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02/14/2013

Will the Cowboys listen to Old Man Kiffin?

Uspw_4784938_crop_exactIRVING, Texas - Monte Kiffin says he is 72 going on 52, but really looks like is about 82. Maybe more.

The new defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys was introduced to the media today, and he was full of energy, folksy lines, ambition, excitement and optimism. Will a bunch of guys under 30 listen to a man well into his retirement years?

"I got the same question when I was at the University of Tennessee," Kiffin said. "Don't worry about communication."

This isn't about communication as much as it's about the able to relate. Maybe he can, but it can't be easy.

It really didn't take at the University of Tennessee, where Kiffin was the DC under his son for one season before he left to join him at USC. It didn't much take at USC, where he had the same job from 2010 through this last season.

Not all of the Vols' or Trojans' defensive problems can be thrown at Kiffin's feet - USC was still under NCAA sanctions and wasn't your typical USC team.

Players want to play for coaches they believe will put them in a position to make plays, win games, and get paid. For a long time Kiffin did that, particularly when he was under Tony Dungy at Tampa Bay. It really helps when you are coaching Warren Sapp, too.

Finding success with a front four that is not loaded with traditional four-three defensive tackles is going to take time, regardless of how Kiffin dimissed the timeline between switching from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3.

"We have a good nucleus for a 4-3 defense but we have to get better," Kiffin said. "This isn't a three-year plan."

No one could argue with Kiffin's knowledge and experience as a defensive coordinator. He has been doing it since the 1970's. He sounds energetic and expresses the enthusiasm of a man 30 years old.

Kiffin needs players to have a shot for this to work, and there is considerable evidence to suggest he is going to need a lot help on the defensive line.

Then there will be the issue of whether the players will buy what he's selling.

Twitter @MacEngelProf
tengel@star-telegram.com
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