Why are the Cowboys changing defenses?

January, 18, 2013
1/18/13
1:44
PM ET
On Thursday, I wrote a post in which I said it was time for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to start showing some level-headed leadership and explaining his offseason moves in a way that projected a coherent vision for the team and its future. Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPNDallas.com seems to agree. Specifically, Jacques wants to know the reasoning behind replacing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan with Monte Kiffin and switching from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3. It's possible, as we have discussed here, that this change is financially motivated, since the Cowboys have cap problems and may need to cut ties with players like Anthony Spencer and/or Jay Ratliff. That would be a fine explanation (though not one to which the Cowboys likely will admit). Jacques' just hopes the change wasn't made by an angry owner for change's sake:
All we can hope is the Cowboys didn't make this shift in defensive philosophy because they wanted to get rid of Ryan and Kiffin is the only coordinator they wanted to hire who wouldn't threaten Garrett the first time the Cowboys lost a couple of games. Let's hope that didn't happen. Actually, drop to your knees and pray that's not what happened. Say what you will, Kiffin certainly isn't a threat to be the next Cowboys head coach at 72.

The dumbest decision the Cowboys could ever make would be to switch schemes just to fit a coach -- even one as good Kiffin. Don't laugh. Sadly, we never know these days how the Cowboys make decisions.

As I have said here many times, if you cheer for an unsuccessful team, what you look for is some kind of vision and leadership from the people who run it -- some kind of reassurance that there's a plan, that it's working (however slowly) and that there is thought and reason behind it. There will come a time when the Cowboys explain to their fans and customers why they have made the moves they made this offseason. Personally, I think changing defensive coordinators and schemes is a significant enough decision that it should have been explained by now.

My hunch is that it's the money thing, and that they'll end up losing Spencer and having to replace him with a cheap, unpredictable solution such as second-year pass-rusher Tyrone Crawford, who would be developing on the job. But it could also be that they've identified linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter as their top defensive playmakers and want to accentuate them in the new alignment. That could potentially qualify as forward-thinking vision, driven by an honest assessment of their personnel and circumstances. But the truth is, we don't know. We are left to speculate. And if you're a Cowboys fan, you're left to hope this is all part of the plan and not some random change that's going to send things spiraling off in some whole new direction.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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