With Monte Kiffin hired, the Cowboys will hope his arrival can bring about a tighter defense. The team finished a respectable 14th in the NFL on total defense this season, but conceded a franchise-record 5,687 yards. Another unwanted landmark was set in turnovers, the defense forcing a paltry 16 for the entire season.
Kiffin, who will turn 73 next month, knows more about defense than most of his NFL peers. Before he returned to college football in 2009, he had spent 26 years as an NFL assistant coach, including a 13-year spell as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator.
At the Buccaneers, he helped to pioneer the Tampa-2 system that many NFL teams use today, and worked with some of the best defensive talents of the time, including Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, and John Lynch. The results were telling: in his 13 years at Tampa, the Bucs defense finished in the top 10 in total defense and scoring defense on 11 occasions. The team also won the Super Bowl in 2002.
Speaking to ESPN, Kiffin said:
“I came away from the interview process with Jason (Garrett) with a feeling that Dallas is the right place to be. He has this team headed in the right direction.”
Things might be rough for Kiffin at first. As well as having to tweak a defense that has been stuck in a 3-4 scheme for the past seven seasons, the Cowboys might well lose influential outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. However, head coach Garrett thinks Kiffin is well-prepared for the task that lies ahead:
“Obviously, that scheme will offer some changes to our defensive approach moving forward. I have spent the better part of the past two days in conversation with Monte regarding those changes, and we feel very good about our personnel being able to fit the philosophy.
“I know Monte from spending time together with him with at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and had a chance to see him coach up close on a day-to-day basis. His ability to teach everything, from the smallest fundamental details to the big picture of the overall defensive scheme, was always very impressive to me.”
With Monte Kiffin hired, do you think the Cowboys can improve on this season’s underwhelming 8-8 finish? Sound off in the comments!