Category Archives: Rob Ryan – Defensive Coordinator

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS IN BIG D: Jerry Jones not second guessing his decision to fire Rob Ryan

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS IN BIG D - Jerry Jones not second guessing his decision to fire Rob Ryan - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys - Cowboys Saints

NEW ORLEANS – It was a given that Dallas Cowboys owner-general manager Jerry Jones would be reminded he fired the man who helped bring down his team last night on NBC’s nationally televised Sunday Night Football.

The Saints vaunted offense lived up to its reputation in a 49-17 demolition of Dallas. But in an equally dominant performance, the New Orleans defense stymied the Cowboys’ offense into a mere 193 total yards and 17 points.

“I thought that we would hang in real good with them, and you might have a game comparable to what we played with Denver,” Jones said. “A game like that, I think we were ready to put some offense out there. But to their credit, they saw to it that we couldn’t.”

As if he needed insult added to injury, Jones was asked how he felt about the decision to replace Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who coached for the Dallas Cowboys at this time last year.

“We thought it was best for us to go in the direction we are, and it doesn’t look good right now,” Jones said. “Hopefully we can make it look good, but I have all the feelings you have any time you look back at a decision, and I realize when some of them work you have to have a few things go along with it.”

Ryan’s extensive makeover of the Saints’ defense has paid dividends for head coach Sean Payton, who hired him after New Orleans finished last in the league in defense last year. The Saints are currently ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in total defense and scoring defense this season.

“We had our reasons for making our change, and Sean did a good job of getting Rob down here,” Jones said. “He’s as smart as he can be, from an outstanding football bloodline. That’s why we hired him two years ago with the Cowboys.”

The Dallas Cowboys’ defense, now under the management of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, was gashed for 625 total yards by Drew Brees and an aggressive Saints running game. It was the fourth time the Cowboys have surrendered 500 yards of offense and the second time they have surrendered 600 yards this year, further solidifying their No. 32 ranking in the NFL.

Injury again played a role in that, as Jason Hatcher missed the game and Sean Lee was lost for the night in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. Jones acknowledged the extent of the team’s injury problems, but he said he didn’t want to make an excuse of it.

“I thought we were certainly compromised, relative to our defense, where we are right now with personnel,” he said. “That’s not an excuse, because we still didn’t play as well as they played.”

The Saints allowed the Cowboys to run just 43 plays on the night, and they didn’t give up a third down conversion in nine different attempts. What success the Dallas Cowboys had on the ground, with 89 yards on 16 attempts, was offset by a complete inability to throw.

“I thought Rob’s defense was outstanding. They got after us good,” Jones said. “This is not only a tough place to play, but we know, where we are right now with our personnel on defense, we’ve got to go out and score. We’ve got to get in there and score some points. To their credit, they didn’t let us keep our offense out there.”

Jones remained optimistic, however, despite being handed the most lopsided loss of the year. He said the Dallas Cowboys need to use the bye week to regroup and recuperate.

“It’s embarrassing to lose, it’s embarrassing to not be representative, not be competitive – all of those things. But more importantly, the real issue, can we do something about it,” Jones said. “Can we get in here and use this time off, get some of our guys back, get a little healthier, come up with some ideas of how to go against the rest of the schedule and see if we can have a happier day this year – not next year, but this year.”

COWBOYS VS. SAINTS GUT-CHECK REVIEW: Dallas offense shut down; Saints rip Cowboys defense in 49-17 loss

COWBOYS VS. SAINTS GUT-CHECK REVIEW - Dallas offense shut down; Saints rip Cowboys defense in 49-17 loss - Sean Payton Jimmy Graham Rob Ryan New Orleans Saints NFL

NEW ORLEANS –  Initial thoughts following the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys’ 49-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints.  

Kavner: No one predicted the massacre that occurred Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Dallas Cowboys established a strong running presence early on and took a quick 3-0 lead, but that’s about the only positive thing to say about a team that got smashed the rest of the way. Tony Romo only had three completions for 20 yards at the half, and the Saints offense continued to move the ball at will against the Cowboys defense, particularly after Sean Lee went out with an injury. I thought we’d see a back-and-forth shootout in New Orleans. It turned out this one was over early in the third quarter, when thoughts shifted more to the Cowboys’ immediate future without Lee than it did the game, which was already wrapped up.

