How Cowboys Lost DC Eberflus to Colts

Mike Fisher

FRISCO - Matt Eberflus is now a hotter-than-ever name in coaching circles as his work as the Indianapolis Colts' defensive coordinator is earning him well-deserved attention.

So how is it he isn't still employed by the Dallas Cowboys?

There are two stories that explain the January 2018 departure of Eberflus from The Star in Frisco. 

One speaks to his kindness.

The other is about understandably holding a grudge.

The story that everybody knows: Eberflus was viewed as this franchise’s defensive coordinator-in-waiting. He'd served as the Cowboys linebackers coach since 2011 and then in 2017, in a hat-tip to his skills, was named defensive “passing game coordinator'' while working under Rod Marinelli.

And then came the concept of elevating Eberflus - but at the expense of his immediate supervisor and mentor Marinelli. The idea was that Eberflus might become the defensive coordinator, with the then-68-year-old Marinelli creatively bumped up or sideways.

As Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan: "Well, he sure didn't leave because we were trying not to keep him or we didn't think a lot of him. You could tell that he was going to be a successful coach in the NFL, was a successful coach for us, and as he evolved was going to be more so.''

But ... 

Eberflus - not wanting to step on Marinelli's toes - declined.

Eberflus had earlier declined something else: A contract extension.

The Jones family offered extensions-as-rewards to top staffers like Marinelli, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and special-teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. They all accepted the handsome new contracts.

The highly-regarded Eberflus did not. And by January 2018, he was gone. 

Why? And why?

A year previous, in January 2017, Eberflus requested permission to interview with the San Francisco 49ers for their defensive coordinator job. Dallas denied that permission.

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That action played a role in Eberflus declining the extension ... and as I wrote at the time, “was a bet on himself and his future'' that allowed him to exercise his freedom when the Colts job came open. There was no way for the Cowboys to block him this time. So driven by his fondness for Marinelli and his "prove-himself'' freedom, Matt Eberflus departed Dallas.

And, the Indianapolis Colts now hope, the rest is history.

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