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Cowboys defense ranks as one of the worst, if not the worst, in team history

Andy Dalton will get a crack at his former team when Dallas travels to play the Bengals, but who do Mike Florio and Chris Simms think will come out on top?

The Cowboys defense is going down in the record book as one of the worst in team history. Maybe the worst in history.

And maybe one of the worst in NFL history.

They have allowed a league-worst 2,014 rushing yards, putting them on pace to break the team record for most rushing yards given up in a season (2,636 in 2000).

They already have allowed the sixth-most points in team history with 393. That puts them on pace to top the team-record 436 points the 2010 defense gave up and on pace to be the second-most allowed in NFL history behind only the 1981 Baltimore Colts who allowed 533.

Yet, eight of the starters the Cowboys list on their two-deep chart were key contributors last season when Dallas finished ninth in the league in yards allowed and gave up 321 points and 1,656 rushing yards.

That fact was not lost on Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones.

“I think we’ve got good football players,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “It’s just right now, we’re just not executing. There’s a similar group of guys out on that field who last year weren’t that inefficient against the run. I’m convinced we can get the job done.”

Jones and owner Jerry Jones, along with coach Mike McCarthy, will have to decide whether to keep defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and whether to stay with a 3-4 scheme.

“Several years ago, maybe 10, 11 years ago, we went from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense,” Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “But when we did it, there was a lot of reluctance on making that move by our coach. His name was Bill Parcells. And, so, he had a tough time buying into drafting DeMarcus Ware. He wanted to draft [Marcus] Spears because Spears fit both ways, 4-3 or a 3-4. DeMarcus Ware was principally going to the [3-4]. All we did was turn around and have the greatest draft we probably ever had on defense and drafted Spears and Ware and [Jay] Ratliff and [Chris] Canty. And we were able to make the move right then and there. Had we not drafted those guys, that might have been a tough move and probably we wouldn’t have gone into it as completely. That’s speculation. But there’s you a case.

“You’ve got to think about the personnel when you talk about changing your scheme.”

Judging by the results this season, the Cowboys did not have the personnel for a 3-4. They also didn’t have an offseason of on-field work to implement the change.

The Cowboys historically have played a 4-3 defense. Parcells, with Mike Zimmer as his defensive coordinator, did indeed switch the Cowboys to a 3-4 but not until his third season of 2005 when he had the personnel for it.

The Cowboys played a 4-3 defense in Parcells’ first two seasons. In 2013, in Jason Garrett’s third season as the team’s full-time head coach, the Cowboys changed back to the 4-3.