Helman: The popular saying around this team is that they play to their level of competition, but that was far from the case Sunday night. The offense, aside from one short drive in the third quarter, couldn’t find any rhythm or consistent production. It was nice to see the Cowboys commit to the run and find some early success, but was it worth it at the cost of such a poor passing performance? This team lives and dies with Tony Romo, as far as I’m concerned, and his inability to find even 100 passing yards when the game was still in the balance just wasn’t going to cut it. Once again we saw the defense fall well short of top-notch competition, as the Saints racked up both points and yardage. Obviously, injuries play a role in that, as Jason Hatcher was inactive and Sean Lee left the game early. But that doesn’t excuse the poor tackling or the dozen penalties. The Cowboys have dealt with their fair share of disappointment this season, but this is the first time in 10 weeks we’ve seen them get definitively outplayed.

Eatman: I really thought we’d see an old-fashioned shootout. The Saints were certainly down for it, although Rob Ryan wasn’t having it. The Cowboys just weren’t good enough on any side of the ball to stay with the Saints. Cole Beasley wasn’t really a factor like I thought. Then again neither was Dez Bryant or Jason Witten or anyone Tony Romo was throwing to. To me, the game changed completely when Sean Lee went out with a hamstring injury. That’s when the Saints just ripped the Cowboys’ defense up to no end. Drew Brees did anything he wanted and was rarely challenged. Injuries for this team aren’t excuses anymore, it’s just reality. This team was average before these injuries and now it’s even worse. The bye week just couldn’t come at a better time.

Editors note: This article relates to the pregame predictions made by the Dallas Cowboys writers on Saturday.

COWBOYS VS. SAINTS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Jason Garrett press conference | Thursday practice

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Jason Garrett: Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints road game (9:37)

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media from Valley Ranch as his team continues preparation for the Saints. (Watch Video | Play Audio)

Garrett discussed:

  • Dez Bryant’s back issue and status
  • Dez Bryant injury similar to Washington game last season
  • DeMarcus Ware movement
  • Nick Hayden rib update
  • DeMarcus Ware pushing and pulling reps
  • Last time Cowboys was in New Orleans comparison, record confidence
  • Guarding against criticism overcorrections and exterior forces
  • Rob Ryan and Monte Kiffin taking game personally because of coaching changes
  • Signs that the offense is functioning like it should be
  • Jason Hatcher stinger
  • Personal feelings about facing Rob Ryan and his Saints defense
  • Tony Dorsett’s chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) 
  • Player safety issues addressed by NFL and Cowboys
  • Crash Davis – Bull Durham

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COWBOYS VS. SAINTS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Jason Garrett press conference | Wednesday practice

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Jason Garrett: Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints road game (15:33)

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media from AT&T Stadium before his team takes the field for Saints practice. (Watch Video | Play Audio)

Garrett discussed:

  • Comparing Brees to the other prolific passers faced in 2013-2014 season
  • Everett Dawkins addition to Marinelli’s Misfits
  • Key to stopping New Orleans offense
  • Confidence in secondary, after seeing how they’ve covered similar offenses
  • DeMarcus Ware’s return to practice; expected game impact
  • Familiarity with Rob Ryan vs. Rob Ryan’s familiarity with Cowboys offense
  • Comparing the Rob Ryan defense in New Orleans compared to his Dallas scheme
  • Relationship he has with Rob Ryan after termination, and now
  • Lessons learned from Sean Payton’s style, as an offensive play caller
  • Comparing the defensive injuries from this season compared to last year
  • Applying lessons from other tight ends this season to game planning Graham
  • Will Graham be defended as a tight end or wide receiver
  • Evaluating Gavin Escobar production relative to the spot taken in the NFL Draft
  • Staying with Jason Witten, even when he’s in catching slumps; overall impact
  • How they’ll preparing for uniquely gifted athletes, like Darren Sproles
  • Addressing the locker room situations that have developed in Miami
  • Simulating and handling stadiums with crowd noise issues
  • Weather yards-per-carry is an effective way to grade offensive linemen
  • Evaluating run efficiency vs. yards-per-carry; season grade on this line
  • Bruce Carter and Ernie Simms competition for starting spot

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EVALUATING THE TEXAS-2 DEFENSE: Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli coaching havoc and reaping rewards

EVALUATING THE TEXAS-2 DEFENSE - Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli coaching havoc and reaping rewards - Dallas Cowboys DL coach Rod Marinelli

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys are getting exactly what they want out of their new defensive coaching additions, while the defensive mind they let go is excelling elsewhere. Consider that a win through three weeks for both parties.

EVALUATING THE TEXAS-2 DEFENSE - Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli coaching havoc and reaping rewards - Ernie Simms

The Dallas defense resides in the top 10 in the league in sacks and takeaways led by new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, while the coordinator the Cowboys let go has shifted New Orleans’ putrid defense of last year to the No. 5 total defense in the NFL this season.

