Kiffin, who turns 73 next month, coached in the National Football League from 1983 until joining his son Lane Kiffin at the University of Tennessee in 2009. Kiffin has spent the last three season as the defensive coordinator/assistant head coach on Lane Kiffin's staff at the University of Southern California before announcing his resignation and a desire to return to the NFL in late November.
Earlier this week, the Cowboys fired Rob Ryan after two seasons with the club. Kiffin was brought in less than 48 hours after Ryan's dismissal, meeting with owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett on Thursday.
Under Kiffin, the Cowboys will move back to a 4-3/Cover-2 defense after running a 3-4 system since the 2005 season. Kiffin is an architect of the "Tampa 2" defense, named after his 13 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During his tenure with the Buccaneers, Kiffin's defenses ranked in the Top 10 in 11 of 13 seasons and the system helped make stars out of defensive tackle Warren Sapp, defensive end Simeon Rice, linebacker Derrick Brooks, safety John Lynch and current Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber. In 2002, the Buccaneers defense led the NFL in total defense, scoring defense and posted a league-high 31 interceptions on their way to a win over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.
The move to a 4-3 defense will impact outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who at 6-foot-4 and 254 pounds, is expected to move up to play defensive end in the new system. The hiring of Kiffin and moving away from a 3-4 defense could also impact the free agency status of outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, who played the 2012 season under the $8.856 million franchise tag. Spencer, who played defensive end at Purdue, had a breakout season, leading the Cowboys with 95 tackles and posting 11 sacks, a half-sack behind Ware for the team lead.
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