IRVING, Texas - Late last week, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones needed one word, and one word only, to squash any potential notions about changing defensive schemes next year.
During his weekly radio show on 105.3 The Fan, Jones was asked if there was a chance the Cowboys would move from the 4-3, back to the 3-4 next year.
And that was that, as the hosts moved on to a new subject.
And that might have been the exact answer Jones told the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, if they really did call about the possibility of interviewing defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who is great friends with newly hired Bucs head coach Lovie Smith. The two worked together in Chicago before this past season, but with Marinelli under contract, the Cowboys do not have to grant any team permission to interview assistants unless it's for a head coaching spot.
It's likely Tampa Bay wanted Marinelli as its defensive coordinator, but instead they recently hired former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier to spearhead that defense.
For now, it appears Marinelli will be with the Cowboys next year, and it also seems like the team will be staying in the 4-3 scheme.
That's what we think we know. Now, whether or not Monte Kiffin will remain as the defensive coordinator remains to be seen. If he's not, I would think it only makes sense to slide Marinelli up to the DC.
Either way, the proof is there that Marinelli was a positive influence on this team. Say what you want about their 32nd ranked defensive unit, because it was certainly bad, but considering what they had on the defensive line, you know it could've been worse.
Think about it, how many defensive linemen had the best seasons of their career in 2013?
For starters, Jason Hatcher had a breakout season, and one that probably puts him in the Pro Bowl if the defense wasn't so terrible. He probably still has a shot to make it as an alternate, considering his 11 sacks led all defensive tackles in the NFL and were the most by a Cowboys' interior lineman since Randy White had 12 in 1984. [embedded_ad]
Playing alongside Hatcher, Nick Hayden was an afterthought to make the team this year but found a way to start every game. Another camp body just to give the other guys a rest was George Selvie. He got off his couch and not only made the team but out-sacked DeMarcus Ware.
Even the plethora of guys signed off the street – guys like Everett Brown, Jarius Wynn and Drake Nevis – all played the best football of their careers. Nevis got cut and is no longer with the team, but still played better here than at any other previous stop.
And even Ware, who had an injury-riddled season with the Cowboys, had one of the best training camps we've ever seen by any player. He had us all worried that a guy named Tyron Smith was perhaps a first-round bust because he simply couldn't block Ware in practice. Obviously, if you had told us back in training camp that one of these guys in this pass-rush drill was going to the Pro Bowl, 100 out of 100 would've picked Ware.
So considering all of the injuries he endured, I still think it's too early to say Ware is done. Just a few months ago a Pro Bowler couldn't block him. I'd like to think if he can get healthy again – and stay healthy – Ware still has a chance to return to form.
And all of that was under Marinelli's watch.
Whether he stays as D-line coach, or is promoted to the defensive coordinator spot, it's pretty easy to see his value. And that's why the Buccaneers wanted him. And that's why the Cowboys said, "no thanks."