When it rains in Big D, it pours — not literally, but figuratively for the Dallas Cowboys, especially when it comes to the team’s defense. Through 10 games in 2013, the Cowboys rank dead last in the NFL, allowing 439.8 yards per game, one yard shy of the league “record.” Dallas’ 49-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football caused a lot of folks in the Cowboys organization to say things out of frustration, but that revealed a lot about this .500 team.
Former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan looked like the one that got away as his Saints unit dominated the Cowboys’ usually prolific offense, holding Tony Romo and company to 217 total yards and 17 points. After basically declaring to the world that Ryan was the problem in 2012, Jerry Jones backtracked on his decision to fire Ryan and replace him with Monte Kiffin quickly after the blowout loss:
“We thought that it was best for us to go in that direction and that doesn’t look good right now.”
Man, how a year can change things. Jones ignorantly made Ryan the goat for the Cowboys’ struggles in 2012, which were primarily the result of numerous injuries. Now with Kiffin at the helm, Dallas is trying to recapture the glory of the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose defense Kiffin coached to one of the most dominating Super Bowl performances in history. The only problem is the Cowboys don’t have the personnel in the secondary to do that.
The Cowboys brought in Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr in 2012 to be the dominant press corners that make Ryan’s defense click. Now the team is trying to mold these players around Kiffin’s Tampa 2 cover scheme instead of the other way around.
Now Kiffin’s 4-3 base defense works well for the Cowboys’ front seven because DeMarcus Ware is best at putting his hand down and rushing the passer while Dallas’ trio of linebackers are some of the best in the NFL when healthy and their individual stats prove that. However, the team stats would suggest otherwise and that’s what guys like Carr point to for the Cowboys’ struggles this year.
“It’s frustrating when you know you don’t have average players on your team. We know we have some guys who can make plays. We have special players on this team and we’re not able to show that right now. The players in this locker room — we all feel the same way”
Now this comes just three weeks after Claiborne called out the coaching staff for the same thing, albeit was because of a lack of brains on his part in learning the new scheme more than anything else. However, it’s now clear that the scheme is indeed a problem because it fits the front seven, but not the secondary.
For a team trying to win right now, that’s a serious problem, especially considering Carr and Claiborne are only in the second year of their contracts. Thus, the team can’t just get rid of them and start over again in the secondary with guys who fit the Tampa 2 coverage scheme, which has worked well for the Cowboys’ middle linebackers very well this year as they’re required to help out in deep middle coverage.
This lack of common sense when it comes to making a critical scheme change is the same problem the Cowboys have always had since the mid-1990s: ignorance in the front office. This is yet another example that proves Jones has no idea what he’s doing as the general manager of this football team. When a team struggles because of injuries to its star players, its easy to just blame someone for the problems and try something new, but that’s not what successful franchises do. Heck, the Cowboys even changed their offensive play-caller and scheme in 2013 as well, but that obviously hasn’t helped either. Again, decision-making at the top of the organization is lacking, to say the least.
The comments by Claiborne and Carr suggest the Cowboys’ defense has already given up on Kiffin. Add in the injuries to Sean Lee, Jason Hatcher and Ware, and this team is doomed to give up more points than it scores for the rest of the season. But will Jones just blame someone else again and make another change for 2014 without taking responsibility for his previous fails? That’s a safe bet.