Do you think Lovie Smith may attempt to steal Rod Marinelli and make him the defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay? And if so, do you think this will affect the decision on if the Cowboys keep Monte Kiffin as their defensive coordinator?
David: To clear this up a bit, the Cowboys would have to allow Marinelli out of his contract. Under NFL rules, the only job you can break a contract for is head coach. If the Cowboys decide to let him go, or if they make a deal with the Buccaneers, this wouldn't surprise me at all. And I think it's the opposite – what happens to Marinelli depends on what the team decides to do with Monte Kiffin. If Kiffin is retained, I think that could be incentive for Marinelli to stay with his friend and try to improve upon what they started. If Kifin is let go, I wonder if the Cowboys would promote Marinelli or allow him to reunite with Smith in Tampa Bay.
Rowan:He would probably try to lure Marinelli, who's a coach that would rather be around other coaches and coordinators he likes and trusts than care about the title. He proved that in his move from Chicago to Dallas. But coaches under contract can't just move location to location. Even if Smith wants Marinelli, the Cowboys may try to work out a deal for that to happen. Otherwise, he'll be in Dallas, where he still is right now in his Valley Ranch office. I don't think it should affect their decision regarding Kiffin. While a departure for Kiffin could change Marinelli's feelings on where he'd like to be, the Cowboys' choice regarding their [embedded_ad] coordinator should be made separately.
The Cowboys lost four games by a combined five points. Those five points are the difference between 8-8 and 12-4 with a possible first round bye. Do you think the team is really five points away or are they a lot further, especially with the cap issues they now have this year?
David: I don't really like this line of thinking, because it assumes only positive outcomes. Yes, the Cowboys lost several games by the skin of their teeth. They also beat the Vikings, Giants and Redskins by the slimmest of margins. So who's to say all those results go the same way if you're allowed a replay? Dallas could have just as easily defeated the Packers but lost in Washington D.C. The 8-8 mark is a very fair representation of what this team is – an average team, capable of playing with the best and the worst teams, depending on the day. Thanks to the salary cap issues, they're probably going to have to get creative, and the starting lineup is probably going to look a bit different – particularly on defense. The real focus for me is Tony Romo's recovery from his back surgery. With Romo and an offensive line to protect him, the Cowboys will never be too far out of the hunt. But they're definitely a few additions away from being a legitimate contender.
Rowan: I think the five points away point is why many people are clamoring for a coaching change. As you pointed out, four games decided by that few of points means one or two plays within the course of that game changed the outcome. Had a couple decisions been different, maybe this is a team whose playoff fate didn't come down to the last game of the season. But I think 8-8 is a pretty fair mark for this team. I know only a few points decided whether or not they'd be watching from home, but most games this team experienced this year and last year and the year prior were decided late by one possession or one mistake on either side. That's how they should be viewed, as a .500 team in need of a boost. One positive is many of their big free agent decisions won't need to be made until after next season.