The Dallas Cowboys did the expected on Friday and added Rod Marinelli to the staff as defensive line coach.
Marinelli, former head coach of the Detroit Lions (2006-08), has spent the past four seasons with the Chicago Bears, the last three as defensive coordinator. The move to Dallas reunites him with newly hired defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin from their days in Tampa Bay.
Marinelli coached Tampa Bay’s defensive line for 10 seasons when Kiffin was the team’s defensive coordinator.
The head coach of the Tampa Bay teams when the two worked together, Tony Dungy, said such an addition would help players buy in to the 4-3 scheme expected to be implemented by Kiffin.
Dungy, who received the Theodore Roosevelt Award as part of Friday’s activities at the NCAA Convention at the Gaylord Texan Resort, said he talked Friday with Kiffin about the possible hiring of Marinelli. Dungy said he knew it was Kiffin’s intention to hire Marinelli.
“The big part of playing the defense this way is getting people who really, really believe in it. Because you have to sell it ... to your (players). And when you have other people that believe, that makes it easier,” Dungy said, citing Marinelli as a big believer in Kiffin’s scheme. “That’s critical. I think if Monte could get Rod, it would be a big step toward that.”
Marinelli will replace Brian Baker as Cowboys defensive line coach.
After his Friday talk with Kiffin, Dungy said he is convinced the Cowboys’ 72-year-old coordinator will stress the intangibles needed to turn around a Cowboys defense that struggled with consistency during consecutive 8-8 seasons under former coordinator Rob Ryan.
“He was at work and talking about doing things the right way, hustling, being perfect as much as you can be,” Dungy said. “And I think that’s what he’ll bring, more than anything. Everyone’s talking about ‘Tampa 2.’ It’s not what you do. It’s how you do it, and I think that’s where he’s going to help. He’ll bring some energy and enthusiasm and accountability. It’ll take a while for those guys to really understand what he’s saying. But when they do, it’ll be good.”
Dungy joins four past U.S. presidents as recipients of the Roosevelt Award, the NCAA’s highest individual honor, and said the recognition is “way above me,” in his estimation. But he was honored at Friday night’s dinner.
Before accepting the award, given annually to a former NCAA athlete who has gone on to “a distinguished career of national significance and achievement,” Dungy weighed in on a handful of NFL-related topics other than the Cowboys. Among them:
Dungy said he would have a lot of questions to ask Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o before spending a first-round pick on him in April’s NFL Draft. He said most NFL executives would share that opinion after Te’o claimed to be the victim of an Internet hoax in which a woman he identified as a girlfriend who died of leukemia never existed.
“If I was still coaching and we’re thinking about taking this guy in the first round, you want to know exactly what happened. What is going on with this young man and is it going to be a deterrent to him surviving in the NFL? Is it going to stop him from being a star?” Dungy said.
Before the story broke, Te’o had been projected as a first-round pick in most mock drafts, with several analysts placing him among the top 10 selections. Dungy said the player’s NFL draft stock now depends on how he handles damage control and how truthful he is during interviews with NFL executives.
“The truth is the best liberator. That’s what I would do. And he’s going to get questioned about it a lot,” Dungy said. “When something like this happens that isn’t standard, how do you deal with it? And growing up is a big part of it. It’s all part of the process.”
Dungy, father of an Oregon football player, predicted former Ducks coach Chip Kelly can succeed in the NFL as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles with his up-tempo offense and without a dual-threat quarterback.
“You can run that system and it doesn’t have to all be about the quarterback running,” said Dungy, father of Ducks receiver Eric Dungy. “He’ll tweak it to the talent he has and he’s really good about getting the best out of everybody and knowing what guys can do and can’t do .To me, that’s a good coach. I think he does a great job.”
Dungy said Kelly’s up-tempo attack is not all that different, from a pace-of-play standpoint, than what the Buffalo Bills did in the 1990s with a no-huddle offense while going to four consecutive Super Bowls.
“Buffalo committed to it and that was their game. It wasn’t the quarterback running. It wasn’t the spread offense. But it was the same pace,” said Dungy, a Kansas City assistant coach when the Bills ran that system. “And it was very difficult to prepare and practice for it.”
Dungy said Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor, has the intangibles to rebound quickly from his season-ending knee surgery and be productive next season.
“He’s a leader. That is what makes him special,” Dungy said. “Those leadership qualities will come out in tough times and in good times.”
NCAA delegates will vote today on proposed rules changes, including a handful that would significantly tweak recruiting practices for major-college football coaches.
Kirk Rohle, former running back from Hampden-Sydney College, received the Award of Valor for helping a teammate escape a house fire in which Rohle received burns over 47 percent of his body.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760
Staff writer Clarence E. Hill Jr. contributed to this report.