In the minds of some, former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn’t do a lousy job in Dallas last year. Fact remains, the Cowboys weren’t happy with the lack of pressure and thought they should upgrade.

EVALUATING THE TEXAS-2 DEFENSE - Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli coaching havoc and reaping rewards - Dallas Cowboys defense

The front office (Jerry Jones) stressed an emphasis on takeaways after creating just 16 all of last season. They now have seven through three games with Kiffin and Marinelli, due in large part to the havoc created by the defensive line, as the Cowboys sit atop the NFC with 13 sacks. They’re also tied for sixth in turnover differential at plus-3 with a top-10 scoring defense.

EVALUATING THE TEXAS-2 DEFENSE - Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli coaching havoc and reaping rewards - 2013 Dallas Cowboys defense

Kiffin and Marinelli insisted they didn’t need a defensive lineman in the draft to conjure the kind of pressure they needed on their defense. Even without Jay Ratliff or Anthony Spencer, they’ve been exactly right. DeMarcus Ware is back to his old form and the switch to defensive end may even help him reach the quarterback more often.

EVALUATING THE TEXAS-2 DEFENSE - Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli coaching havoc and reaping rewards - 2013 Dallas Cowboys DeMarcus Ware sack

The defensive coaches continue to get elite play at defensive tackle out of Jason Hatcher, who’s tallied a sack in each of the team’s first three games, while turning Nick Hayden and George Selvie into legitimate starters.

EVALUATING THE TEXAS-2 DEFENSE - Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli coaching havoc and reaping rewards - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - Dallas Cowboys Selvie and Hayden

Selvie said he feels he has a coach in Marinelli who believes in him, and that coach is getting the best out of his group. It’s obvious, and head coach Jason Garrett sees the same thing.

“He’s just an excellent football coach and teaching is a big part of that, inspiring is a big part of that, seeing the real positive traits in people and getting them into situations where they can be successful,” Garrett said. “(Marinelli) helps them be successful by how he teaches them technically, how he teaches them physically, how he teaches them emotionally.”

EVALUATING THE TEXAS-2 DEFENSE - Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli coaching havoc and reaping rewards - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys’ three interceptions may not seem like much, but that’s three times as many as they had through three weeks with Rob Ryan last season.

The colorful, boisterous defensive mind has to be a revered character in New Orleans, demonstrating his worth by changing the culture of the Saints’ defense. New Orleans allowed 440.1 yards per game and 28.4 points per game last season, and those numbers are down to 295.7 yards per game and 12.7 points per game so far.

EVALUATING THE TEXAS-2 DEFENSE - Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli coaching havoc and reaping rewards - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule

Both sides are getting exactly what they wanted by fixing the problems of the past. It’s a small sample size, but the Cowboys and Saints are reaping every benefit they could have hoped for with their offseason defensive changes.

This should create quite a buzz (and another comparison) going into week 10 …

2013 NFL Schedule Week 10 - Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints - Texas-2 defense vs. Rob Ryan - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule

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HUMBLED AND HURT: With the Saints high-rolling offense, Rob Ryan can shoot for ‘average’

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan during 2013 organized team activities at the Saints training facility - The Boys Are Back blog

METAIRIE, La. — Rob Ryan figures his firing in Dallas will only help him relate to a Saints defense humbled by a historically bad season.

“I don’t like getting fired,” Ryan said Thursday during his first meeting with reporters since Sean Payton hired him in February to revamp New Orleans’ last-ranked defense. “I know I got my feelings hurt and so did our players. We’re looking to do something about it.”

defensive coordinator rob ryan walks the sideline during the game against the new orleans saints - the boys are back blog

The Saints gave up 7,042 yards in 2012, the most ever in a single season in the NFL. Payton has said that performance forced him to make a change at defensive coordinator, even though he felt bad letting Steve Spagnuolo go after only one highly unusual season.

Spagnuolo never got to coach with Payton, who was suspended all of last season in connection with the NFL’s bounty probe. Yet shortly after Payton was reinstated, the relatively calm, analytical Spagnuolo, who favored a read-and-react 4-3 defense, was replaced by Ryan, who runs a pressure-heavy 3-4 scheme (three down linemen, four linebackers).

Ryan also has been known to exhibit a brash demeanor more akin to that of Gregg Williams, the Saints’ defensive coordinator from 2009 to 2011.

“Personality-wise they are very similar,” Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “They’re cut from the same cloth in that they know that players and matchups are what defense is all about and they have a lot of personality and they’re aggressive in their play-calling.”

Williams often referred to himself as a disciple of retired coach Buddy Ryan, who ran the defense of Chicago’s 1985 Super Bowl championship team and later was a head coach for Philadelphia and Arizona. Rob Ryan is Buddy Ryan’s son, and New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan’s brother.

