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Biography: (Likely) New Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan

News has surfaced that Rob Ryan has been named the new defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys. O.C.C. covered Adam Schefter's report that the deal is done and just waiting for an announcement here. Reports surfaced Friday that Rob Ryan spent as many as six hours at Valley Ranch, extensively talking to Jason Garrett and then being shuttled to Jerry Jones' office to discuss salary arrangements.Ryan was the third candidate from outside the organization to be brought in for an interview. Previous interviewees Greg Manusky and Vic Fangio were hired Friday by the San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers respectively. Rob's twin brother Rex has guided the NY Jets into the AFC Championship round for the second consecutive year. More than a few members of Cowboys Kingdom will be rooting for them to impede Pittsburgh's chance for trophy number seven in our house.

Other candidates linked to the job, or hoped for by fans, were current DC of Green Bay Dom Capers and current Miami Dolphins assistants Mike Nolan(DC) and Todd Bowles (Secondary Coach). Interim DC Paul Pasqualoni has moved on to become coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies, and fired head coach Wade Phillips has joined the staff in Houston as the Texan's new DC.

Ryan, 48, was the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns for the last two seasons under head coach Eric Mangini. When general manager Mike Holmgren fired Mangini this off-season, Ryan was still under contract. Word had it that Holmgren left all the assistants in limbo, in case the coach he brought in wanted to retain any on the staff. All roadblocks appeared to be clear once new Browns' coach Pat Shurmur announced that they would be transitioning to the 4-3 defensive front. Jason LaConfora reports that Dick Jauron will succeed Ryan in Cleveland.

Rob Ryan's national image has been somewhat shaped by the success and outlandish shenanigans of his brother Rex while at the helm of the Jets. Rex seems to be the more outspoken one, guaranteeing an undefeated Super Bowl campaign for his squad during last summer's HBO Hard Knocks filming. As the second-in-command, it will be interesting to see Garrett's regulations on assistants talking to the media. Remember when Parcells was here? It seemed as if the assistants weren't even allowed to talk to their families until they left the facilities.

Before his brother took center stage, both Ryan's were more known for being the offspring of the ever-despised Buddy Ryan. Defensive coordinator for the 1985 champion Chicago Bears, Buddy will forever live in crosshairs of Cowboys fans for the atomic rivalry he participated in as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Ryan the Elder coached the Eagles from 1986-1990 and orchestrated the infamous bounties on quarterback Troy Aikman and kicker Luis Zendejas. Many BTB'ers have lamented having someone with this bloodline join the ranks, but I imagine the abstainers are more so holding a grudge against the name than anything Rob has done. For those that still hold a grudge against Jerry Jones for the dismissal of Tom Landry, this adds fuel to the fire. Four seasons after having purged Parcells from the franchise, the son of Buddy Ryan? if Garrett fails, will Joe Gibbs third go around be far behind? I kid, I kid!

Follow the jump for the background and credentials of Rob Ryan:

Career highlights gathered from Wikipedia here, and here.

Date Range School / Team Position Notes
1987 Western Kentucky Assistant Ryan began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Western Kentucky in 1987. He moved on to a similar position at Ohio State in 1988
1988 Ohio State Outside LB Coach
1989-1993 Tennessee State RBs LBs DL Ryan spent five seasons on a full-time basis at Tennessee State, where he coached running backs (1989-91), linebackers (1992) and the defensive line (1993).
1994-1995 Arizona Cardinals Defensive Backs Coached under father Buddy Ryan. 1994 Team ranked 4th in scoring defense, 4th in pass defense, 4th in run defense. Led league with 42 takeaways, tied for league high with 23 interceptions. 1995 dropped to last in league in scoring defense, 15th in pass defense, 30th in run defense. Aneas Williams named to two Pro Bowls under Ryan.
1996 Hutchinson Community College Defensive Coordinator Coached under HC Martin Harrell, team went 7-3
1997-1999 Oklahoma State Defensive Coordinator 1997- had two players in top 3 in conference for interceptions. 3rd in conference in total D, 4th in scoring D. Coached Jamal Williams,13 year NT. Named Sporting News Coordinator of the year. 1998 team lost a large number of star upper classmen; dropped to eighth in both total and starting defense. Ranked 2nd in nation with 41 sacks. 1999 - 4th in total D, 7th in scoring D. 8 year vet DT Kevin Williams was a freshman on this team. Ranked 10th in nation in total defense.
2000-2003 New England Patriots Linebackers LB Coach under Bill Belicheck, part of the first two Patriot Super Bowl victories. Willie McGinest named to AFC Pro Bowl in 2003.
2004-2008 Oakland Raiders Defensive Coordinator 2004 ranked 31 out of 32 in scoring defense. 2005 ranked 25th. 2006 ranked 18th. 2007 ranked 26th. 2008 ranked 24th. Pass/run defense rankings 2004: 30th/22nd 2005: 18th / 25th 2006: 1st/25th 2007: 8th/31st 2008: 10th/31st.
2009-present Cleveland Browns Defensive Coordinator 2009: 21st scoring defense, 29th pass defense, 28th rush defense. 2010: 13th scoring defense, 18th pass defense, 27th rush defense.

