Monte Kiffin made his name beginning in 1996 when he made his best career move by joining Tony Dungy in Tampa. Dungy brought the Tampa 2 to the Bucs, and Kiffin tweaked it in his 13 years in Tampa to help the Bucs win the only Super Bowl in franchise history.
Kiffin was hired today to try to help the Cowboys rework a defense that allowed the most yards in team history in 2012. The move surprised Dungy only because he wonders if Dallas has the personnel to run Kiffin's 4-3 scheme.
"Monte is a great coach," Dungy said Friday. "My question is: Are they going to do what their personnel dictates or are they going to change and go to Monte’s system and kind of what he grown these last couple of decades? That’ll be the big thing they’re going to have to do. But they’re getting a great guy. The one thing that’s going to happen is the accountability. There’s going to be hustle and the energy and playing at a passionate level. They’re going to be very, very well prepared. There’s a lot of things that he’s going to bring to the table that’ll help them. My only question is: Are they going to use a couple of drafts and try to put together the personnel for what he did with us in Tampa? Or is he going to say, ‘You know what, here’s what I’ve got: I’ve got two dominate outside linebackers. I’ve got these corners. We’re going to build around them and do what they do best.’ That’ll be the key I guess. He’ll have them playing well, and they’ll play at a high level I’m sure."
During Kiffin's 13 years in Tampa, his defenses ranked in the top 10 in total defense 11 times and were in the top 10 in fewest points allowed 12 times. They averaged 39 sacks, 19 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries. Six times they ranked in the top 10 in takeaways.
"As Rod Marinelli said, there are things that probably are never going to change with Monte -- just how you play the game, and what he’s going to expect from those guys in terms of preparation and communication and being on the same page and playing to a high standard for each other," Dungy said. "...He's energetic No. 1 and a perfectionist and someone who will not settle for less than total dedication from his group. I think he gets the best out of everyone. But he has very, very high expectations."
Dungy, though, said the Cowboys lack the personnel the Bucs had in running a successful Tampa 2 defense. Tampa Bay had stars in defensive tackle Warren Sapp, linebacker Derrick Brooks, safety John Lynch, cornerback Ronde Barber and defensive end Simeon Rice, among others. The Cowboys' strength, Dungy said, is in pass-rushing outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer and cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. Spencer is scheduled to become a free agent this off-season.
"I just think their personnel is set up differently," Dungy said. "But again, I don’t know if they’re just saying, 'You know what, we just want to get the best coach available, and Monte, you make this thing work with the people we have' and maybe they are going to do that and do something a little bit differently that utilizes these guys."
Dungy pointed out that Chuck Pagano was successful in Indianapolis with a switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4, with ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney successfully adapting despite questions about whether they could be outside linebackers.
"I think great players adapt, but great coaches use their personnel well," Dungy said. "I think it’ll probably be a combination of both [in Dallas]."
-- Charean Williams