“They’re all from the same school, the Buddy Ryan defense, so there are a lot of similarities between what Gregg was running and what Rob is bringing,” Jenkins said. “But I think Rob has a few more wrinkles with the 3-4 and everything, and I think we’re going to have fun.”

Williams used to boast brazenly of how nasty he wanted his defenses to be, and wound up being a central figure in the NFL’s investigation into the Saints’ bounty program. The league said Williams administered the program, which paid cash bonuses for big plays, including heavy and sometimes injury-causing hits.

Ryan’s approach also fosters toughness, Jenkins said, and that is something Saints players embrace, even as they are mindful of the scrutiny they faced from the league in the past.

“There’s a line and you don’t cross it, but you want to get as close to that line as you can,” Jenkins said. “We definitely want to be a physical, feared defense.”

Because the Saints’ offense, designed by Payton and orchestrated by quarterback Drew Brees, is perennially among the NFL’s best, New Orleans has not always had to be good on defense to win.

They ranked 25th of 32 teams in 2009, when they won their only Super Bowl. They ranked 24th in 2011, when they went 13-3 and advanced to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs before falling to San Francisco in a thriller.

So Ryan, whose defense in Dallas ranked 19th last season, doesn’t need to work miracles, but he does need to make the Saints’ defense a little closer to average.

“It was bad last year,” Saints safety Roman Harper said. “There’s no sugar coating or anything like that, so we’ve got a lot of room to improve.”

Payton said he did a lot of research on Ryan, interviewing players and coaches who have worked with him, before concluding he would be right for the job.

“I like his passion,” Payton said. “I like the way players respond and I think he’s a perfect fit.”

Ryan has studied some of the schemes the Saints executed well under Williams and brought some of them back, even with the same terminology.

“I know our successes, where that’s been. It’s been a pressure team, I know that,” Ryan said. “But I also know we can do more with our coverage, and we have to.”

Jenkins said Ryan’s scheme better suits the strengths of Saints defenders, noting that the roster includes cornerbacks who can hold their own in single coverage long enough for Saints safeties, who’ve been effective blitzers, to disrupt quarterbacks.

If successful, Ryan could for the first time serve as a defensive coordinator on a winning team, something he never did while holding that post in Cleveland, Oakland and Dallas. However, he did win Super Bowls as a defensive assistant in New England.

“I’m fortunate enough to be with great program like the Saints, led by Sean Payton. I haven’t felt this way since I was in New England with Bill Belichick,” Ryan said. “I just feel like a sense of urgency. I can’t wait to give everything I have to this organization. I know everybody is on the same path.”

Mark your calendar …

Sunday Night Football matchup …

The Dallas Cowboys vs New Orleans Saints  – November 10, 2013:

Dallas Cowboys 2013-2014 NFL Schedule - Dallas Cowboys vs New Orleans Saints - The Boys Are Back blog

Click HERE to see the entire 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule.

RYAN ROBBING ROSTER: Former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Kenyon Coleman joins Saints

defensive coordinator rob ryan walks the sideline during the game against the new orleans saints - the boys are back blog

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t want Rob Ryan, but the defensive coordinator will take his former players.

The New Orleans Saints have signed defensive end Kenyon Coleman today. Coleman started five games for the Cowboys in 2012, but he was placed on injured reserve after he tore the triceps in his left arm.

Coleman, 33, was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 2002 draft. He was a regular starter with the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Cowboys from 2007 to 2011. The 6-foot-5, 285-pounder had 36 tackles and one sack in 2011.

Former Cowboys linebacker Victor Butler signed with the Saints earlier this week. Coleman played for Ryan in Dallas and Cleveland. He’ll help New Orleans transition to Ryan’s 3-4 scheme.

Cowboys Raiders Football

BETWEEN THE LINES: Analysis on Jason Garrett’s press conference

Jason Garrett’s Press Conference - Feb 13 2013 - The Boys Are Back blogNFL analyst Bryan Broaddus was one of many attendees for Jason Garrett’s near-hour-long press conference at Valley Ranch yesterday. The coach discussed the new faces on his staff but the tone of the press conference centered more on the play-calling aspect with Garrett suggesting a change could occur with Bill Callahan perhaps calling the plays in 2013 but a decision hasn’t been made.

With Jason Garrett saying a decision hasn’t been made on the play-calling, do you think it’s important to get that finalized sooner than later?

