When Rob Ryan joined the Cowboys’ coaching staff in 2011, he was expected to fix what was then the NFL’s second-worst defense. The complete defensive transformation that owner Jerry Jones expected when hiring Ryan didn’t exactly take place during his two years in Dallas, but the progress made can’t be denied upon his exit.
Ryan was fired on Monday night, as the Cowboys try to turn the tides on another middling 8-8 season and head coach Jason Garrett fights to save his job. The longtime defensive coordinator didn’t seem too worried by his dismissal on Tuesday, though, insisting he’d be out for work for all of “five seconds.”
Now, it might take the 50-year-old a little more than the count of a few fingers to land a new gig, but you can be sure that he’ll be firmly planted back on the sidelines in 2013.
Ryan’s defenses haven’t exactly been championship-worthy over the past few seasons. Heck, since rising to the position of defensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders in 2004, he hasn’t even had a whiff of the playoffs. But that isn’t necessarily a knock on his football acumen or game planning, especially in the case of the Cowboys.
Ryan took a Dallas team allowing more than 27 points per game during the 2010 season and dropped that number down to just over 21 points the following season. He also led the defense up the leader board in sacks in 2011, improving from 35 in 2010 to 42 just one season later. Granted, these numbers fell off a bit in 2012, but Ryan was also forced to deal with some unexpected changes, most notably a season-ending injury to middle linebacker Sean Lee.
There’s no single excuse that can make up for the Cowboys’ putrid finish to the season, losing each of the final two games to fall out of the playoff picture. Simply put, with the talent on that roster the entire coaching staff should have been fired, starting with Garrett, for their inability to make the playoffs in either of the past two seasons.
Ryan was one of the many problems in Dallas, and his dismissal was deserved after such a disappointing finish — allowing 20 or more points in seven of the final eight games. He will still be pursued this offseason, though, and rightfully so.
With defensive coordinator openings in Arizona, Chicago, Kansas City, New York — hey, brother Rex Ryan — and some more expected to open up in the coming weeks, Ryan will be a desired commodity this offseason.
Dallas turned out to be the wrong situation for him, and he might even be better off as Garrett will likely be canned by this time next year anyhow. Either way, you can count on Ryan linking on somewhere soon, even if it takes a little longer than he expects.