February 10, 2013

Rob Ryan is the Choice

The Saints have made official a long-linked relationship between their defensive coordinator opening and Rob Ryan.

It is a controversial move for the Saints to hand the keys to the defense to Ryan, who has never been the defensive coordinator of a team with a winning record.

Nine seasons with three teams as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, Ryan faces a tough challenge, taking over history's worst defense from 2012.  But the 2013 Saints roster will see a lot of turnover on that side of the ball, because of a very tight salary cap situation, not to mention a switch to Ryan's expertise - the 3-4 defense.

The Saints gave 7,042 yards in 2012, the most in NFL history, and Sean Payton announced the team would move to the 3-4 within days of being reinstated by the NFL in January.

Ryan will no doubt play a large role in filling out the 2013 lineup for the Saints, a process beginning with the upcoming NFL Combine on February 20.

Ryan, the former defensive coordinator of the Cowboys, was dismissed to the joy of Dallas fans on January 12.   In two seasons with the Cowboys, his defense ranked 16th and 24th in points allowed, and 14th and 19th in yards allowed.  The two seasons flip-flopped - in 2011 Dallas had a top 7 rush defense, and in 2012 Dallas had a top 5 passing defense in terms of yards allowed.  But the Cowboys were undone each year by failures on the other phase of defense, with the 20th ranked pass defense in 2011 and the 22th ranked run defense in 2012.

As the defensive coordinator in Cleveland from 2009-2010, Ryan's defenses were putrid - ranking in the bottom five in rush defense both seasons.  A stout passing defense in 2008 was merely the effect of the Browns' 31st ranked rush defense in yards.  In 2009, the Browns ranked 28th and 29th in rush and pass defense.

In Oakland from 2004-2008, Ryan's defenses excelled at pass defense only because the rush defense was never better than 28th in the league.  Oakland boasted the league's top passing defense in yards in 2006 but only because it fielded the league's worst rushing defense.

According to Fox Sports, Ryan's contract includes a clause that prohibits his contact with the media without the approval of the Saints.  This is not a surprise considering Ryan's outspoken history, this seems a prudent move.  As defensive coordinator in Dallas, Ryan in interviews "guaranteed" two victories in the 2012 season, both of which the Cowboys lost.

In December, Ryan was penalized for 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct in the third quarter of a game against Cincinnati.  Ryan had walked onto the field to follow Bengals T Andre Smith, shouting angrily at him. Ryan continued to shout vehemently on the sidelines as officials explained the flag to head coach Jason Garrett.  

Garret told the media after that game, "We can't do that. We have to keep our emotions in check."  That flag may have been the nail in the coffin for Ryan's tenure as the Cowboys defensive chief.

In 2011, Ryan disparaged the offensive players of arch rival Philadelphia, and then gave up 34 points to the Eagles in a blowout Cowboys loss.

Ryan, after being dismissed by the Cowboys following the 2012 season on January 12, promised the media he would have another job in "five minutes", saying "better coaches than me have been fired, just not many."  Ryan was for two weeks reported to be the choice of the Rams for their vacant defensive coordinator job, but the team announced suddenly that both parties agreed he would not be a good fit on January 29.  The Cowboys replaced Ryan with the stately Monte Kiffin, the Rams have yet to hire their coordinator.

Before the 2012 season, Ryan lost over 60 pounds with the help of lap-band surgery.  He and his brother Rex, the head coach of the Jets have lost significant weight thanks to the surgery.

The Saints interviewed University of Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham on Thursday, but Grantham wasn't the pick, removed his name from consideration early on.  Grantham was recommended by former Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel, who was contacted by the Saints after they fired Steve Spagnuolo after one season.

The Saints also hired former Bills assistant Stan Kwan as their new assistant special teams coach. Kwan spent three years with Buffalo in the same role, and six seasons with the Lions prior as part of his 21 years of NFL experience.

Meanwhile, former Saints coordinator Gregg Williams has been reinstated by the NFL from his "indefinite suspension" related to the Saints bounty scandal and coverup.  Sporting a dyed goatee as part of a new look, Williams has been hired by the Tennessee Titans as a "senior assistant coach".

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