Rob Ryan is highly touted in coaching communities, yet has a light resume on consistent excellence by his defenses' performances. While incredible displays of an under-powered Cleveland defense man-handling the Patriots and Saints are present on Ryan's resume, he has never had a chance to build and control an elite unit. When Ryan first signed with the Cowboys, many worried about how quickly he would leave for a head coaching position. I still think Ryan wants (perhaps needs) to first create a defense that has consecutive seasons as an elite group. For insight into his track record, check out Scrimshaw's really good fanpost.
Prior to the 2011 season, Rob Ryan did not shy away from taking on the spotlight and media frenzy that followed the departure of Wade Phillips and a horrendous defensive showing in 2010. Personally, I think Ryan understood calling out overhyped dream teams and heralding his excitement at the level of talent on his roster would help the media concentrate on the ‘loud and arrogant' coach and forget to press as hard on the players. He also wanted to raise the confidence of his guys. Rob Ryan recently stated:
"Those guys had been beaten down so much that, in my opinion, I don't think they had the confidence to go forward," Ryan said.
And yet, Ryan does not really back away from the praise he still has for the talent level on his roster. It looks like he still wants the bulls-eye directly on his own big-bodied/loud-mouthed target.
"I don't know, [the talent] it's a hell of a lot better than what I had in Cleveland,"
"That's OK. Hey, keep the target on me this year and see what happens."
Last season, it might have been a boast to raise moral. But this year, the development of some young players and introduction of new ones like Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are certainly reasons for him, and fans, to be excited. Ryan has gone on record stating he thought he worked too quickly into his defensive schemes, throwing too much at the players and more blame on himself. Jason Garrett has recently mentioned the amount of injuries the team faced with their cornerbacks last season. I still think Ryan's "terrible gameplans" were more a function of running safeties high more often than he would like due to the poor play of his corners, high and low on the depth chart.
And so a defense with a terrible secondary and well above average in all other rankings returns with some higher expectations. At least, it does for some fans and Rob Ryan himself.
"I know one thing: I'm happy as hell with what we've got here," Ryan said. "I'm going to say it again: If we play the way we're capable of, then we'll be shutting a lot of people up. And there's a lot of them to shut up out there. A ton of them."