Jan. 11, the Dallas Cowboys officially announced the hiring of Monte Kiffin as the team's defensive coordinator. Make no mistake, this is not just a simple hire. It's a symbol of the Cowboys choosing what's behind door #2, the 4-3 defense.
After the Cowboys lost their second consecutive NFC East Division title game on the last night of the season -- this time to the Washington Redskins -- Owner/General Manager Jerry Jones warned that changes were coming. Former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan quickly discovered this even though the defense lost five starters to injuries (including defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter and safety Barry Church) and all-pro linebacker Demarcus Ware was fighting through shoulder ailments the last few weeks of the season.
Renowned for being the architect of the Tampa-2 defense, Kiffin has his work cut out for him. Even though the Cowboys have long been touted for being talented, their defense is in need of a serious jumpstart. Yes, it can be argued that the Cowboys' ranking 19th in both total and passing yards allowed as well as 22nd in rushing yards allowed is a solid accomplishment considering how the injury bug decimated their roster. However it once again is only good enough to finish at .500, not make waves in the playoffs. Teams that make an impact in the playoffs must have three components to their defense:
- The ability to at least pressure if not sack the quarterback
- The ability to create turnovers
It sounds so simple, but especially with the Cowboys defenses of the last three years, it was all about going for the ESPN SportCenter Highlight rather than wrap-up tackling. It may not be sexy, but it's how you win football games.