Change can be a good thing. Embracing it is one of the basic tenets of life that we teach children to apply in their lives. It gets harder to change with old age, but for the sake of the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli might need to embrace change or he will soon have a change of employment.
Marinelli came to the Cowboys with a lot of mystique and praise surrounding him. He was known by many as one of the best defensive coordinators and defensive line coaches in the NFL. He was credited with making the careers of Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice. He turned around Chicago’s defense and the Cowboys were hopeful he would work his magic here.
Initially, Marinelli was indeed working his magic. After taking over in 2014 as the coordinator for what was then considered one of the worse defenses in NFL history, he helped the team rise to a respectable unit. The turnovers that year helped the team on its way to a 12-4 season. Since then the magic has worn off.
A lot of the success Marinelli has to do with what the Cowboys were doing on offense. If they could have long drives that bled out the clock, it would allow the defense to rest and play in favorable situations. Yet, the more the defense played on the field, the worse they would look. Marinelli however wouldn’t make any adjustments. His philosophy was the only way, despite offenses taking advantage of it week after week.
Some Marinelli defenders would point to the lack of talent as the reason for the defensive struggles. Yet, Marinelli has campaigned for players in the draft that really aren’t that good or fit his scheme. Players are picked because of philosophy, despite scouts saying these players aren’t that good. One of the best cases of this was the Taco Charlton pick. Marinelli wanted him for his measurable, despite the fact scouts didn’t think Charlton was worth his first-round selection.
The numbers this year don’t really help his cause at all. Aside from some talented players helping the defense stay afloat, they aren’t world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination. Currently, the Cowboys rank 17th both in points and yards allowed. Their only statistic that shows promise is they are ranked 11th against the run.
During the season, especially with Sean Lee out for multiple games, fans wanted Marinelli to adjust his game plans and try to start scheming better against opponents. His response?
“Once you vacillate you are done to me, especially when you have strong convictions,” Marinelli said. “You vacillate, I would lose all respect. I have strong belief in our players and what we do, so I never question.”
Marinelli went on to say that his philosophy has been questioned before and that he just really tunes it out and keeps going. That doesn’t sound like anyone willing to change their ways anytime soon.
The problem here is that Marinelli thinks he is coaching back in the early 2000s and the game drastically changed since then. You hear it over and over by former players and analysts that the Cowboys run a very “old-school” scheme and that isn’t going to work with these very innovative offenses we are seeing in the league.
Adapt or perish.
It is the basis of evolution and in the NFL is embracing it. If the Cowboys want to succeed in this new league, they need their defensive coordinator to get out of the past.
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