Report: Marinelli Heading to Tampa Bay

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All we'd heard throughout the past few weeks when the Cowboys were in the midst of their five-game win streak that vaulted them into the NFC Divisional Round was how the Cowboys' coaching staff was full of guys who weren't under contract beyond this season.

Now, this season has ended, and four notable Cowboys coaches, including head coach Jason Garrett, are free agents. Other than Garrett, a great case can be made that biggest of those names is defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who was a miracle worker this season for the Cowboys' defense and should be a strong candidate for NFL assistant coach of the year.

Reports surfaced within an hour after Sunday's game ended with a 26-21 Cowboys loss that Marinelli would be joining his good buddy Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay as his defensive coordinator, replacing former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier.

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It'd make total sense. Marinelli followed Smith to Chicago. When Smith was fired, Marinelli left even though the Bears wanted him to stay. He came to Dallas because of his loyalty to Monte Kiffin, and when there were rumors Kiffin would be fired last season after the Cowboys ranked 32nd in total defense, there was a fear Marinelli would leave out of loyalty to his buddy Kiffin.

Instead, Kiffin was retained in some made-up role and Marinelli stuck around. All he did was improve Dallas' defense from a historically bad last-ranked unit to the No. 19 defense in the league and 15th in the league in scoring defense, allowing 22 points per game. He did that after the Cowboys lost their three best players from last year's awful unit. It really was remarkable.

Of course, Smith has come out since the report surfaced and said the story by ProFootballTalk.com was not valid. It wouldn't make much sense for the 65-year-old Marinelli to go to Tampa Bay when he's got a winning team here in Dallas, but given his history and his loyalty, it does. Where there's smoke, there's fire, and don't be shocked when this happens.

If it does, it's a huge loss for the Cowboys who owe a debt of gratitude for what Marinelli was able to accomplish this year.

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