First things first, if this actually happens, I will be livid. Monte Kiffin is 72 years old and hasn’t been in the league since 2008. In the interim, he led mediocre defenses at the NCAA level for Tennessee and USC. I just don’t get it.
The Cowboys have several incredibly viable options to look at: Lovie Smith, Romeo Crennel, Dave Wannstedt, heck, even Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Instead, you want old man river. I get that Kiffin came up with the Tampa 2, I get it. Don’t really care.
Here’s how Kiffin’s defenses fared in his four seasons at the college level:
2012 – USC 46th in total defense
2011 – USC 49th in total defense
2010 – USC 65th in total defense
2009 – Tennessee 27th in total defense
Let’s look closer at the Tampa 2 defense, and what it would mean for the Cowboys.
The Tampa 2 defense, run out of the 4-3, focuses on speed rushes and forcing quarterbacks to throw into coverage. It’s incredibly effective when run well, with the right personnel. Ideally, Tampa 2 sees a linebacker drop back into coverage, turning a cover 2 into a cover 3, and if disguised well, will throw most quarterbacks off.
It normally requires very quick, strong defensive tackles capable of getting into the backfield along with speed linebackers capable of falling back into coverage. So lets see why this would be a decent fit.
1. Linebacker speed — Sean Lee and Bruce Carter have shown that they are more than capable of going sideline to sideline, and playing in coverage when called upon to do so.
2. Penetrating Defensive Tackles — When healthy, Jay Ratliff is 100% capable of consistently getting into the backfield. I also noticed a lot more of Sean Lissemore in the backfield when he got playing time late in the season.
However, there are several weaknesses I fear would be exposed by this defense.
1. Cornerbacks in space – Brandon Carr and Mo Claiborne are best utilized as press corners with help waiting over the top. In a Tampa 2 system, they’d play off and force receivers towards the sidelines.
2. Weak safeties — Our safeties are not great against the run. Depending on them to to come up and lay a hit (strong safety over the middle) or plug a hole (free safety coming up to the line) isn’t playing to their strong suits. Seeing how both Barry Church and Gerald Sensebaugh are under contract for 4 and 3 more years respectively, they’re going to be the guys on the field.
3. It would force DeMarcus Ware to put his hand in the ground and line up at defensive end for the first time in his career. While a guy like Anthony Spencer may flourish in a system like this, Ware needs space to create. Now I have no doubt he would work to overcome this adjustment, but how long will it take, and how much would it affect our best pass rusher’s production?
Frankly, I’m not in favor of hiring Kiffin. Go in another direction Jerry.