Daily Archives: January 10th, 2013

TAMPA 2 TWILIGHT ZONE: Monte Kiffin doesn’t make sense for the Dallas Cowboys

Monte Kiffin resigns at USC, wants to return to NFL - The Boys Are Back blog

Monte Kiffin is rumored to become the Cowboys’ next defensive coordinator.

Would that be a wise move?

The 72-year-old Kiffin, credited as the inventor of the famed “Tampa Two” 4-3 scheme, earned a reputation as one of the legendary defensive coordinators in NFL history during his 13-year tenure with the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay ranked among the NFL’s top 10 in scoring defense 11 times and total defense 12 times under Kiffin. The Bucs were top five in both categories six times, including a double No. 1 overall rank during their Super Bowl championship season.

You won’t find many NFL defensive coordinators with more impressive resumes. However, the Tampa Two zone would be a curious scheme fit for a franchise that made two major investments in press-man corners last offseason, giving Brandon Carr a five-year, $50.1 million deal and trading up to draft Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick.

And Kiffin didn’t enjoy nearly as much success during his foray into college football to coach on his son Lane’s staffs at Tennessee and USC. In fact, Kiffin’s last season at USC was awful.

The Trojans became the first team in 48 seasons to go from being No. 1 in the preseason polls to unranked at the end of the season. USC finished the season 7-6, losing five of its final six games, a skid that started when Kiffin’s defense allowed 39 points to Arizona and 62 points to Oregon. USC ranked 40th in the nation in scoring defense (24.3 points per game) and 60th in total defense (394.0).

Oregon’s dominance of Kiffin’s defense is especially alarming. The Ducks racked up 730 total yards in their win at Los Angeles Coliseum, with running back Kenjon Barner rushing for 321 yards and five touchdowns.

Chip Kelly stayed at Oregon instead of taking the Eagles’ job, but the Cowboys will still have to face a team that runs a lot of zone read out of the spread twice per season, assuming Robert Griffin III recovers from his knee injury.

How can the Cowboys be confident that Kiffin can help them catch up with the Redskins?

AGING KIFFIN ON CAGING GRIFFIN: At 72, this ‘new’ defensive coordinator could bring the ‘Grampa 2 Defense’ to the Dallas Cowboys

Monte Kiffin vs Robert Griffin - Dallas Cowboys' Defense - The Boys Are Back blog

Monte Kiffin is rumored to be the Dallas Cowboys ‘new’ defensive coordinator. Even his old players didn’t see this one coming.

Former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said he figured the 72-year-old Kiffin would get another shot in the NFL. He just didn’t expect it to be with Dallas.

"I would never have guessed Dallas two weeks ago," said Brooks, who still keeps in touch with Kiffin.

Kiffin would convert the Cowboys back to a 4-3 scheme. The Cowboys played the 4-3 from their first season in 1960 until Bill Parcells’ third season in Dallas in 2005 when he switched to the 3-4. The Cowboys have played the 3-4 since.

Does a 72-year-old Monte Kiffin and his Tampa 2 defense make sense for the Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

"I don’t know if he has the players there yet. I hope he does," Brooks said. "I just know what we did to make our defense great. Some would say it’s so simple, but at the same time, it’s so complex. You always hear about Dallas, ‘They’ve got talent. They’ve got talent.’ Well, now it’s time to roost. They can answer the question: Do they really have talent?"

Brooks compared DeMarcus Ware to Simeon Rice. Rice had 69 of his 122 sacks in his four years in Kiffin’s Cover 2 defense.

"For the most part, all he’s doing is going after the quarterback," Brooks said. "We know [Ware] can do that."

The Bucs had John Lynch at safety, Warren Sapp at defensive tackle, Brooks at linebacker, Ronde Barber at corner to go along with Rice. Sapp and Lynch are Hall of Fame candidates this year.

That is a big reason in 13 years in Tampa, Kiffin’s defenses ranked in the top 10 in total defense all but two years — 11th in 1997 and 17th in 2006 — and top 10 in fewest points allowed for all but 2006 (21st). Six times they ranked in the top 10 in takeaways.

