Marinelli’s Sunday Night Surprise Of Giants Was Nothing Short Of Magic
Perhaps the need has always existed, but it wasn’t until last Sunday night that the startling truth became so brilliantly illuminated in Cowboy blue. Canton’s upper room of bronzed faces and ethereal visions of yesteryear is in need of an extra wing, designed specifically to honor and preserve the efforts of the underpaid, underappreciated NFL assistant coach.
Does anyone out there second this motion? Good. A petition, you say? Better and better.
But before the nominations come pouring in from football cities around the nation, be assured that no string of pearly superlatives nor long-winded tale of outstanding perseverance can compare with the accomplishments of the NFL’s most recent unsung hero. In short, save your strength and breath for another day.
Today, the only forgotten football man that matters hails from Dallas, and would honor us all by rising and taking a bow. Sit down, Jerry, not even close. You only wish that you were a football man. And we only wish that we could forget about you.
Forgive the football world, Rod Marinelli, for not acknowledging this sooner, but it is now an undeniable fact of life that you are a sideline wizard of the first degree. Nobody but you could have done so much with so little.
Somehow, in your very own special way, you’ve transformed the Dallas Doormat defense into a Giant-eating machine that has some around these parts hearkening back to the days of the Jimster. Here we are, in the second week of September, and Metroplex locals are already filing like starving cattle onto the Super Bowl Bandwagon. And all because a little D, as in defense, has returned to Big D.
I know, I know. It’s rarely wise to judge a defensive unit after just one game. Not in this modern era of free agency. Players are either unaccustomed to working together, or aren’t in full game shape. Often, it seems that it’s an unhealthy combination of both. But when considering what Eli’s Blue Crew had done to this unit in past seasons in Arlington, Sunday night’s 19-3 specialty was something worth noting – and celebrating.
In eight previous starts at AT&T Stadium, Eli Manning had guided the Giants to an average of 29.75 points per game, and tossed 18 touchdowns. How it happened that he failed to pass for a score and managed a career-low point output against the Cowboys on the first night of the 2017 season is a credit to the magic that Marinelli is currently working in Dallas.
And speaking of credit, it would be remiss of me not to offer a backhanded word of thanks to the Cowboys’ owner at this point. Largely due to the fact that his rare acts of brilliance are nothing short of inadvertent, backhanded compliments are the only kind of compliments that Jerry affords himself.
Though the statistical line would imply that it cost the Cowboys dearly for one season, bringing Monte Kiffin to Dallas was actually one of Jerry’s most critical decisions in recent years. With Kiffin under contract, the Cowboys were able to lure Marinelli away from other bidders to serve as the linebackers coach in 2013. Marinelli was part of the package, but it was Kiffin who was supposed to be the superhero defensive coordinator. We all know how that turned out.
Marinelli’s reward for staying in Dallas has been one project after another, not the least of which is currently staring him in the face. The Cowboys said goodbye to a host of defensive veterans this past off-season and spent nary a nickel in free-agency to replace them, relying almost exclusively on the draft and in-house promotions to fill the many gaping holes. In the end, he was left with one of the youngest secondaries in the league, and a defensive line long on suspensions, but woefully short on proven potential.
This potentially disastrous combination appeared to be something of a strength for Dallas versus New York. Even in the early going, when the Cowboy offense was of a mind to leave the door ajar by kicking a pair of first quarter field goals, Marinelli’s duct-tape unit was there to keep the door shut. No, the defense didn’t need a pair of goal-line interceptions and missed field goals to limit the Giant attack to three-points. They simply dominated from start to finish.
Eli was limited to 220 yards passing, including just 33 yards during a first half of play in which the Giants offense failed to advance past their own 35-yard line. Manning was sacked three times. As a team, the Giants tallied a paltry 35 rushing yards and only 13 first downs. The only New York scoring threat resulted in a field goal with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter.
The New York press was quick to point out afterwards that the Giants were without their one-handed phenom receiver, Odell Beckham, as if to nullify the fact that Marinelli had two defensive starters (Anthony Hitchens & David Irving) out, and was playing a rookie at cornerback. You see, even out-of-town writers realize that playing with a short deck is a burden which has followed Marinelli around since assuming the defensive coordinator’s role in 2014, and has become little more than background noise for a team loaded with offensive firepower.
But if one game is any indication, a defense once thought to be a liability could turn into a surprising asset for the Cowboys in 2017. And who can rightly say that Marinelli doesn’t deserve it? Rather than complain when the front-office shelled out big bucks to strengthen the offense in recent years, Marinelli instead worked on creating his own brand of defense in Dallas.
His impact has been well documented by the local press. He loathes excuses from his players, and demands that they hustle until the whistle. With Marinelli at the drawing board, film sessions have a distinctive edge, as he further instills a constant sense of purpose and accountability with a tediously personal grading process.
The changeover in talent since his arrival – though certainly not revolutionary – has provided the Cowboy defense one critical asset which was very evident on Sunday night – speed. The Cowboys didn’t overpower the Giants so much as they swarmed them to death. Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith were can’t-miss factors. But so was every other no-name player along the defensive line. The group of young cornerbacks, come to think of it, did more than hold their own as well.
Sunday nights like those have been all too rare since Jimmy left town. And though the season is young and many question marks abound, there is just cause to be thankful for the one man in America who still works miracles under Jerry’s roof.
A trip to Minneapolis in February never seemed more possible than now. Thanks to Rod, and no thanks to Jerry.