OXNARD, Calif. – An NFL coach needs to make a lasting impression for one of his former players to want to rejoin him elsewhere after a winless season together.
Linebacker Ernie Sims spent four years in Detroit to start his career, including three with former head coach Rod Marinelli. Their last season together in 2008 was a winless one, yet Sims still holds the utmost respect for Marinelli.
In fact, the addition of Marinelli to the Cowboys' coaching staff played a major role in Sims' decision to rejoin the Cowboys.
"Just his demeanor, he shoots it to you straightforward," Sims said. "What we went through in Detroit, you all know about it, we went through some hard times, and every day in, day out, he pretty much said, 'We've got to pound the rock. We've got to keep our head down and keep fighting.' That helped me not only on the football field, but also in life. I've got a lot of respect for Coach Marinelli, and it's a privilege to play for him again."
Sims looked at other potential landing spots this offseason but came back to Dallas because of the new defensive scheme and the coaching additions. He described Marinelli as one of the best coaches he ever played for.
"He's a Class A coach," Sims said. "I've got a lot of respect for him, how he presented himself through those tough times and just kept everybody together."
In addition to the coaching changes, Sims also wanted to be in a place that ran the 4-3 defense and a zone scheme. Despite the fact that Marinelli will be coaching the defensive line and not the linebackers, Sims still wanted to be in the same place as his old coach.
He thinks the 4-3 scheme that Marinelli and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin run is a perfect fit for him and his speed. Sims also wants to build on what he accomplished last season, when the Cowboys brought him on to start quickly after adjusting for injuries.
Despite the Cowboys drafting a linebacker and signing another to start in the offseason, Sims has still made an impression early in camp. He made a hit and stripped DeMarco Murray in team drills Monday afternoon.
"That's the name of the game, using our plays to hit people," Sims said. "That's what I like doing, I like running and I like hitting."