Astonishing the football world, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones lived up to his promise of making things “uncomfortable” at Valley Ranch. But after firing running backs coach Skip Peete, which could be easily explained away due to the historically bad performance of the running game this season, Jones took it one step further and fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who was clearly a scapegoat that didn’t deserve to be fired.
Rob Ryan took a patchwork defense that saw seven starters hit injured reserve, and replacements that got signed off their couches to fill those spots, and still did a phenomenal job in keeping the Cowboys in games. Players like Ernie Sims and Dan Connor stepped up in the linebacking core, whereas Brandon Carr and Sterling Moore were the class of a heavily depleted secondary. Role players like Alex Albright and Brady Poppinga were serviceable. Even Josh Brent, while he was still in there, held down the fort for the injured Jay Ratliff at nose tackle. Yet Rob Ryan is today without a job.
I don’t think Rob Ryan can be blamed for the disaster that is the 8-8 Dallas Cowboys. I still believe the head coach/offensive coordinator is the problem with this team, but Jerry Jones doesn’t seem to think so. Now Rob Ryan’s entire NFL body of work isn’t all that stellar, as he used to be the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns (2009-2010) and Oakland Raiders (2004-2008) and his best years were the two 8-8 seasons here at Dallas, as those Oakland and Cleveland teams at most finished with 5 wins during his tenures with those respective teams. So there is some precedence for thinking he is n average defensive coordinator. But considering the garbage he had to work with this season, he did a masterful job at making things work.
Granted the defense didn’t force a lot of turnovers, but it didn’t do that even when Wade Phillips and Brian Stewart ran the defense, as far back as 2007. Before Sean Lee went down, Lee was forcing turnovers. It was just that injuries depleted this unit beyond any repair, and the defense looked more like a hodgepodge of Who’s Who than a stalwart, tough, superstar-laden NFL defense.
But sometimes change is good. And with the Cowboys needing to perform better, this firing could have been a sign that nobody’s job is safe, and Jones could be using this as the wake-up call the team needs. I am glad Jerry Jones did this sooner rather than later, as there are still viable defensive coordinator candidates out there. Had he waited, Dallas could have been up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Instead, the Cowboys can use this as a springboard to get better.
It’ll continue to be an interesting offseason in Dallas and at Valley Ranch, as the Cowboys look to turn themselves into a contender for 2013.