Looking Back: A Bad Scheme with the Wrong Players

The Cowboys might still set NFL records for futility on defense, given the team’s inability to stop anyone on defense. This did not stop Jerry Jones from giving Monte Kiffin a firm vote of confidence after the Cowboys could not force a single punt against the Bears on Monday.

This led to a host of comments, including:

As an Eagle fan, I hope that Jerry lives forever.

A bit of a debate has now begun about whether the root cause is the lack of talent on defense or the scheme. A short summary of the arguments:

It’s the Players: The no-names on the defensive line do not provide enough pressure to make the Tampa 2 work. The team just is not getting enough pressure from the front four.

It’s the Scheme: The Cover 2/Tampa 2 has been going out of favor for several years because of how offenses have responded to it, and the Cowboys’ use of the scheme just proves how ineffective it’s become.

I don’t have an answer to why the defense is so bad, but this reminded me of coordinator hires in 2000 and 2002 that had similar results.

In 1999, the Cowboys finished 16th in the league in total offense while running Chan Gailey’s offense. Jerry decided to make a change in schemes and hired Jack Reilly to run the timing-based system that the Rams had used to win the Super Bowl in ’99.

With the team’s talent level taking a severe hit thanks to salary-cap problems, the Cowboys’ yards-per-game average sank from 302.5 in 1999 to 279.7 in 2000 and 275.1 in 2001.

The Cowboys still did not upgrade the offense in 2002 in any significant way, but Jerry decided the answer to the problem was to install the West Coast Offense. The team hired Bruce Coslet, who at one time was considered one of the leading minds regarding the West Coast system. However, the team did not have the talent in place to run that system, and teams at that point were already starting to move away from the way they had run the West Coast during the 1990s.

The result—the Cowboys averaged just 273.4 yards per game, continuing the trend of the offense averaging fewer yards than the year before. The team ranked 30th in the league in total yards and 31st in points. Only the ’60 and ’89 squads were close to as bad on offense. The Cowboys followed two 5-11 seasons with yet another 5-11 season.

Fast forward to the last few years on the defensive side of the ball. In Wade Phillips’ last full season in Dallas in 2009, the Cowboys allowed an average of 315.9 yards per game, which ranked 9th in the league.

The team fell apart in 2010, allowing 351.8 yards per game. Jerry hired Rob Ryan for the 2011 season, and the defense improved slightly by allowing 343.2 yards per game. However, in 2012, the team allowed 355.4 yards per game, and the problems on defense led Jerry to fire Ryan and turn to Monte Kiffin.

Without upgrading the defense in any significant way thanks to salary-cap problems, Jerry expected Kiffin to install the Tampa 2 to achieve  better results. The result has been that the team has allowed 426.8 yards per game, including four games where the defense has allowed more than 500 yards.

Does Jerry learn from mistakes? Of course not. This team that has been no better than mediocre for most of the past 18 years is once again mediocre and could be headed for yet another 8-8 season.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Subscribe / Share

Article by Matt Cordon

Blogging impatiently about the Cowboys since 2006. Being a fan since 1977 hasn't required quite as much patience.
Matt Cordon tagged this post with: , , , , , , , Read 1555 articles by

Connect

newsletter software
Get Adobe Flash player