By Matthew Postins
Perhaps Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has given his new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin license to round up the old gang.
By hiring new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli the Cowboys have paired their new coordinator, one of the best Cover 2 coordinators in the NFL, with the defensive line coach that helped him tutor players like Warren Sapp, La’Roi Glover and Simeon Rice.
It’s a fortuitous hire. When I was in Tampa covering the Buccaneers from 2004-07, Marinelli was the defensive line coach. After Marinelli left to take over the Detroit Lions as their head coach before the 2006 season, there was a drop off in Bucs’ defensive line play. Not much, but just enough to notice.
This particular statistic should make any Cowboys fan feel good. During the time Marinelli was the defensive line coach in Tampa Bay, a span of 10 years, the Bucs had more sacks than any team in the NFL.
Last week, in my series of articles breaking down the Cover 2 (or the Tampa 2, which is the format that Kiffin coordinates), I outlined how critical it is for the defensive line to crash the line of scrimmage and create pressure in passing situations. Doing so means that the rest of the defense doesn’t have to blitz and the defense works properly.
Marinelli comes off like a drill sergeant to some degree, not a huge surprise when you consider he fought in Vietnam. He also walks with a staccato gait. I never found out why, but that hardly mattered. Like Kiffin, Marinelli’s coaching acumen and personality earned him the respect of his players. He’s a technical coach who works one-on-one with everyone in his personnel group and gets the most out of them, starts and grunt guys alike.
Marinelli is also a master of the Cover 2. Marinelli, after being fired from Detroit, became the defensive coordinator in Chicago under one of his former Buccaneers colleagues, Lovie Smith. Two of the three years Marinelli coordinated the defense it was in the NFL’s Top 10 in total defense. All three years it was in the NFL’s top 5 in takeaways.
His experiences with the Lions and Bears have only made him a better coach, at least from where I’m sitting. He’s the perfect ally as Kiffin prepares to remake the Cowboys’ defense in the Cover 2 image.
By the way, if Jones is really interested in reassembling that incredible Bucs defensive staff from the late 1990s, the one that served under head coach Tony Dungy, he’s in luck. Both Smith, who coached linebackers, and Herman Edwards, who coached the secondary, are available.
Yes, at one time Dungy, Kiffin, Marinelli, Smith and Edwards were on the same staff.
Now you understand why Jones is taking the path he’s taking.