Monte Kiffin can be the x-factor that wins the Dallas Cowboys the NFC East division in 2013. The ageing defensive guru will be the Cowboys' secret weapon against Robert Griffin III and Chip Kelly.
Griffin savaged the East as a rookie in 2012, helping the Washington Redskins claim the division crown. The key to his success was a read-option, pistol offense that maximized Griffin's dual-threat skills.
His ability to make plays with his arm and his feet, stretched defenses to breaking point. In particular, Griffin dominated the Cowboys.
He helped the Redskins best their arch rivals twice. One of those wins was a 38-31 victory in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Griffin hurled four touchdown passes and baffled the Cowboys defense.
It is no coincidence that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones turned to senior citizen Kiffin to run his defense. Jones saw a glimpse of what Griffin could do to the Cowboys twice a season for the next decade.
He also knows how well Kiffin has stifled dual-threat quarterbacks in the past. He made his reputation running the smothering Tampa Bay Buccaneers defenses of the late nineties and early noughties.
It was during the Buccaneers Super Bowl run in 2002, that Kiffin showed the league how to trounce a dual-threat quarterback. At the time, Michael Vick was taking the NFL by storm with the Atlanta Falcons.
Every highlight reel was loaded with multiple examples of Vick outrunning defenses and manufacturing big plays. Things changed dramatically, when Vick ran into Kiffin's defense in Week 14 of that season.
Kiffin schemed ways to box Vick in and take away his rushing lanes. He used awesome team speed on defense to bottle up Vick, who consistently struggled against Kiffin's units.
The current Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback won't be happy to see Kiffin back in the same division as him. Kiffin has always emphasized speed on his defenses and his Cowboys unit will need it to corral Griffin.
They will also need it to stifle new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly's schemes. Kelly is noted for his expertise running a fast-paced, spread-style attack.
Kiffin has experience of Kelly's schemes, having coached against him at the collegiate level. He will need that knowledge and his pro experience, to fare better against Kelly than he did in college. At least Kiffin knows what to expect from Kelly, an advantage other NFC East defensive coordinators do not have.
Kiffin has always maximized speed on defense and has the weapons in Dallas to make that philosophy work. Youthful linebackers Bruce Carter and Sean Lee have the quickness and athleticism to chase down any play.
Up front, Kiffin will turn speedy rushers DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff loose on a more regular basis. The Cowboys need that speed-based, swarming approach on defense if they are going to survive in the NFC East.
Aside from Griffin and Vick, they will also face quick and productive running backs. The Eagles boast shifty duo LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown.
The Redskins rushing attack destroyed Dallas in Week 17. Their fabled outside zone-running scheme let Alfred Morris batter the Cowboys for 200 yards.
The New York Giants will rely on lightning fast return ace David Wilson to lead their ground game this season. Kiffin's reliance on defensive speed can give the Cowboys the perfect weapon to counter these threats.
He can also mold a unit stout enough to finally take the pressure of a talented offense. Quarterback Tony Romo has been under too much pressure to drag Dallas into the playoffs, despite sub-par defenses.
The Cowboys have been looking for a credible face to direct their defense, since Bill Parcells and Mike Zimmer left town in 2006.
Wade Phillips had some success, notably in 2009. However, the Cowboys needed Phillips as defensive coordinator and not head coach.
Rob Ryan was an unqualified disaster in Big D. His units were too scheme heavy and frequently collapsed late in games.
Kiffin's reputation for defensive excellence in the pros is beyond reproach. He is the ideal strategist to combat the type of offenses now dominating in the East.
The consistency of offensive players like Romo and Dez Bryant is still vital to the Cowboys. However, if they win the NFC East in 2013, it will be thanks to the 73-year-old calling their defense.