The change in defensive coordinators from Rob Ryan to Monte Kiffin will affect every member of the Cowboys defense.
It may not affect anyone more than DeMarcus Ware, though. The Cowboys' best defensive player pretty much since the moment he arrived as a first-round pick in 2005 will be shifting positions from outside linebacker to defensive end. It's a shift he should be able to handle since his prime responsibility will still be getting after the quarterback, but it's one that he admits will take some getting used to this season.
"Once I heard about his firing, I didn't like it at first, it's a business deal," Ware said Thursday. "It's nothing that I can do about it, you just got to get out there and play. Now we have Monte Kiffin coming in running the 4-3, we can be more aggressive up front, I'll be playing defensive end and you just got to roll with the punches."
Until Ware got hurt this season, his production under Ryan was the biggest argument in favor of the former Cowboys defensive coordinator. He had 19.5 sacks in 2011 and had nine through the first 10 games in 2012 before injuries limited his effectiveness down the stretch.
The performance of one player is not enough to support keeping the coordinator of an otherwise unimpressive defense employed, but it does underscore the risk that the Cowboys are taking by shifting gears so dramatically to Kiffin's defense. Even with the caveat that his responsibilities aren't going to be that different, taking your best player out of his comfort zone has the potential to backfire spectacularly.
Complicating matters even more is the fact that Ware is coming off of shoulder surgery, something that could impact his availability for some of the offseason work. While he's going to do the classroom work either way, there's no substitute for getting on the field and figuring out things from there.
Chances are it will all work out because Ware's a very good football player and because Kiffin is coming with enough of a resume that he'll demand the respect of the team. If it doesn't, though, the Cowboys might have sacrificed their most effective defender for the sake of the greater good.