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2012 DALLAS COWBOYS IN REVIEW: National Football League website writers voice opinions about America’s Team

Various writers on the National Football League’s website have recently expressed opinions about the 2012-2013 Dallas Cowboys, the Rob Ryan firing, head coach Jason Garrett, and owner/general manager Jerry Jones.

Two of these writers are prominent, others are either out of touch or rarely heard from in their Dallas Cowboys’ coverage. Even the writers with the least accurate overview of the Cowboys, do make certain points worthy of noting. Check it out and decide for yourself. As always, your comments are welcome.

Jerry Jones and Rob Ryan - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys’ problem in 2012: Rob Ryan or something else?

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones promised change was coming this offseason, and the first major ax fell earlier this week on defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Jones cited two specific games where the defense didn’t play well in explaining the team’s decision to fire Ryan. It begs the question: Was defense the biggest reason the Cowboys missed the playoffs again?

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com says …

The defense was the least of the Dallas Cowboys’ problems

Rob Ryan coached circles around Jason Garrett, given the talent and injuries he had to deal with over the past two years. Garrett’s offenses are so often sloppy and unimaginative. His game-day management also leaves a lot to be desired. Still, that’s not the biggest reason the Cowboys missed the playoffs. Owner Jerry Jones — general manager and enabler — is the common thread running through more than a decade-and-a-half of disappointment in Big D.

Gil Brandt of NFL.com says …

Dallas needs a more established coordinator

Yes, I think defense was Dallas’ biggest issue. The Cowboys spent a lot of money and a high draft pick on improving that unit, but it performed worse in many ways in 2012. Dallas regressed in interceptions (from 15 in 2011 to seven — an all-time low — in 2012), takeaways (plus-four to minus-13), rushing yards allowed (1,585 to 2,003) and points allowed (347 to 400).

I know people talk about injuries, but one could argue that the Green Bay Packers had bigger injury issues on defense, losing key players like Charles Woodson, and they still won 11 games.

There were a lot of questions when Ryan was hired, considering that he’d never been a coordinator for a team with a winning record. He and coach Jason Garrett just have completely different personalities. The Cowboys had trouble with basic things like getting the right number of players on the field.

I think the Cowboys are going to go out and hire an established, older defensive coordinator; I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Monte Kiffin is brought aboard. But that’s just a wild guess.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com says …

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BACK-TO-BASICS DEFENSE: Rob Ryan’s lack of organization was his fatal flaw in Dallas

Rob Ryan is out after two seasons with Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

It was first from Jerry Glanville during one of those classic NFL Films moments when he uttered the phase to a referee after a call against his Oilers, “This is the NFL which stands for not for long if you keep making calls like that.” Whether you are a front office member like I was for 13 years or a coach in this league, it really can be for not for long. There are so many highs in this profession but there are also gut wrenching lows and you fully understand when you sign up for this job.

Rob Ryan was removed as defensive coordinator of this team Tuesday night by Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett in a move that was described as going in a different philosophical direction. Ryan is a proud man but this is the situation that coaches live with every day. In the case, the general manager and head coach were not happy and this was the best course of action in their minds. Was it the right move? That is up for debate because you can look at Ryan’s side for the number of starters he had to play without for the majority of the season and appalled how they managed to hold his defense together during a difficult time.

For Jones and Garrett, they can point to games where they did have a full squad of defensive players against Seattle and Chicago but were unable to win those games but I think it’s really much deeper than that. When Ryan was in line to take this job, I reached out to friends that I had with the Browns to ask them about Ryan and what he could bring to this team. The majority of the dialog was extremely positive but to a man the one area they focused on was his lack of organization and maybe this is his fatal flaw. There were reasons that Ryan always spoke how fortunate he was to have Matt Eberflus, Brian Baker and Ben Bloom to help him coach and to his credit, he was absolutely correct. They are outstanding coaches.

