IRVING, Texas – Since the firing of Rob Ryan and the hiring of Monte Kiffin last week, the Cowboys’ defensive players have had to reconcile the loss of a coach they enjoyed playing for with the arrival of a coach considered one of the best defensive coordinators in football.
Linebacker Sean Lee is right in the middle of that process.
“I owe so much to Rob because he made be a better football player,” Lee said. “I learned so much from him about all aspects of football, but it’s one of those deals that the Cowboys wanted to move in a different direction defensively and wanted to move from a 3-4 to a 4-3, and we brought in a great guy in Coach Kiffin to learn from.”
Lee has yet to meet Kiffin but is anxious to learn the 4-3 and the new responsibilities that will come his way. Kiffin will be Lee’s third defensive coordinator in four years, following Wade Phillips and Ryan.
“As soon as we can get in there and watch film and start learning the defense I think there are a lot of guys who want to get a jumpstart so they can come into the (organized team activities) feeling confident in trying to perfect this defense,” Lee said.
There will be a lot to learn with the Cowboys making the scheme shift under Kiffin with players like DeMarcus Ware, Lee, Bruce Carter, Jason Hatcher and possibly Jay Ratliff moving to different roles.
“I don’t think it’s as big a move as people think,” Lee said. “We’ve played 4-3 in different situations, even with Coach Phillips and the way the defensive line lined up. There were aspects of the 4-3 there. Now there’s obviously going to be a learning curve and it’s going to be tough and it’s going to take some work, but I think we have the guys that are athletic enough and versatile enough to be able to transition to this 4-3.”
The comparison that has been made to Lee in the switch to the 4-3 has been Chicago’s Brian Urlacher. It can be argued that Kiffin did not have a talent like Lee at middle linebacker during his time in Tampa Bay about to enter his prime.
“We’ll see what different variations are and how the defense is, but (Urlacher) is the guy who changed the way you play it and set the precedent for many years,” Lee said. “So that’s a great guy to look at but we’ll see what the defense is. Until I learn it I can’t say for sure what we’re doing, but Urlacher is a guy for sure in this defense that’s had a ton of success and a lot of people look to.”