Our BTB cyborg, OCC, penned a very good article the other day about head coach Jason Garrett possibly being on the hot seat. After reading that thought provoking post, I began to wonder about the man responsible for the defense, the loud and outspoken Rob Ryan.
After our beloved Cowboys had one of their worst seasons in recent memory in 2010, the front office had to go out and bring in some new coaches that would begin to change the culture in Dallas. This started when Jason Garrett was officially hired as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. With the addition of Garrett, the franchise finally began to take steps in the right direction.
One of the biggest decisions last offseason was the hiring of a new defensive coordinator. The Cowboys lined up some interesting candidates, but I have always liked the style of the Ryan family, and Rob instantly became one of my favorite candidates for the job.
Ryan was hired last January and his "different" type of coaching style didn't exactly seem like it would mesh with Garrett and his more conventional approach. Garrett and Ryan could be the modern day "Odd Couple" because they are so different, but sometimes opposites attract and turn out to be some of the best relationships.
One of the problems that I had with Wade Phillips and his style of the 3-4 defense was that it became very predictable. Like Ryan, Wade came from a historic defensive bloodline that included Wade's father Bum Phillips. Wade was a very good man, probably one the nicest guys you could ever meet in the NFL, but in my opinion that rubbed off on his defense.
As a fan of this team that has watched almost every game the past eight years or so, I have become very keen to what the Cowboys are doing on the field. Certain personnel packages or the formations will often tell me what type of play I will see run by the Cowboys. Under Wade I noticed that his defense became very "vanilla" and predictable.
No matter who was hired as the new defensive coordinator of the Cowboys, they had to bring in a scheme with more movement and creativity. Ryan runs probably the most complex defensive schemes in football because of all the moving parts he has prior to the snap, and that excited me because I knew we would be seeing something fresh and new in Dallas.
Not only would Ryan be bringing in a defense with versatility, he would also be bring in his type of coaches to fill out the coaching staff. Linebackers coach Reggie Herring was a Wade disciple, so it wasn't shocking to see him follow Wade to Houston. Ryan brought his understudy in Cleveland, Matt Eberflus, to become the new linebackers coach. Brian Baker was also brought in to takeover the defensive line, and this offseason we saw Jerome Henderson added as the secondary coach.
Personnel was clearly an issue on the defense before Ryan took over, so most of us thought that we would see a defensive-minded draft class, but we didn't. Only second-round pick Bruce Carter, who was going to miss the first-six weeks on the PUP list, and fifth-round pick Josh Thomas who didn't even make the team, were the only selections spent on the defensive side of the football.
It's a shame that Ryan didn't inherit enough talent in order for him to be successful in 2011. The free agent additions included Kenyon Coleman and Abram Elam, that's it. Then Jerry Jones made his infamous push to acquire the services of Nnamdi Asomugha, even putting Ryan on the phone with the free agent cornerback as a recruiting tool. That situation didn't turn out the way the Cowboys had hoped and Nnamdi signed with our division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles.
During the early part of the season, Ryan looked like he was a great addition to the coaching staff because his defense looked really good. As the season wore on, the defense began to breakdown and fold. Our patchwork secondary gave up too many big plays and our pass rush became limited to just a few players. You could also tell there was too much confusion going on out on the field, causing the defense to give up gut-wrenching plays due to their mental mistakes.
The lockout clearly hurt Ryan and his attempt to install a new defense in Dallas. Ryan feels that he may have tried to install too much during such a short period of time.
"You want to be best right off the bat, and you want to be multiple, that's what I like to do," Ryan said. "I think I'm smart, and I know I am, but unfortunately I probably put a little too much in too early."
What I like about Ryan is that he is also willing to step up and take the blame for the defensive woes that we saw last season. Ryan explained why there was so much confusion on the field last year.
"It wasn't all schematic-related. The parts where I take the blame for was when there's confusion on the defense, and a lot of that was us not getting on the same page, even in training camp," Ryan said. "Little details come back and hurt you when you're playing against a Super Bowl champion. That hurt, and then the fact that I think we lost a little bit of confidence in the back end, we weren't challenging receivers."
Jerry Jones went out and finally gave Ryan the type of cornerbacks he needs in order for his pressure based attack to work correctly. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne could become one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL. Their addition to the defense should allow DeMarcus Ware and dare I say it, Anthony Spencer, to make more plays as pass rushers. Rookie defensive end Tyrone Crawford should help out our defensive line, but we should also look for Ryan to implement second- and third-year players Bruce Carter and Sean Lissemore more into his defense.
So does Rob believe that his defense is making strides this year? He sounds confident that his defense will be a lot better in 2012.
"We've come a long way," he said. "We like to say it's about the mathematics. We're putting in our foundation, our core stuff and I feel we have a good concept of it, a good grasp of what we're doing, and I think it's going to pay off."
I believe that we will see his defense improve in 2012 and when it's all said and done, I expect this to be a top 10 defense. If Ryan doesn't deliver, will he be fired? What will it take for Ryan to keep his job? It's hard to speculate right now, but if this team doesn't make the playoffs, we could see some changes on the coaching staff and Ryan could become one of the casualties.
What does the BTB community think about Rob Ryan being on the hot seat? Discuss and leave your input in the comment section.