IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys’ defensive staff is beginning to look more like the successful Tampa Bay staff of the late ‘90s.
Rod Marinelli is set to rejoin defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin as the Cowboys’ new defensive line coach, after leaving his post as the defensive coordinator of the Bears.
Marinelli indicated to incoming Bears head coach Marc Trestman he was ready to move on after Chicago fired head coach Lovie Smith. Marinelli coached for four seasons under Smith in Chicago, including three as the defensive coordinator, after spending five seasons with Smith in Tampa Bay.
Smith and Marinelli were both position coaches for the Buccaneers, who utilized Kiffin’s “Tampa 2” defense. Marinelli spent 10 seasons as the defensive line coach in Tampa Bay from 1996-2005, also picking up the title of assistant head coach in 2002.
It didn’t take long for Marinelli to come down to meet with the Cowboys’ organization after Kiffin rejoined the professional ranks. Marinelli was at Valley Ranch on Friday, and clearly the Cowboys didn’t want to let him leave without reaching an agreement. The move forces Brian Baker out as defensive line coach after two seasons with the Cowboys.
Kiffin and Marinelli led one of the premier defenses in the league throughout their tenure together in Tampa Bay. Only once in those 10 seasons did the Bucs finish outside the top 10 in total defense, and that was in Marinelli’s first season, when they ended the year at No. 11. The season after Marinelli left, the Bucs finished 17th in the league in total defense.
The Bucs ranked in the top 10 in sacks five different seasons during Marinelli’s tenure in Tampa Bay. The defense finished No. 2 in the league in sacks in 2000 and 2004.
After a rough head coaching stint in Detroit, winning 10 games in three seasons, Marinelli returned to what he excelled at in the NFL. He coached Chicago’s defensive line and served as an assistant coach for Smith in 2009 before becoming the Bears’ defensive coordinator the next three seasons.
Chicago ranked in the top 10 in sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles in 2012, while finishing with the league’s No. 5 total defense. The Bears led the league with 24 interceptions, returning eight of them for touchdowns, including two at Cowboys Stadium.
The Bears, who hired former Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and running backs coach Skip Peete earlier this week, more than tripled the amount of the Cowboys’ seven interceptions this season. Dallas finished last in the league in the category.
Marinelli is the first hire from Kiffin’s former Tampa Bay staff. He’s demonstrated his worth as a defensive position coach, as well as what he can do when given the role as a coordinator.