Dallas DefenseBy DAVID MOORE
Published: 02 December 2013 08:06 PM
Updated: 02 December 2013 08:06 PM
One of the subplots heading into the game between the Cowboys and Chicago is loyalty.
No, this isn’t about the defensive tackle formerly known as Jay Ratliff, who, you will be happy to know, was credited with half-a-tackle in his first 23 snaps of the season for the Bears Sunday afternoon.
This is about Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defensive line coach who has done a superlative job of keeping a patchwork group effective.
Marc Trestman took over as Chicago’s head coach earlier this year and wanted to retain Marinelli as his defensive coordinator. But Marinelli’s loyalty to outgoing head coach Lovie Smith led him to decline. After four years with the Bears, he took a lesser job with the Cowboys so he could again work with another close friend in defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
The number of assistant coaches in the NFL who walk away from a coordinator’s job to be a line coach somewhere else is about as long as the list of Houston Texans victories this season.
“I’ll say this, he was one of my very best friends,’’ Marinelli said of Smith. “I went there because of him, not for any other reason. We had a long tenure together and I believe in him.
“I’ve started this thing off about my beliefs, being old fashioned or whatever, I have a strong belief in what he believes in and I liked it. For me, it’s got to be that or I struggle.
“I never want to not do it with all my heart. For me, that was Lovie’s defense.’’
Marinelli also believes in Kiffin, the man who gave him his first job in the NFL 17 years ago in Tampa Bay. Kiffin told owner Jerry Jones, chief operating officer Stephen Jones and head coach Jason Garrett if they could entice Marinelli to join him in Dallas they would “hit a home run.’’
Think of Kiffin as the tenured professor of this Tampa 2 defense. The players take his course in this scheme but he often turns the class over to Marinelli.
“It’s like co-coordinators,’’ Kiffin said. “Everything we do we run by Rod. He’s also very good with the other coaches, too. Rod could have been a coordinator somewhere else.’’
Kiffin calls Marinelli his closest friend and “an icon.’’ Why are the two so tight?
“We coached together for 10 years,’’ Kiffin said. “He’s like me. He has a tremendous passion for coaching. He brings a lot of energy. When I walk in the door, he’s already here and has the coffee pot going.
“He connects with the players. He really does. I have him talk to our defense a lot.’’
Marinelli attributes their bond to the positive outlook he and Kiffin share along with their drive to teach and do things the right way.
The 64-year-old coach gives his players nicknames. He puts together motivational videos and posts messages in the lockers of his defensive linemen.
Marinelli placed a cigar in the locker of DeMarcus Ware after one sackless game with the words, “Close, but no cigar.’’ He taped a small foam football to a note which read, “This is a ball. Sack and cause a fumble’’ earlier this season.
“I’ve always been that way,’’ Marinelli said. “I just think that’s part of teaching. Some person can stand in a classroom and teach, teach, teach. I like to create a different atmosphere and to stimulate a man’s thinking.
“I’ve always been big on images myself. I think when you see something different ways, it’s memorable. It becomes memorable. We all can remember an image and it can come back quick. I can start this conversation over, that’s why you have that (recorder) so you can remember words. But if I gave you a picture image you’d remember it.
“I believe when you teach, you use as many tools as you can to help things become ingrained for these men.’’
There have been plenty of men to teach. There are currently 10 defensive linemen on the active roster in addition to the 11 who have been traded, placed on injured reserve or cut since the end of training camp. That group includes the defensive tackle who now goes by the name Jeremiah Ratliff.
There have been games this season when a player works out on Tuesday, signs on Wednesday and plays on Sunday. What does Marinelli stress to get them ready to quickly?
“I think the base fundamentals,’’ he said. “The pad level, the steps, the keys. That’s everything.
“A man has to have that. Then the tempo that we want to play. That’s very hard. How we sprint.’’
The passion and loyalty that made Marinelli such a valuable asset of Chicago’s staff the past four years is now in Dallas.
The Cowboys are better for it.
It's a great read, but they have to be embarrassed.
|Hawk wrote: |
|It's a great read, but they have to be embarrassed. |
Just win tonight, and some of that embarrassment will diappear