IRVING, Texas – Monte Kiffin has officially been named the Cowboys' new defensive coordinator.
Kiffin met with the club Friday to finalize the deal after speaking with team officials Thursday at Valley Ranch. At that point, it became clear he was the top target for the position after Rob Ryan's release.
"I'm very excited about returning to the NFL and being with the Dallas Cowboys," Kiffin said in a statement. "I came away from the interview process with Jason (Garrett) with a feeling that Dallas is the right place to be. He has this team headed in the right direction. They're close, and I am confident that there are quality pieces in place for us to be able to get the job done."
The "Tampa 2" guru uses a 4-3 scheme, which will force the defensive staff to figure out what changes need to be made on the front seven to adjust from the 3-4. The new look would allow Jay Ratliff to line up as a defensive tackle, which could take away from the wear and tear of playing nose tackle. It could also mean a shift from linebacker to defensive end for DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, if the Cowboys can re-sign Spencer.
"Obviously that scheme will offer some changes to our defensive approach moving forward," Garrett said in a statement. "I have spent the better part of the past two days in conversation with Monte regarding those changes, and we feel very good about our personnel being able to fit the philosophy."
Kiffin, who turns 73 next month, hasn't coached professionally since ending his 13-year tenure as Tampa Bay's defensive coordinator after the 2008 season. He then went to the collegiate ranks to coach defense alongside his son, Lane, at Tennessee and USC. Kiffin resigned from his post with the Trojans after their bowl game this season to pursue opportunities in the NFL.
The Cowboys have employed the 3-4 defense every year since Bill Parcells installed the scheme in 2005. The Cowboys' record is 73-55 since then, but they haven't finished in the top 10 in total defense since 2009, when they finished ninth.
Kiffin's "Tampa 2" defense, which is a spinoff of the "Cover 2," places an emphasis on speed, aggression and creating turnovers. The Cowboys were tied for last in the league with seven interceptions this season. They've only finished in the top 10 in interceptions once the last five seasons.
The former Tampa Bay coordinator's coached for 47 years, including 26 in the NFL. He was the defensive coordinator with the Buccaneers when they won the Super Bowl in the 2002 season. Tampa Bay led the NFL in fewest total yards allowed, scoring defense and interceptions that year.
Garrett, who was a backup quarterback in Tampa Bay in 2004, got to see how Kiffin operated first-hand. He said Kiffin possessed a unique ability to teach everything, from the smallest details to the overall defensive scheme, to all his defenders.
"Monte Kiffin's level of experience and track record of success as an NFL defensive coordinator are unmatched, and I am really looking forward to the contributions that he will make to our coaching staff and our football team," Garrett said. "He has produced NFL defensive units that have consistently performed at a high level in a scheme that has stood the test of time."