Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli is nearing the end of his career, just as his defense appears to be building towards something special. In 2017, the Cowboys completely turned over their secondary with positive results, and saw DeMarcus Lawrence record 14.5 sacks. In need of bright coaching minds to further develop this defense, the Cowboys have hired former Seattle Seahawks Defensive Coordinator Kris Richard as their passing game coordinator.
Richard has been in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks since 2010, serving as their DC from 2015-2017. Richard’s defense forced four turnovers and held Peyton Manning’s Broncos to 306 yards in a decisive 43-8 win in Super Bowl XLVIII. He is now the Cowboys’ replacement for Matt Eberflus, who passed on a promotion to the Cowboys DC position to join Josh McDaniels and the Indianapolis Colts.
Eberflus’ departure for Indianapolis was viewed around the organization as an overdue change of scenery, as landing the coordinator job with Marinelli still in place does little to actually “promote” Eberflus.
Regarded as a better teacher of front-seven talent than cornerbacks and safeties, Marinelli and Richard should have no such power struggle — instead forming a dynamic pairing that sets the Cowboys up for success on defense in the present and in the future.
Eberflus was regarded as one of the smartest coaches behind the Cowboys defense, and Kris Richard’s accolades warrant a similar level of respect. Richard found himself in a perfect situation in Seattle, getting to coach Pro Bowl secondary players like Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. The Seahawks’ vaunted passing defense also sustained their excellence by getting the most out of third round draft picks like Shaquill Griffin and free agent pickup Byron Maxwell.
The ability to develop talent was clearly on display under Richard in Seattle.
Now, Kris Richard leaves behind an aging defense with the Seahawks to coach the likes of Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, Xavier Woods, and Byron Jones. Should Richard get the most out of this promising Cowboys secondary, a defensive coordinator position could very well be in his future with Dallas.
In this story from ESPN, Cowboys reporter Todd Archer points out that it was Matt Eberflus in his role as passing game coordinator that installed the team’s dime package. This is a defensive scheme in which the Cowboys were arguably at their best through much of 2016 and 2017, scattering the field with defensive backs that can come up and tackle.
Richard deployed a similar scheme with the Seahawks, and has the personnel with the Cowboys to continue coaching his players to both his own strengths, and theirs.
As mentioned, it likely won’t be long until the DC spot is available in Dallas. With the right hires beneath Marinelli for 2018, this job could be one of the league’s most coveted. Also interviewing John Pagano and Ray Horton recently, the Cowboys could ideally promote from within when the time comes to replace Marinelli.
Like Richard, both Pagano and Horton have held DC jobs in the past. Pagano led the Chargers defense from 2012-2016 before being hired mid-season by the Raiders this year. He has a collective 21 years of NFL coaching experience.
Ray Horton has coached in the NFL since 1994, holding DC positions with three different teams since 2011. Out of a job in 2017, the former Dallas Cowboys defensive back last coordinated the Cleveland Browns defense in 2016.
Few coaches in new positions around the league may have a better chance at impressing their new teams more than Kris Richard in Dallas though. A fantastic hire by the Cowboys, Richard alone turns a defensive staff in desperate need of talent to replace Eberflus and Greg Jackson into one with plenty of potential.
For all of the talk about the coaching changes the Cowboys weren’t making following a disappointing season, they are finally giving Cowboys Nation something to be excited about with the talent entering The Star — and we haven’t even reached the NFL Draft or free agency yet.