Now, it's a given that Cleveland and Oakland have recently been two of the worst run franchises in league history, but there isn't much NFL statistical evidence that Rob Ryan is the man to turn this defense around. That doesn't necessarily mean that he isn't the ideal candidate, as so many other factors play into achieving success than the statistics. An inept front office can surely cut the best laid plans off at the pass. I mentioned earlier that Rob's reputation may have been negatively impacted by his brother Rex's actions, but could the reverse be true? Could Rob be getting consideration because of his lineage and his brother's accomplishments?

Let's take a look at the individual players that Rob Ryan led this past season, to see if he is maximizing the talent he is given to work with. According to, the 2010 version of the Cleveland Browns had 13 players that graded out as above average while achieving the team ranks of 21/29/28 from the chart above. In comparison, the 2010 Dallas Cowboys sport 14 players that graded out above average, with team ranks of 31/26/12. So with a comparable amount of player performance, Rob Ryan's team was better at keeping opponents off the scoreboard, about the same level of ineptness at stopping the pass, and much worse at stopping the run. I know, this is a very simplified way of evaluating the stats- but they do allow for some interpretation.

Let's take a closer look at the pedigree of those players to see if anything else can be weened from the stats.

Player Position rating Pedigree Player Position rating Pedigree
Chris Gocong LB 18.5 3rd DeMarcus Ware LB 41.8 1st
Joe Haden CB 12.6 1st Stephen Bowen DL 15.0 undrafted
Eric Barton LB 11.6 5th Bradie James LB 12.5 4th
Matt Roth LB 8.7 2nd Antony Spencer LB 11.8 1st
Marcus Benard LB 8.5 undrafted Jay Ratliff DL 10.7 7th
Rabaire Smith DL 6.1 6th Sean Lee LB 9.4 2nd
Shaun Rogers DL 6 2nd Gerald Sensabaugh DB 7.4 5th
Kenyon Colman DL 4.5 5th Jason Hatcher DL 6.5 3rd
Scott Fujita LB 4.2 5th Marcus Spears DL 6.1 1st
David Bowens LB 4 5th Victor Butler LB 6.1 4th
Sheldon Brown DB 3.2 2nd Keith Brooking LB 3.1 1st
Titus Brown LB 2 undrafted Orlando Scnadrick DB 2.2 4th
TJ Ward DB 1.3 2nd Josh Brent DL 1.9 7th round supp
Sean Lissemore DL 1.4 7th
1 first 5 firsts
4 seconds 1 second, 1 third
1 third 3 fourths
4 fifths 1 fifth
1 sixth 3 sevenths
2 undrafted 1 undrafted

I think the pedigree does prove that Rob worked with less heralded talent than exists in Dallas. Dallas trots out nine players drafted in the first three rounds, compared to six for Cleveland. They've also been able to find better steals, with four seventh round or undrafted players receiving positive marks; compared to only two for the Browns.

One simple theory to entertain is either that Dallas' players underperformed for their coaches this past season or that Ryan motivated his players to overachieve. Either way, I think this basic evaluation may lead to some positive outlooks about Ryan's impact on our group of players.

When Wade Phillips was brought in to take the defense from good to elite, a lot of people had varying opinions about his worth as a head coach. I have a feeling that the Cowboys Kingdom will be divided over this hiring until we get to see the defense on the field. Sure, a lot will convert strictly out of their love for any and everything that is Dallas Cowboys, but where do you stand at the moment? Do you think Ryan's potential genius has been handcuffed by his organization, or do you feel that he is being made out to be better than he actually is?

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