As the Dallas Cowboys defense continues to pick up steam and roll toward a record-challenging futility, just know this: Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett have no plans of making a move on embattled coordinator Monte Kiffin.
And the 73-year-old Kiffin has no plans of quitting.
“Not really. I don’t think so. Hadn’t really thought about that,” Kiffin said. “I would say that would be kind of like a player saying, ‘Let’s throw it in; let’s throw in the towel,’ or like telling your players, ‘Don’t play that hard anymore. Let’s give it up.’ It ain’t happening.”
Kiffin’s defense is on pace to finish as the second-worst defense in NFL history, behind only the 2012 New Orleans Saints. The Cowboys have allowed 5,549 yards, putting them on pace to allow 6,829. They have the fifth-, ninth- and third-rated offenses left.
The Cowboys’ pass defense also ranks last in the league.
The Cowboys have allowed 3,880 passing yards, only 14 yards from the third-worst pass defense in team history. They are on pace to allow a team-record 4,775 this season. The NFL record is the 4,796 passing yards allowed by the 2011 Green Bay Packers.
Garrett echoed owner Jerry Jones on Wednesday when he said he still believes Kiffin is the right man to run the defense. Jones made a similar comment on his radio show on Tuesday despite the Cowboys’ horrible performance in Monday’s 45-28 blowout loss at Chicago.
“Absolutely,” Garrett said. “A couple of different times in the year, we’ve had some bad games and games where we didn’t do what we needed to do on defense, and we made the corrections and we played better. We simply have to do that again.”
Kiffin wasn’t quite as resolute when asked a similar question about him being the right man for the job.
“I don’t know. I’m here right now,” Kiffin said. “I’ve got to be the right guy right now. I can’t get into all that.”
Kiffin, who was hired in the off-season to replace the fired Rob Ryan, has been hurt by injuries on defense.
But so was Ryan last season when the Cowboys fielded the worst pass defense in team history.
Kiffin was hired because the Cowboys felt his 4-3 scheme was simpler and more fundamentally sound than Ryan’s 3-4 and thus would be able to be absorb injuries better.
Though the Cowboys have created more turnovers this year under Kiffin, they have given up yards at an alarming rate — even when many of their injured players were healthy.
Asked what he has seen from Kiffin this season that gives him confidence that he can fix the defense, Garrett said it’s simply a must.
“I think at different times, we’ve responded well to these kinds of games,” Garrett said. “The opportunity is going to happen at 3:25 on Sunday afternoon against the Packers.”
Kiffin said he remains confident.
“That’s the only way you coach,” Kiffin said. “That’s the only way you play.”
What can the Cowboys do to get a better result?
Jones suggested that the defense gamble more with blitzes to get pressure on the quarterback. The Cowboys have 27 sacks this season, ranking 31st in the league. But only four have come in the past four games, and many of them were inconsequential.
Kiffin’s defense is founded on the principles of getting to the quarterback with a four-man front, but he said he is willing to change.
“We’re not stubborn,” Kiffin said. “We’re looking at things. Jerry’s right. Good golly, you’ve got to change it up, you’ve got to come after them.”
The Cowboys did switch things up against the Bears to no avail.
In addition to switching things up schematically, the Cowboys say they need the players to make plays on defense.
Vice president Stephen Jones says it’s on the players as much as the coaches.
“At the end of the day, you turn on the tape and guys we count on week in and week out didn’t show up,” Jones said to reporters following an NFL owners’ meeting at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas. “I don’t know what it was, but we didn’t get it done and I’ve got to believe we can do better than that.
“If we want to get to where we want to get to, we can’t play that type of defense.”
Like Kiffin, cornerback Orlando Scandrick said giving up is not an option.
“You fold it in and get ready for the off-season, or you try and forget the last one and move forward,” Scandrick said.
In the end, it’s on the players because Kiffin isn’t going anywhere.