There is a side of me that believes that Ryan lost this job in the eyes of the general manager and head coach because there simply were times where he tried to do too much with this defense and the lack of organization got him in trouble. The scheme was more important than just lining up and playing. Every game was a track meet from the sideline to the field with Ryan trying to match personnel and I understand that is part of the game but there were times where you saw either too many men on the field or not enough. My gut tells me that the general manager and head coach want a simpler approach in how this team plays defense. It is more about how you can line up in your base front, get off blocks and tackle. It’s fundamental football and not about having seven linebackers on the field. You look at the Chicago Bears and how simple they play defense but also create turnovers. Again, the injury situation limits what Ryan can do but it’s a cleaner approach.

Looking back I will always be thankful for the opportunity to cover Ryan these last two seasons. He was always very honest to me and had time to answer questions about his dad’s “46” defense but this is a bottom line business and he even understands that. The general manager told you he wasn’t happy and no one took this seriously but I guess we will now. I will be interested to see in what direction he and Garrett go, but that is for another story.   

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout

CATS OUT OF THE BAG: Katherine Webb says her boyfriend, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, ‘really wants to play for the Dallas Cowboys

Katherine Webb, left, the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron celebrate after the BCS National Championship game - The Boys Are Back blog

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few days, you’ve probably heard of Katherine Webb — the girlfriend of Alabama QB A.J. McCarron who has taken the Internet by storm.

Webb, the reigning Miss Alabama USA who saw her Twitter following skyrocket from a couple hundred followers to nearly a quarter million after being mentioned (repeatedly) on air during the BCS National Championship Game, recently sat down with Esquire for a Q&A.

Of interest to Cowboys fans — Webb says her boyfriend would love to be a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

LM: Are you working with Donald Trump? He’s a Jets fan, right? Maybe A.J. to the Jets one day?

KW: I actually spoke with him earlier today, and he was wanting to meet with both of us if we make it up to New York. I’m working with his publicist trying to handle all of this media madness right now. And A.J. really wants to play for the Dallas Cowboys, so we’ll see what happens.

McCarron threw for 2,933 yards, 30 TDs and just 3 INTs this year for the Crimson Tide, including a 4 TD-0 INT showing against Notre Dame in Alabama’s 42-14 win in Monday’s BCS National Championship Game.

Brent Musburger of ESPN commented about Katherine Webb, a former Miss Alabama and A J McCarron's girlfriend - The Boys Are Back blog

Could A.J. and Katherine be the new Tony and Jessica? On a football-related note, would you want the two-time national championship-winning QB for Alabama to eventually be a Dallas Cowboy? You’ll have to wait one more year for that to potentially happen — McCarron has already said he’s returning for one more season with the Crimson Tide.

OFFSEASON SURGERIES: DeMarcus Ware scheduled today; Dez Bryant’s called a success

Dallas Cowboys Ware Dez - Pregame speech - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware set for surgery

Linebacker DeMarcus Ware has scheduled surgery on his shoulder for today (Thursday).

Ware said before the season was over that he would likely need two separate surgeries, one on his shoulder and another for his hyperextended elbow. Thursday is for the only shoulder.

No date has been set for the elbow surgery and there is a chance that won’t be done. Doctors will take a little more time to assess the injury before that determination is made.

Ware is expected to miss the majority of the team’s off-season program but chances are he will be cleared for training camp

Dez Bryant undergoes successful surgery for left index finger

The surgery Dez Bryant put off until the end of the season, occurred Tuesday morning. The Cowboys’ wide receiver had a successful procedure that will likely keep him out for parts of the offseason conditioning program.

Obviously, the Cowboys won’t rush Bryant back this summer, but the hope is he will be 100 percent ready for training camp in Oxnard, Calif. in late July, if not sooner for a possible June mini-camp.

Bryant sustained the injury in the fourth quarter of the memorable Bengals game on Dec. 9. Bryant not only played through the injury, but caught two more passes, including a 27-yard touchdown that ignited a Cowboys’ comeback win.

The following Monday, there were discussions that Bryant’s season could be over, but after meeting with two hand specialists, the receiver made the decision to play through the injury for the rest of the season. He caught a touchdown pass the next week against Pittsburgh to extend his streak of six games with a score.

And then against New Orleans, Bryant had arguably the best game of his career, scoring on two straight 58-yard touchdown passes and ended up with a career-best 224 receiving yards in the Cowboys’ 34-31 overtime loss. The seven straight touchdown catches tied with three others for the franchise best.

