Cowboys hire Kiffin as defensive coordinator
JAN 11, 2013 1:20p ET
The team announced the move on its website later Friday, a day after the 72-year-old Kiffin was at team headquarters to interview with coach Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones.
For two seasons, recently fired Rob Ryan implemented cutting-edge schemes out of the 3-4 defense, with exotic looks and by occasionally dropping one of the league's top pass rushers, DeMarcus Ware, into pass coverage.
Kiffin, who will turn 73 next month, is a proponent of the 4-3 defense and the architect of the popular Tampa 2 scheme.
The Tampa 2 defense, which plays the safeties back, is typically a "bend but don't break" system because it often leaves pass opportunities in the middle of the field, underneath the coverage.
But there is also an element of attack to the Tampa 2, which is probably what attracted owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett to Kiffin's style. After Ryan's firing, Garrett was quoted as saying there was a need to go in a different direction philosophically on defense.
Ryan's defense was based on attempting to confuse quarterbacks by making them guess how many defenders would be dropping into coverage.
The problem was, it was the Cowboys themselves who often were confused under Ryan the past two seasons. The Cowboys' defense frequently had substitution issues, although to be fair Ryan did not have an offseason to install his system the first year and injuries crippled the defense this past season.
Kiffin's 4-3 defense, which he employed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they won Super Bowl XXXVII, is a more simplified approach.
The question now is, do the Cowboys have the personnel to run the 4-3 after being a 3-4 team since Bill Parcells ran the squad? Ware easily could transform to a defensive end, and inside linebacker Sean Lee seems suited to becoming the middle linebacker.
However, how Anthony Spencer, the other starting outside linebacker, fits into the new scheme could be determined by whether the Cowboys can fit him under the salary cap. Spencer, who had a career-best season, played under the franchise tag last season when he and the team could not agree on a long-term deal.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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