In 1996, when Monte Kiffin and Rob Marinelli walked into One Buc Place, they were greeted by Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch. Sapp is in the Hall of Fame Class of 2013. Brooks will be eligible for the Hall next year. Lynch didn't make the list of 15 modern-era finalists this season in his first-year eligible, but he is expected to make the cut one year soon.
Kiffin and Marinelli couldn't convince any of the three to come out of retirement to join them in Dallas, but the new Cowboys' coaches do believe they have a core group of players to make a quick, successful transition from the 3-4 to the 4-3.
DeMarcus Ware, Bruce Carter, Sean Lee, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are good building blocks.
“We are not the 1996 Buccaneers by any sense,” Kiffin said. “…We have a good nucleus here for a 4-3 defense, but we still need to get better, no doubt about it.”
Ware is the one player on the Cowboys defense who is headed toward Canton. He has 111 sacks in his eight seasons.
"He’s already proven it. He’s already done it," Kiffin said of Ware. "He just did it from a standup position, that type of thing. But I think he’s a special player."
Ware won't be available to the Cowboys likely until training camp. He had off-season shoulder surgery and said at the Super Bowl that he would have elbow surgery. Ware has never played with his hand on the ground, where he now will play as a defensive end. But Marinelli said no matter, Ware will excel in the 4-3.
"I think it’ll aid him a little bit, because your takeoff is better," Marinelli said. "Your keys are a little more consistent with what you’re doing. That’s my opinion. He’s an elite rusher right now. I just think the more opportunity he has, doing the same things every day, every week, the repetition, which allows you to become even faster. The sky is the limit for him, I believe."
-- Charean Williams