Broaddus: I thought that Garrett gave an interesting answer today when he spoke about how this process has been going on for a couple of seasons now and how it continues to evolve from year to year. From my experience in the NFL, the coaches as a collective group have always put the game plans together and the play caller relies on their input throughout the week but in the game as well. I remember in Green Bay how Andy Reid, Jon Gruden and Sherman Lewis would not only get the plan together but would install it during the week but on game day, Mike Holmgren took the play card and called the plays but I also do remember times where Holmgren would get in a rut and he would let Lewis take a series or two. There were even times in the preseason where Holmgren would let Lewis or Reid call the entire game. I think you will see Garrett take the same approach this summer in training camp and allow Callahan to calls these games and they will make their adjustments from there. As long as things are ironed out before the season starts that’s all that really matters.

If Bill Callahan ends up calling the plays, what do you know about his offensive philosophy?

Broaddus: I have worked with Bill Callahan before in Philadelphia and I have known him since he was a college coach at Wisconsin. Garrett was right when he said that Bill had been exposed to several different kinds of schemes. At Wisconsin they were a tough, physical smash you in the mouth offense under Barry Alvarez. He moved on to Philadelphia where Jon Gruden was taking the West Coast approach that he learned from Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren but also screen packages that he copied from Bob Schnelker from the Vikings but also thoughts from Paul Hackett while Gruden was at Pittsburgh as a receiver coach. There is no doubt that Callahan was most influenced by Gruden and you could see that with their teams in Oakland. Not only did they have to deal with Al Davis in his desire to get the ball down the field in the passing game but they were able to come up with a physical running game with an offensive line with size but backs like Tyrone Wheatley, Jon Ritchie and Zack Crockett that could hammer the ball at you. If Callahan in fact does get the play calling duties, I believe that you will not only see things that Jason Garrett has brought to this offense but a mixture of some of the schemes that he and Gruden had success with in Oakland.   

What are your thoughts on Garrett saying part of the decision to change to a 4-3 scheme centered on the ability to learn it quickly?

Broaddus: I worked in this scheme before as a pro scout in 2000-2003 so I have a decent understand of what it takes to have some success in it. When you watched those old Buccaneers squads under Kiffin, the one thing you noticed is how much they gave you the same look with some variations but it was more about the players playing the same scheme over and over but doing it really well. Sure there were some talented defensive players for Tampa but you didn’t see their defense give up huge plays or busts in coverage. It was sound and solid, sure you saw Kiffin adjusting his fronts and creating blitzes but to generate pressure but it wasn’t to the point where it was down after down. It is a simple scheme to play front and coverage wise because you don’t line up all over the place. You play with speed and you make the offense work to have to move the ball on you. There were plenty of moving parts to Rob Ryan’s scheme but that was the way he coached and that is okay but it puts a great deal of pressure on your defense to have to make adjustments even up until the time the ball is snapped and that at times put the players in bad positions. This defense doesn’t require all the bells and whistles, it just requires you to play in coverage and run to the ball which makes it easier to play.  

Courtesy: Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | NFL Analyst/Scout

STOP THE CLOCK: Rob Ryan to coach New Orleans Saints defense

defensive coordinator rob ryan walks the sideline during the game against the new orleans saints - the boys are back blog

It’s official, Rob Ryan is heading to New Orleans. The Saints have hired Ryan to fill their defensive coordinator opening.

“In regards to Rob, we have experience in preparing and playing against his defenses and they’ve always been challenging in terms of the different looks and pressures that they feature,” Saints coach Sean Payton said in a press release. 

Ryan was the favorite after things didn’t work out with the St. Louis Rams. University of Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham interviewed Thursday, but withdrew his name from consideration.

It’s been an odd offseason for the former Dallas Cowboys coordinator. He was unceremoniously fired in Dallas, then hired/not hired in St. Louis. Now he lands in New Orleans, which might be the best spot of the three. Ryan won’t have to win games with his defense, since Drew Brees runs one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL (Editors note: So did Dallas!) . The 2012 season for the Saints broke a three-year run of playoff berths, and was more of a fluke as a result of of the bounty suspensions.

“I have had the opportunity to get to know Sean Payton and his staff a bit better recently and I am excited about joining the team,” Ryan said. “I have a ton of respect for (owner Tom)  Benson, (general manager) Mikey (Loomis) and the organization and I’m ready to get to work on all facets of the game. This is a great opportunity and we’re getting started right away.”

Payton is back and wants Ryan to install his 3-4 scheme. The changeover shouldn’t be that difficult, considering they didn’t play the 4-3 all that well. The defense only has to be average for the Saints to become one of the league’s top teams again. They won seven games with the worst total defense in 2012.

The defense ran some 3-4 looks, but Ryan will need a few new bodies to fit the system full-time — a pass rusher, cornerback and safety are first on the list.

OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Sean Payton announces two coaching staff additions

Cowboys OTA

The New Orleans Saints have announced two coaching staff additions. The club has hired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator and Stan Kwan as assistant special teams coach.

“I’m pleased the opportunity has presented itself for us to be able to add both Rob Ryan and Stan Kwan to our coaching staff,” said Head Coach Sean Payton. “In regards to Rob, we have experience in preparing and playing against his defenses and they’ve always been challenging in terms of the different looks and pressures that they feature. We’ve had the chance to visit with each other and talk about our visions for our team and I’m excited about moving forward as we prepare for the 2013 season.  Rob is enthusiastic about joining our team and getting right to work. Stan is a veteran coach that understands all nuances of the special teams games and will work closely with Greg McMahon. He has a wealth of knowledge and I believe he will be a good fit on our staff.”

“I am excited and thrilled to be joining the New Orleans Saints,” Ryan said. “I have had the opportunity to get to know Sean Payton and his staff a bit better recently and I am excited about joining the team. I have a ton of respect for Mr. Benson, Mickey (Loomis) and the organization and I’m ready to get to work on all facets of the game. This is a great opportunity and we’re getting started right away.”

A nine-year veteran as a defensive coordinator, Ryan joins New Orleans after spending the last two seasons running the defense of the Dallas Cowboys. Under his tutelage in 2011, Dallas’ team defense improved to 14th overall in the NFL after finishing 23rd in 2010, ranking seventh against the run. In 2012, the Cowboys were one of only three teams in the NFL to have two players with 11 or more sacks, as LB DeMarcus Ware led the team with 11.5 and LB Anthony Spencer posted a career-high 11 takedowns. Both players were selected to the Pro Bowl. Cowboys opponents were held to a 43.9 % third down conversion rate, ranked tenth in the NFL, despite an influx of injuries at several key positions throughout the course of the season. In Ryan’s first season with the Cowboys, Ware finished second in the NFL with 19.5 sacks.

Prior to joining the Cowboys staff, Ryan served as the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns from 2009-10. In 2010, the Browns defense tied for eighth in the NFL with 19 interceptions, as six different players posted multiple picks to tie for the third-most players with two-or-more interceptions on a team that season. Ryan guided a pair of standout rookie defensive backs in Joe Haden who led the team in interceptions (5) and T.J. Ward, who led the Browns in tackles (105). On the ground, Cleveland allowed just seven rushing touchdowns, tied for fourth-fewest in the league. In Ryan’s first season in Cleveland, the defense did not allow a touchdown in three games and the Browns posted 40 sacks, tied for eighth in the league.

Prior to Cleveland, Ryan served five years as Oakland’s defensive coordinator from 2004-08. In 2006, the Raiders led the league in pass defense (150.8 yards-per-game) and finished third in total defense (284.8 yards-per-game).  CB Nnamdi Asomugha and DE Derrick Burgess were each selected to the Pro Bowl twice during his tenure. Ryan also spent four seasons (2000-03) as the linebackers coach for the New England Patriots. In his time with the Patriots, Ryan was a part of two Super Bowl championship teams – XXXVI and XXXVIII – while working with two of the league’s top linebackers in Teddy Bruschi and Willie McGinest.

Ryan’s NFL coaching career began when he spent two seasons (1994-95) as the defensive backs coach under his father, Buddy Ryan, for the Arizona Cardinals, where they had the NFL’s third ranked defense in 1994 and led the league with 42 takeaways in 1995.

After playing three years at outside linebacker at Southwestern Oklahoma State, Ryan broke into the coaching ranks with graduate assistant jobs at Western Kentucky (1987) and Ohio State (1988). He then landed his first full-time coaching position at Tennessee State where he spent five seasons tutoring running backs, linebackers and the defensive line. Following his NFL stint with the Cardinals, Ryan spent three seasons as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State.

Kwan comes to New Orleans for his 23rd year as an NFL assistant. He spent the past three seasons (2010-12) as the assistant special teams coach for the Buffalo Bills, where they ranked first in the NFL last season (2012) in punt return average (17.1 avg.) with two touchdowns and were fourth-best in the league in kick-off return average (27.0 avg.). He spent ten years with the Detroit Lions (1997-2000, 2004-09), including his final three seasons in charge of the club’s special teams units and also had stints with the San Diego Chargers (1991-96) and Arizona Cardinals (2001-03). Under his guidance, the special teams units of each team Kwan has helped guide have been consistently well schooled and prepared. The Phoenix native played baseball at San Diego State for three years prior to joining the Chargers after graduation.

