Kiffin ‘excited’ to be back in NFL with Cowboys

Updated: January 22, 2013

MOBILE, Ala. — Saying he still has the energy, newly hired Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said he’s excited to take over the defense and implement his famed Tampa 2 defense.

Kiffin, speaking early Tuesday morning after interviewing several college players at the Senior Bowl, said he’s ready to get back to work after three years away from the NFL, where he coached with his son, Lane, at USC.

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“Just the fact it’s the Dallas Cowboys — you know, a unique situation,” Kiffin, 72, told “I’m very fortunate. The coach [Jason Garrett] and the Joneses. The whole bit. Excited to be back here at the Senior Bowl, checking out the players and looking for good players. I’m real excited.”

The Cowboys relieved Rob Ryan of his duties last week with one-year remaining on his deal. The Cowboys’ hiring process was quick as they targeted Kiffin, who decided to leave college after the 2012 season. Kiffin said the Cowboys’ ability to move from a 3-4 defensive scheme to a 4-3 wasn’t a factor in his decision to take the position because he feels he can make the defense work.

“You just take the job because of the people you’re with and who you’re going to work for,” he said. “The head coach, Garrett, is an awesome guy and the whole bit.”

Kiffin takes over a defense that finished 19th overall while allowing a franchise-record 5,687 yards. The Cowboys also finished 19th against the pass (230.3) and 22nd against the run (125.2).

Creating turnovers was a major problem for the Cowboys in 2012. As a team, Ryan’s defense forced just 16 turnovers, tied for fourth fewest in the NFL.

Ryan, however, missed five starters to injury and two other main backups.

The Cowboys will now switch to a 4-3 Tampa 2 defense, which is designed to get more pressure up front and allow the linebackers and secondary players to make plays on the ball. The Chicago Bears ran this scheme last season and led the NFL with 44 forced turnovers and were fourth with 44 sacks. The Cowboys had 36 sacks last season, tied for sixth in the NFL.

Kiffin also gets Rod Marinelli from the Bears to help with the Tampa 2. Marinelli declined to return to Chicago as its defensive coordinator for 2013 despite being offered a chance to stay with a new head coach.

“He’s an awesome coach,” Kiffin said of Marinelli, who will coach the defensive line. “We were together with the Buccaneers for 10 years. It starts up front, some people say that, and it really does. So we’re pretty excited about Rod. Rod is, I call him an icon, he’s a special guy.”

Kiffin said said his love of coaching is the reason he’s continuing. He will turn 73 in late February and is the second-oldest coach in the NFL. Chiefs defensive line coach Tommy Brasher is also 72.

“You got to have great passion for coaching,” Kiffin said. “It starts with the energy, and you expect the players to be the same way. I can’t wait to get to work every day. I just love it. [Former Tampa Bay coach Jon] Gruden used to say, ‘You like it or you love it.’ You got to love it.”

Calvin Watkins

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