But in Washington, Bryant’s streak came to an end, along with the Cowboys’ season. After catching four passes for 71 yards, Bryant couldn’t finish the game after sustaining a back injury that included spasms. He had to be helped off the field and even needed assistance going to the team charter on the return flight, in which he sat up in first class, normally used for coaches and front-office personnel.

Bryant spent last Monday in the hospital after returning from Washington, but no structural damage was found.

DEFENSIVE AFTERMATH: What ‘Philosophical Change’ means for Rob Ryan’s defensive assistants

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks with reporters about the drafting of USC tackle Tyron Smith - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – Trying to decipher what head coach Jason Garrett meant by going “in a different direction philosophically on defense” after Rob Ryan’s departure can be tricky.

The first way to take those comments is he might want to switch from the 3-4 scheme Ryan utilized during his short tenure in Dallas. Moving to a 4-3 might make some sense given the linebacker personnel, as well.

Jay Ratliff had been a dominant force at nose tackle, and despite not possessing the gigantic frame of most nose tackles, he managed to play the position and still create pressure. As the injuries pile on, though, a switch to a 4-3 could be helpful for him, not having to play directly on top of the center.

The likelihood of a possible switch could also depend on the team’s confidence in signing Anthony Spencer. If Spencer’s back, and IF he and DeMarcus Ware are capable of playing as pass-rushing defensive ends. If he doesn’t return, the Cowboys will have a few decisions to make about that spot opposite Ware, though that’ll be the case regardless of the scheme.

If it’s a 4-3, Sean Lee can play middle linebacker and Bruce Carter can play on the outside, while Alex Albright, Kyle Wilber or a new addition could try playing the other outside linebacker spot. If Spencer’s not back and the Cowboys still want to go 4-3, they could try Albright at end. Tyrone Crawford, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore could all get time at defensive tackle, alongside Ratliff. Clearly, more defensive tackles are needed.

This is all speculative, of course. It’s possible Garrett only meant philosophical changes regarding the members of the coaching staff.

Ryan’s already gone, and the status of the defensive position coaches remains in serious question. Linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson both worked with Ryan in Cleveland before coming to Dallas. The defensive coaching staff will need to re-interview with whomever the new defensive coordinator is to keep their jobs, and the position coaches will be allowed to interview for jobs with other teams in the meantime.

Odds are pretty good that the incoming defensive coordinator in Dallas would want to bring at least a few members of his own staff, so this would allow the current position coaches time to find work elsewhere with so many hiring’s and firings taking place so quickly right now around the NFL.

It’s possible Garrett referred to a complete staff overhaul and a scheme change when he made the comments about going a different philosophical direction. High profile defensive coordinators who run the 3-4 are still in the mix, as are those that run the 4-3, including veteran coach Lovie Smith.

Right now, it’s all speculative until further changes are made. But it’s clear with Ryan’s firing that a philosophical change likely means a significant overhaul going further than just the release of the defensive coordinator.

Editors comments: You could also interpret the ‘philosophical change’ to mean a change in the scheme … primarily reverting to zone coverage at inopportune moments and the subsequent third-down collapse we witnessed time after time. 

Dallas does have the linebackers to allow for a 4-3 switch. However, they would need to add skilled defensive tackles to the roster. The DT’s listed above are young, up and coming players. They might have what it takes to make the switch successful, but Dallas should bring in a veteran or two to reduce the risk. Trying linebackers to fill this role won’t hold up during the long course of a game and 16 game season. Linebacker blitz packages could work, if they are supplementing an effective four-man defensive line.

Because of the salary cap, Spencer could become an expensive luxury. If he’s not re-signed, this could allow for a pass-rushing specialist to be added. Any of this can happen, if the Cowboys make the defensive coordinator hire quickly enough to put a plan in action (draft, free agency).

Lovie Smith’s ego may not allow him to take a demotion as a defensive coordinator. The NFL’s demand for defensively-minded veteran head coaches this year also makes the Smith hire unlikely. Let’s hope Jerry Jones has a man in mind that can take this roster and roll with it. There is a lot of talent that can be utilized by the right system.

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