially accommodate the Cowboys’ personnel better than most other 4-3 schemes. One reason is the presence of the 1-technique defensive tackle. A 1-technique tackle shades the offensive center, nearly playing heads-up over the top of him like a 3-4 nose tackle. The other defensive tackle, the 3-technique, is typically a smaller player that almost acts as a large defensive end in the interior.
There are certainly areas where the Cowboys might have holes to fill, of course. To figure out just how far away Dallas might be from Kiffin’s “dream” defense, we’ve researched the height and weight of each defensive player for Tampa Bay from 2003 to 2008. Kiffin was the defensive coordinator for the Buccaneers during that stretch, emphasizing specific traits at each position. Below are the averages of each player on the roster at every position.
1-DT: 6’3’’ 304 pounds
As mentioned, the 1-technique tackle is a strong presence in the inside, but he also has to be nimble enough to shoot up field.
Cowboys’ fit: Jay Ratliff (6’4’’ 303 pounds) matches Kiffin’s prototypical player at this position to a tee. The issue is whether or not the Cowboys can afford to continue to pay Ratliff the big bucks. Sean Lissemore (6’3’’ 303 pounds) also fits the bill.
3-DT: 6’2’’ 285 pounds
The 3-technique defensive tackle is much smaller than the 1-technique. Also note that, at an average of just 6’2’’, the 3-technique is shorter than the defensive ends.
Cowboys’ fit: This position in particular is difficult to project for the Cowboys. Jason Hatcher could potentially play any position along the defensive line, although at 6’6’’ 305 pounds, he’s much taller and heavier than the typically short, light tackles Kiffin has used in the past. Tyrone Crawford (6’4’’ 285 pounds) will probably play defensive end, but he also could have some versatility.
DE (Strong): 6’3’’ 279 pounds
Kiffin has typically used a very large, bulky player to man his strong-side defensive end position.
Cowboys’ fit: If there’s evidence that the Cowboys could let Anthony Spencer walk, this might be it. At 250 pounds, Spencer doesn’t come anywhere near matching the profile of Kiffin’s past ends. As mentioned above, Crawford checks in around this size, but his pass-rushing ability is a question.
DE (Weak): 6’3’’ 267 pounds
On the weak side, Kiffin’s defensive ends have been relatively close to the same size as the typical 3-4 outside linebacker.
Cowboys’ fit: DeMarcus Ware will play this position, although even he is listed at only 254 pounds. Ware shouldn’t have much of a problem adjusting, however. Alex Albright might need to transition to this position as well at 6’5’’ 260 pounds.
MLB: 6’1’’ 232 pounds
The “Mike” linebacker in Kiffin’s 4-3 defense has to have the ability to turn and run, so it’s no surprise that they’ve averaged only 232 pounds.
Cowboys’ fit: At 6’2’’, 245 pounds, Sean Lee is a bit oversized compared to the average 4-3 middle linebacker. He’ll often be asked to run downfield when tight ends run vertically, but Lee should be up for the challenge.
WLB: 6’1’’ 224 pounds
At only 224 pounds, the average “Will” linebacker in Kiffin’s defense must have the speed to run sideline-to-sideline.
Cowboys’ fit: Like Lee, Carter is “oversized” for the 4-3 at 240 pounds, but it really shouldn’t matter. As one of the fastest linebackers in the NFL, Carter won’t have a problem transitioning to the 4-3. He could potentially play any of the three linebacker spots, giving the Cowboys plenty of flexibility heading into the draft.
SLB: 6’1’’ 235 pounds
As the biggest of Kiffin’s linebackers, the “Sam” is still smaller than all but one linebacker the Cowboys had on the roster in 2012, Ernie Sims.
Cowboys’ fit: Assuming Carter plays the “Will,” the Cowboys may have a hole to fill here (and vice versa if Kiffin uses Carter as the “Sam.” If Dan Connor (6’2’’ 242 pounds) ends up starting for Kiffin, he’ll almost assuredly play this position and Carter will play the weak side.
CB: 6’0’’ 193 pounds
Due to Kiffin’s emphasis on Cover 2, his cornerbacks don’t turn and run in man coverage as much as in other defenses. Playing near the line, they need to be able to press and play the run, meaning they’re typically tall, although perhaps not as heavy as many believe.
Cowboys’ fit: Although there are questions about how Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne can transition to Kiffin’s scheme, I think they’ll be just fine. Carr has great size at 6’0’’ 210 pounds, and it isn’t as if they’ll be in Cover 2 every play. Even at 5’11’’ 185 pounds, Claiborne isn’t that far off from Kiffin’s prototypical cornerbacks over the years.
S: 6’0’’ 207 pounds
Since Kiffin generally plays with two-deep alignments and dares offenses to run, his safeties don’t need to be excessively big, but rangy.
Cowboys’ fit: The Cowboys could have an issue here since starters Gerald Sensabaugh and Barry Church are both at least 212 pounds and don’t necessarily excel in deep coverage. Kiffin has made it work with big safeties like John Lynch in the past, however, but the ’Boys still might need to look for a faster safety of the future in this upcoming draft.
We so often hear that teams need to find “their guys” that fit into their particular schemes, and that’s true; certain players are tailored to play in specific ways. However, the job of any coordinator is to mold their scheme to fit the skill sets of the current personnel. It’s certainly preferable to have a roster full of players built for a particular scheme, but creating that is a whole lot more challenging than slightly altering the scheme to fit the most talented players on the team.
When all is said and done, the success of Kiffin’s tenure in Dallas will be determined by how well he can manage this delicate balancing act, acquiring “his” guys while still being flexible with his scheme to accommodate what he already has.