COMMENTARY | The Dallas Cowboys struggled on offense and defense in 2013. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones replaced the offensive and defensive coordinators, but it will not matter if Jones keeps supplying the coaches with subpar players.
The Cowboys went 8-8 and did not make the playoffs in 2013. The defense set records for ineptitude while the offense was inconsistent throughout the season. Jones' answer to these problems was to hire Scott Linehan to call the plays on offense, and promote Rob Marinelli from defensive line coach to defensive coordinator.
This is the second season in a row where Jones has replaced the coaches who call the plays on offense and defense. In 2013 he fired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator and replaced him with Monte Kiffin. He stripped the play-calling duties on offense from head coach Jason Garrett and gave them to offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
Ryan went to New Orleans and transformed the Saints defense from the worst unit in the league to one of the best. The Cowboys went from a middle of the road defense under Ryan to the worst in the league under Kiffin.
Jones hired Kiffin after he retired from a stint at USC. Kiffin struggled mightily to stop the spread offenses he faced in college. In three career games against Chip Kelly's spread offense at Oregon, Kiffin's "Tampa-2" defense allowed an average of 50 points and 601 yards per game.
Jones brought Kiffin to Dallas to install his version of the 4-3 scheme at the same time that more and more teams in the league were moving towards a spread offense. The Philadelphia Eagles hired Kelly ensuring that Kiffin would face that offense at least twice a year.
Callahan's play-calling came under fire late in the year when the Cowboys lost multiple games they held second-half leads in. Dallas had a 26-3 halftime lead over the Green Bay Packers at home in December, but the Packers came back to win the game 37-36 as the Cowboys inexplicably abandoned the run in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys offense averaged 341 yards per game in 2013 which was 42 yards per game worst than in 2012. It was the worst performance by a Dallas offense since the 2005 season.
Jones' poor coaching hires coupled with his ineptitude in handling the NFL draft has doomed the Cowboys to mediocrity. He could hire Vince Lombardi to the run the team and it would not matter if Jones continued to make the Cowboys' draft picks.
The Cowboys entered the 2013 draft with needs on the offensive line, at safety and on the defensive line. They enter the 2014 draft with glaring needs on the offensive line, at safety and on the defensive line.
No draft defines Jones' ineptitude as a general manager like the 2009 draft. Jones chose 12 players in the 2009 draft and four years later not a single player from the 2009 draft was on the Cowboys roster.
If you want to be a consistent winner in the NFL then you have to build your franchise through the draft. Jones' insistence on running the draft for the Cowboys has crippled the franchise.
Anyone with a fundamental understanding of football would know that the Cowboys would need to increase their depth on the defensive line when they switched from Ryan's 3-4 scheme to Kiffin's 4-3 scheme. Jones did not draft a single defensive lineman in the 2013 draft.
Marinelli is one of the best defensive line coaches in the league. Under his tutelage defensive end George Selvie and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher had career years in 2013.
Marinelli was a miracle worker in 2013 trying to forge an NFL defensive line out of castoffs from other teams. Injuries cost the Cowboys Anthony Spencer and Tyrone Crawford before the season started. Of the 11 players on the Cowboys defensive line depth chart, only three were drafted by the Cowboys.
Linehan and Marinelli may be exceptional coaches, but no one will ever know because they are dealing with a personnel handicap created by their owner. The Cowboys are not going to be an elite team until Jones' relinquishes control of the draft to someone who knows what they are doing.
Michael Taglienti lives in Dallas, and has been covering all levels of football for six years. His articles have been featured on CNN and numerous other websites.
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- Monte Kiffin
- Rob Marinelli