The story of the 2011 Cowboys has been a story of a great defense. Headlining this defense have been the playcalling of Rob Ryan, and the playing of Sean Lee. While many may believe that Lee's success is merely a product of natural progression in a second-year player, I believe it has more to do with Rob Ryan.
Ryan has been putting everyone in position to make great plays. Lee, more literally so. Follow the jump and you'll see what I mean.
Many of us are familiar with the popular Madden video game series. I'm an avid player, myself (CotySaxman on XBL, 60-52). As a Madden player, on defense, you typically want to control a very athletic, less intelligent player. The logic behind this is simple. DeMarcus Ware will create pressure whether you control him or not. Bruce Carter, however (who is playable, since this is a video game), will misdiagnose the play, get lost in coverage, and whiff on tackles. When controlling Carter, I am able to close on the ball carrier with lightning speed, make athletic interceptions, and cause utter chaos. I can see the entire field, and I can personally compensate for the player not knowing what's happening.
That's all well and good, but how does it relate to real football? If you could created an athletic cyborg, and plugged in Rob Ryan's brain, would you let it play Middle Linebacker? I would. Yeah, now I'm crazy.
Let's look at what Brady James had to say during training camp:
"He was quiet not one minute," linebacker Bradie James said. 'So he's talking, 'Bradie, tell Abe
Elam to get over, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.' I'm like, 'Damn, do your thing, Rob.'
"You know they can talk the entire time during the season," James said. "He told me, though. He warned me. He said he talks a lot, and he does."
This was at a time when it was not yet apparent Sean Lee would be leading the defense. Think back to that time. Many of us were complaining about Sean Lee "over thinking" plays, being out of position, and playing passively. What changed between then and now? Well, Sean Lee got a green sticker on his helmet (which means that it's fitted with a radio). Now, everyone is saying that Sean Lee is a godly linebacker. Some are even invoking the name "Norris." Not so fast.
Sean Lee has been simply epic this season, but it isn't all him. He is being told constantly by Rob Ryan what to do, where to go, and what to expect. Imagine Rob Ryan on the sideline with an XBox controller. That's what happens on Sundays (and other days when games are played).
I don't mean to say that Lee is not a great player. He is. He has the physical tools and the knowledge of the game to play at a high level. Rob Ryan has made him an early season legend.
This has raised an interesting possibility in the eyes of the wishful fans. What if Bruce Carter develops as well as Sean Lee has? NFL rules say that only one player on the field can be wearing a radio helmet. The QB, on offense, and anyone on defense (typically a safety or linebacker). Most agree that Carter will be brought along slowly. He may flash amazing potential in the late season, as Lee did against the Colts. That will be pure athletic ability. If Carter proves to be nearly as intelligent as Lee, and Lee becomes the player that Rob is making him, why not give the headset to Carter? It would be almost unprecedented, to give control to a second year player who isn't even the best at his position, but as a former Quarterback, Bruce should have no trouble calling the plays.
Now, if we can only close out this game against the Lions...