Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it clear he wants the trio of head coach Jason Garrett, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to return, but the latter is not a guarantee.
The veteran defensive coordinator is mulling whether to return for the 2018 season, according to team sources. And if he does, 2018 will likely be it.
The Cowboys, and head coach Jason Garrett, are giving Marinelli as much time as he wants to decide. Veteran coaches of Marinelli’s age routinely contemplate retirement once the off-season begins.
Marinelli will turn 68 in July, and physically the grind of the 2017 season took a toll on his body. He had hip replacement surgery in 2007, and often times walking appears to be none too easy.
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Marinelli signed a three-year contract in January of 2015.
Assistant coaches Wade Wilson (quarterbacks) and Joe Baker (secondary) both were informed they will not be back in 2018. Special teams coach Rich Bisaccia is expected to be let out of his contract to join Jon Gruden’s staff with the Oakland Raiders. Tight ends coach Steve Loney is retiring from the NFL.
The team is also prepared to possibly lose linebackers coach and passing game coordinator Matt Eberflus to a promotion from another team in the off-season.
The Cowboys added Marinelli in January of 2013 to coach the defensive lines. He replaced Monte Kiffin as the Cowboys defensive coordinator the following year and helped the team transition back to a 4-3 scheme.
In 2014, the Cowboys won 12 games despite having a defense that had virtually no pass rush, and finished ranked 19th in the league. In 2015, the Cowboys ranked 17th in defense. In ’16, the Cowboys defense ranked 14th, and this season the unit finished eighth overall.
Under Marinelli, the Cowboys have never had the caliber of talent on defense as the offense. He’s been handed a steady diet of OK players, along with serious head cases in Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy.
Players such as linebacker Sean Lee have thrived under Marinelli, as has defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
Marinelli is a conservative coach who is liked and respected by his peers and players, even though he can be especially hard on defensive linemen.
Marinelli has not worn out his welcome by any means. This change would be his decision.
He has been in pro football since joining Tampa Bay in 1996. He was the Detroit Lions head coach for three years from 2006 to ’08. Marinelli was with the Chicago Bears from 2009 through 2012 as a defensive coach and assistant head coach before coming to the Cowboys.
Mac Engel: @macengelprof