FORMER DC STILL FISHING: Dallas Cowboys ex-defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will not run St. Louis Rams defense

Former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will not run St. Louis Rams defense - The Boys Are Back blog

Remember when Rob Ryan agreed to be the St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator? Well, about that…

The Rams announced Tuesday that Ryan will not run their defense in 2013.

“After extensive conversations regarding defensive philosophy, the Rams and Rob Ryan agreed he was not the right fit for the club’s defensive coordinator position,” COO/Executive VP of Football Operations Kevin Demoff told the team website. “The Rams will continue the interview process with the club’s other candidates.”

The Rams seemed poised to add Ryan to an already strong defense that led the NFL with 52 sacks. Ryan’s boisterous persona, however, can rub some the wrong way. He proclaimed that he’d be out of a job for “like five minutes” when the Dallas Cowboys fired him earlier this month.

No details were given, but Ryan does prefer a 3-4 scheme to the Rams’ 4-3. That could have been the difference in philosophy, but it’s odd the team didn’t deny reports last week that Ryan had been hired, now calling them premature. It appears something changed in the last five days.

The Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints are the other teams still searching for a defensive coordinator. Ryan’s five minutes might turn into much more if he can’t make a late push for one of those two jobs, or isn’t willing to take a lesser position.

Courtesy: Kareem Copeland | NFL Around the League Writer

RELATED: Rams Continue Defensive Coordinator Search

Former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will not be St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator - The Boys Are Back blog

– Despite reports over the weekend that the Rams had hired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator, the team confirmed Tuesday morning that those reports were pre-mature. In fact, the Rams went so far as to say that despite long conversations with Ryan concerning defensive philosophy, the sides couldn’t find a common ground and the team is actually moving on to interview other candidates.

– From COO/Executive VP of Football Operations Kevin Demoff:

“After extensive conversations regarding defensive philosophy, the Rams and Rob Ryan agreed he was not the right fit for the club’s Defensive Coordinator position. The Rams will continue the interview process with the club’s other candidates.”

– In other words, Rob Ryan will not be the hire. No specifics are available yet on what exactly the disagreement on philosophy was though one would imagine Ryan’s general preference for the 3-4 would have factored in at some capacity. The Rams run a 4-3 defense and the lack of scheme fit would be an obvious reason.

– No word on who some of the other candidates under consideration are but coach Jeff Fisher has traditionally taken his time and played such hires close to the vest.

– The team did announce the hire of Frank Bush as linebackers coach on Tuesday.

– More on this as it comes.

Source: Nick Wagoner – Senior Writer | Official site of the St. Louis Rams


Link to article (above): Click HERE to read the story

AGING KIFFIN ON CAGING GRIFFIN: At 72, this ‘new’ defensive coordinator could bring the ‘Grampa 2 Defense’ to the Dallas Cowboys

Monte Kiffin vs Robert Griffin - Dallas Cowboys' Defense - The Boys Are Back blog

Monte Kiffin is rumored to be the Dallas Cowboys ‘new’ defensive coordinator. Even his old players didn’t see this one coming.

Former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said he figured the 72-year-old Kiffin would get another shot in the NFL. He just didn’t expect it to be with Dallas.

"I would never have guessed Dallas two weeks ago," said Brooks, who still keeps in touch with Kiffin.

Kiffin would convert the Cowboys back to a 4-3 scheme. The Cowboys played the 4-3 from their first season in 1960 until Bill Parcells’ third season in Dallas in 2005 when he switched to the 3-4. The Cowboys have played the 3-4 since.

Does a 72-year-old Monte Kiffin and his Tampa 2 defense make sense for the Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

"I don’t know if he has the players there yet. I hope he does," Brooks said. "I just know what we did to make our defense great. Some would say it’s so simple, but at the same time, it’s so complex. You always hear about Dallas, ‘They’ve got talent. They’ve got talent.’ Well, now it’s time to roost. They can answer the question: Do they really have talent?"

Brooks compared DeMarcus Ware to Simeon Rice. Rice had 69 of his 122 sacks in his four years in Kiffin’s Cover 2 defense.

"For the most part, all he’s doing is going after the quarterback," Brooks said. "We know [Ware] can do that."

The Bucs had John Lynch at safety, Warren Sapp at defensive tackle, Brooks at linebacker, Ronde Barber at corner to go along with Rice. Sapp and Lynch are Hall of Fame candidates this year.

That is a big reason in 13 years in Tampa, Kiffin’s defenses ranked in the top 10 in total defense all but two years — 11th in 1997 and 17th in 2006 — and top 10 in fewest points allowed for all but 2006 (21st). Six times they ranked in the top 10 in takeaways.

