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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.
It has been four days since the Dallas Cowboys officially hired Monte Kiffin to take over as defensive coordinator.
If you respect Larry Lacewell’s opinion—and a certain owner obviously does—you have reason for optimism. The former scouting director has told several reporters that Kiffin will have no trouble making his mark in Dallas.
Meanwhile, Rob Ryan will reportedly become defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams. One of several reasons cited for the change in Dallas was that the defense under Ryan simply lacked discipline.
There will be plenty of time to debate the pros and cons of this move, but here are a few numbers to consider.
Age at the Beginning of the 2013 Season
Experience as NFL Defensive Coordinator
Kiffin: 15 years
Ryan: 9 years
Kiffin: 4-3 in a relatively simple system known as the Tampa-2
Ryan: 3-4 with a relatively complex system of blitzes and coverages
Number of Teams Coached (Before Dallas)
Number of Playoff Seasons While Defensive Coordinator
Number of Seasons with Winning Records While Defensive Coordinator
Number of Times Defenses Finished in the Top 5 in Yards Allowed
Number of Times Defenses Finished in the Top 5 in Points Allowed
No, these numbers don’t mean everything, but there is a good chance fans won’t have to put up with so much hype that surrounded Ryan.
If the Cowboys appeared distracted on Sunday, it was for good reason. It would be impossible for the team to concentrate fully on the game while the death of practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was fresh on everyone’s minds.
Even before the accident occurred, many had doubts about the Cowboys’ chances. Just before the game started, a radio commentator with ESPN said he thought the game would come down to the Cowboys needing a defensive stop. He didn’t think the Cowboys would get one and would lose the game accordingly.
Until the 6:35 mark of the fourth quarter, it was hard to argue with him. Until then, most were just hoping that Jason Garrett would stop Rob Ryan from coming onto the field after the defensive coordinator was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, extending a Cincinnati drive early in the third quarter. (More on the bone-headed move below.)
The Dallas defense indeed made that critical stop, which gave the Cowboys a chance to drive for the game-winning field goal in a 20-19 Dallas win.
Thanks to the win, the Cowboys are not dead in the playoff race. However, wins by the Giants, Seahawks, and Redskins did not help the Cowboys’ chances. At 7-6, the Cowboys are going to need help to take either a wildcard or a division title.
Back to the game.
This Dallas squad just isn’t a first-half team, whatever the reason may be. The Cowboys have trailed at some point in the first halves of 12 of 13 games. The only exception was the Atlanta game, which was a 6-6 tie at the half before the Falcons ran away with the game.
Sunday’s game against the Bengals followed a typical pattern. Dallas moved the ball a little bit early but could not punch it in.
An early 3-0 lead became a 10-3 deficit. Cincinnati led 13-10 at the half as the Dallas offense struggled.
The third quarter should have belonged to the Bengals. The Cowboys had three possessions but could only manage 42 yards with no points.
Had the Bengals not made some critical mistakes, including several drops, Cincinnati’s 19-10 lead may have been much worse.
The Cowboys trailed by nine when they took the ball at their own 32 with 9:47 remaining. Things looked bad again when referees called Doug Free for holding, setting up a 1st-and-20 at the Dallas 35.
On the next play, though, Romo hit Kevin Ogletree on a 23-yard play to give the Cowboys a first down.
Three plays later, the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-10 from the Cincinnati 42, but Romo was able to find Miles Austin for 15 yards.
On the next play, Romo hit Dez Bryant over the middle for a 27-yard touchdown pass. Dallas suddenly had life.
Cincinnati took over with 6:35 remaining. This was the spot where the Cowboys needed a stop. After one first down, the Bengals stalled. Anthony Spencer had the best play of the day on defense by sacking Andy Dalton on a 3rd-and-4 play, forcing the Bengals to punt.
The Cowboys took over at their own 28 with 3:44 left. They managed to convert three third-down plays on the drive and moved the ball to the Cincinnati 22. Dan Bailey nailed a 40-yard field goal as time expired to give the Cowboys the win.
* * *
It may not be hard to tell that I’m not a Rob Ryan fan.
Yes, the defense helped to win the game today, but this was the same defense that could not generate a pass rush until the very end. Had several Bengal receivers not dropped some critical passes, the game may have been out of reach by the fourth quarter.
Here’s the scenario on Sunday: Cincinnati led 13-10 and had driven inside the Dallas red zone. The Bengals faced a 1st-and-15 after a penalty.
Andy Dalton faced almost no pressure but ran to his right to extend the play. As he moved to his right, Ryan (and other coaches) were already on the field screaming. Here’s the shot:
Maybe Ryan had every right to be mad. However, he continued his rant by shouting some variations of a word that starts with F at tackle Andre Smith.
I’ve now seen Ryan shout f-this and f-that into his headset. I’ve seen him yell at an opposing team’s tackle. I have yet to see Ryan yell at a member of the Cowboys’ defense.
* * *
As for the playoffs, the Cowboys needed the Seahawks, Giants, and Redskins to fall today. Instead, the Seahawks beat the Cardinals 58-0, the Giants beat the Saints 52-27, and the Redskins beat the Ravens 31-28 in overtime.
Because the Cowboys will lose tiebreakers to the Bears and Seahawks (and even the Redskins, depending on a few scenarios), the Cowboys’ best chance may be the division title and not the wildcard. It’s not looking good.