At 73 years of age, Monte Kiffin has had a stellar career as a great defensive coordinator in the NFL. But after the Dallas Cowboys were embarrassed on Monday Night Football by the Chicago Bears, it’s plain to see that his best days are behind him.
But don’t tell that to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who staunchly defended Kiffin following Dallas’ 45-28 loss.
Making his regular weekly radio appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas (h/t ESPNDallas.com), Jones said that Kiffin is still his guy.
"To be doing what we're doing and to fix what we're doing, there's nobody I would rather have than him and [defensive line coach] Rod Marinelli," Jones said. "Where we are today, to get this fixed over the next, if you would, week or four or five days, the next three weeks, there's nobody I would rather have to get it fixed.
"First of all, he knows what's happening to us better than anyone. And if there are adjustments to be made, he's the right man for the job right now."
Jones hired Kiffin after firing Rob Ryan, last year’s defensive coordinator. Kiffin made his mark during his 13 years running the defense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-2008). He had worked the last two seasons at the University of Southern California for his son, head coach Lane Kiffin.
Kiffin simply hasn’t been able to do anything of significance with the Cowboys’ defense this season. In fact, they have allowed an average of 24.9 first downs per game, the worst average in the NFL since the 1981 Baltimore Colts.
In addition, Dallas has given up more total yards per game (426.8) than any other team in the NFL this season. The Cowboys have been particularly vulnerable through the air, allowing a league-worst 298.5 yards per game. Against the rush the Cowboys are only marginally better, ranked 28th in the league with an average of 128.4 yards allowed per game.
It certainly doesn’t look like a defense being run by one of the game’s best defensive coordinators.
At 7-6, the Cowboys are currently out of the playoff mix, a game behind the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East and two games behind the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers for one of the two wild card spots. It’s likely that Dallas would need to win their final three games of the regular season to have a legitimate shot at extending their season.
Based on the way their defense played against the Bears, that could be a tall order.
The Bears scored on each of their first eight possessions on a frigid night at Soldier Field, allowing 33 first downs and 490 total yards. And they were torn apart by a backup quarterback in Josh McCown, who threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Jones would stick by Kiffin—he’s certainly not going to admit in public that he made any kind of a hiring error. But there’s absolutely no question that Kiffin simply hasn’t gotten the job done, and continuing to defend him despite the dismal defensive performance is laughable.
The Cowboys’ remaining schedule is somewhat favorable. They have the Green Bay Packers (6-6-1), Washington Redskins (3-10) and Eagles (8-5) left to play, and only have one road tilt left (Redskins). But playing in December in recent years hasn’t been the Cowboys’ strong suit, either. Since 2006 they’re just 13-17 in the final month of the regular season.
Sticking by his man is admirable, but Jones must soon realize the error of his ways and bring in defensive specialists who can maximize talent and make necessary adjustments. Those are traits that Kiffin no longer possesses.