Final Exam: Hiring Kiffin never made sense

Rob Ryan didn’t deserve to be fired by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, but it’s the best thing that could have happened to him.

Monte Kiffin didn’t deserve to be hired by Jones, and it’s the worst thing that could have happened to him.

Jones needed a scapegoat after the Cowboys went 8-8 for the second consecutive season last year. Ryan made for a fine candidate because his big mouth made him high profile and the injury-riddled Dallas defense struggled down the stretch.

Folks laughed at Ryan’s famous reaction to be fired while vacationing in the Turks and Caicos Islands. (“I’ll be out of work for like five minutes,” he told ESPNDallas.com.) He ended up unemployed a lot longer than that, but his credibility has been completely restored after eventually landing with the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints, who set the NFL record for yards allowed in 2012, ranked fourth in total defense and scoring defense despite several significant injuries this season. Ryan, who has maintained a much lower profile at New Orleans at head coach Sean Payton’s insistence, is a major reason the Saints’ season is still going.

Kiffin, on the other hand, was hired in Dallas due to ancient history.

Kiffin used to be an elite NFL defensive coordinator. Those days are long gone, and that should have been clear by Kiffin’s struggles in the college game the previous four seasons.

But Jones listened to old pal Larry Lacewell and eagerly hired a man older than him to fix the Cowboys’ defense. The 73-year-old Kiffin, whose 4-3 scheme seemed to be a particularly poor fit for DeMarcus Ware, simply made it worse.

Injuries obviously had a significant impact -- although that wasn’t a good enough excuse to save Ryan’s job -- but the Dallas defense was historically horrible this season. They finished last in the league in total defense, allowing the most yards in franchise history and the third most in NFL history during Kiffin’s season in charge.

It will be only one season, right? Coach Jason Garrett, who will have more authority in coaching changes this offseason, has to be able to clearly see that Kiffin isn’t the solution, although he can’t be considered the problem either.

It’s a shame that Kiffin’s reputation ended up being tarnished during his season at Valley Ranch. He never should have been hired in the first place.