Welcome Aboard, Buddy('s)boy: Thoughts On The Upcoming Rob Ryan Hire

Ever since Rob Ryan becoming the Cowboys Defensive Coordinator was raised as a possibility a few days ago, the Cowboys blogosphere has been all a-chatter about Ryan. The conversational threads that tend to recur most often are those that address his tainted lineage, the kind of 3-4 defense he runs, and to what degree he'll light a fire under the Cowboys defensive players' collective backside. One additional line of dialogue--the one I consider to be of the greatest import--has wondered whether Ryan's brash, over-the-top public persona can co-exist with Jason Garrett's seemingly composed, calm--almost cold--presence.

Once the hire has been made official, unless Dallas' special teams coach, Joe DeCamilis, is unexpectedly let go, we know who will oversee the Cowboys three units--offense, defense, special teams--next season. More importantly, by looking at what these three coaches have in common philosophically, we can surmise about what kind of practice attitude Jason Garret wants to foster during his tenure.

Lets begin by looking at DeCamilis, who many Cowboys fans wanted to see promoted to head coach, either when Wade Phillips was floundering or before Garrett's promotion to Big Kahuna was made official. The primary reason that folks cited for wanting Joe D. as the Dallas head man was that he is a fiery guy who would get into players' faces. Certainly he does have this reputation, and deservedly so. But that's not necessarily what makes him an excellent coach--and, I suspect, that's not why Garrett is most likely to work to keep him on his staff. What DeCamilis and Garrett share is a belief in process--in putting in a hard day's work every day and then building on it with a hard day's work the following day.

When he arrived on the scene in 2009, Coach D. changed the face of training camp. Suddenly, camp practices began with special teams work, and he (and other coaches such as John Garrett) would break each step of, say, kickoff coverage, into discrete teachable units, and then work them carefully until the players clearly understood the smallest details of lane integrity, positioning, hand placement, etc. Each practice, his charges made clear, if subtle, technical improvements--and then built upon them the following practice. Most importantly he, and the coaches under his aegis, worked the players hard, practicing in efficient bursts. In training camp, he ran intense practices that kept everybody alert, involved and on edge. 

When Garrett assumed the head coaching mantle, one of his first orders of business was to make the Cowboys' in-season practices more intense. He immediately became renown for insisting that players wear pads for Wednesday practices. In addition to being more physical than those of Phillips, Garrett's practices were much more efficient and intense. During that fateful week in which Garrett replaced Phillips, players were heard to remark that, in the season's first eight weeks, guys were often standing--or sitting--around, waiting for their turn; Garrett quickly put the kibosh on that and, in the same breath, began his now-familiar mantra: its all about process; be great today and stack great days one after the other. For this to be instituted fully, he needs his entire coaching staff to conduct the intense, highly structured practices within which players can have great days. 

Joe D. has already demonstrated this ability. What a lot of people underestimate in the seemingly calm, cerebral Garrett is his intensity and competitiveness. His "ivy league" demeanor belies the fact that he's got a whole lot of Jimmy Johnson's fire in him. And so does Rob Ryan. Regardless of what you think of Buddy and his boys' bravado, they do share some admirable values: they have high expectations; they run hard, efficient practices for which players must prepare and during which they must be focused if they are to survive and to succeed. In that, Garrett and Ryan are more alike than most people think. With the hiring of Ryan, the Cowboys now have three coordinators who will run training camp, in-season practices, film reviews, etc., with an intensity and focus that will enable the players to be great every day.

Just like Garrett wants it.

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