Jerry Jones wasn't kidding when he said change was coming to the Cowboys this offseason.
Days after firing Rob Ryan as the team's defensive coordinator, Jones has decided to hire Monte Kiffin to run the team's defense. Kiffin has been coaching football since the leather helmet days (or so it seems) and he's best known for the "Tampa 2" defense that became all the rage in the NFL when Kiffin was using it to help lift the Buccaneers to prominence.
The defense is very different than the one Ryan ran, with the biggest shift coming with the base alignment of the defense. Ryan ran a 3-4 defense, but Kiffin's a 4-3 guy and that's going to necessitate some changes for the Cowboys heading into next season. Beyond that, the defense also relies on speed and sure tackling more than Ryan's scheme-heavy system did.
Some Cowboys personnel should be a good fit with the new system. Sean Lee and Bruce Carter should each fit perfectly at linebacker while Jay Ratliff will be in a role similar to the one La'Roi Glover played so well for the Cowboys many moons ago. He won't have to line up right on the nose and slug it out with centers any more, which could help revitalize him after a lost 2012 season.
DeMarcus Ware will move to defensive end, but his responsibilities won't be markedly different outside of having fewer pass coverage responsibilities. Kiffin's defenses have played a bit more zone -- the 2 refers to Cover-2 zones down the field, although Kiffin's system has always been more of a Cover-3 with the middle linebacker dropping into coverage -- although that shouldn't keep Brandon Carr or Morris Claiborne from being playmakers. This was the defense that made Ronde Barber a star, after all.
Some players are less ideal for the system. Anthony Spencer's chances of returning look much dimmer in light of this move, which would require him to play a defensive end spot that he's not particularly well-suited to play. The team's also going to need better safeties, although that was a must before they even made the change.
It's a pretty significant change in philosophy, one that makes you wonder, for better or worse, how much Jason Garrett really is the head coach of the team. He certainly runs the offense, but such a massive switch in defensive philosophy doesn't seem organic coming from the same coach.
That's not necessarily a terrible thing, but it is a reminder once more that there's really only one guy calling the shots for the Cowboys.