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2012 DALLAS COWBOYS IN REVIEW: National Football League website writers voice opinions about America’s Team

Various writers on the National Football League’s website have recently expressed opinions about the 2012-2013 Dallas Cowboys, the Rob Ryan firing, head coach Jason Garrett, and owner/general manager Jerry Jones.

Two of these writers are prominent, others are either out of touch or rarely heard from in their Dallas Cowboys’ coverage. Even the writers with the least accurate overview of the Cowboys, do make certain points worthy of noting. Check it out and decide for yourself. As always, your comments are welcome.

Jerry Jones and Rob Ryan - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys’ problem in 2012: Rob Ryan or something else?

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones promised change was coming this offseason, and the first major ax fell earlier this week on defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Jones cited two specific games where the defense didn’t play well in explaining the team’s decision to fire Ryan. It begs the question: Was defense the biggest reason the Cowboys missed the playoffs again?

Gregg Rosenthal of says …

The defense was the least of the Dallas Cowboys’ problems

Rob Ryan coached circles around Jason Garrett, given the talent and injuries he had to deal with over the past two years. Garrett’s offenses are so often sloppy and unimaginative. His game-day management also leaves a lot to be desired. Still, that’s not the biggest reason the Cowboys missed the playoffs. Owner Jerry Jones — general manager and enabler — is the common thread running through more than a decade-and-a-half of disappointment in Big D.

Gil Brandt of says …

Dallas needs a more established coordinator

Yes, I think defense was Dallas’ biggest issue. The Cowboys spent a lot of money and a high draft pick on improving that unit, but it performed worse in many ways in 2012. Dallas regressed in interceptions (from 15 in 2011 to seven — an all-time low — in 2012), takeaways (plus-four to minus-13), rushing yards allowed (1,585 to 2,003) and points allowed (347 to 400).

I know people talk about injuries, but one could argue that the Green Bay Packers had bigger injury issues on defense, losing key players like Charles Woodson, and they still won 11 games.

There were a lot of questions when Ryan was hired, considering that he’d never been a coordinator for a team with a winning record. He and coach Jason Garrett just have completely different personalities. The Cowboys had trouble with basic things like getting the right number of players on the field.

I think the Cowboys are going to go out and hire an established, older defensive coordinator; I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Monte Kiffin is brought aboard. But that’s just a wild guess.

Daniel Jeremiah of says …

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BACK-TO-BASICS DEFENSE: Rob Ryan’s lack of organization was his fatal flaw in Dallas

Rob Ryan is out after two seasons with Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

It was first from Jerry Glanville during one of those classic NFL Films moments when he uttered the phase to a referee after a call against his Oilers, “This is the NFL which stands for not for long if you keep making calls like that.” Whether you are a front office member like I was for 13 years or a coach in this league, it really can be for not for long. There are so many highs in this profession but there are also gut wrenching lows and you fully understand when you sign up for this job.

Rob Ryan was removed as defensive coordinator of this team Tuesday night by Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett in a move that was described as going in a different philosophical direction. Ryan is a proud man but this is the situation that coaches live with every day. In the case, the general manager and head coach were not happy and this was the best course of action in their minds. Was it the right move? That is up for debate because you can look at Ryan’s side for the number of starters he had to play without for the majority of the season and appalled how they managed to hold his defense together during a difficult time.

For Jones and Garrett, they can point to games where they did have a full squad of defensive players against Seattle and Chicago but were unable to win those games but I think it’s really much deeper than that. When Ryan was in line to take this job, I reached out to friends that I had with the Browns to ask them about Ryan and what he could bring to this team. The majority of the dialog was extremely positive but to a man the one area they focused on was his lack of organization and maybe this is his fatal flaw. There were reasons that Ryan always spoke how fortunate he was to have Matt Eberflus, Brian Baker and Ben Bloom to help him coach and to his credit, he was absolutely correct. They are outstanding coaches.

There is a side of me that believes that Ryan lost this job in the eyes of the general manager and head coach because there simply were times where he tried to do too much with this defense and the lack of organization got him in trouble. The scheme was more important than just lining up and playing. Every game was a track meet from the sideline to the field with Ryan trying to match personnel and I understand that is part of the game but there were times where you saw either too many men on the field or not enough. My gut tells me that the general manager and head coach want a simpler approach in how this team plays defense. It is more about how you can line up in your base front, get off blocks and tackle. It’s fundamental football and not about having seven linebackers on the field. You look at the Chicago Bears and how simple they play defense but also create turnovers. Again, the injury situation limits what Ryan can do but it’s a cleaner approach.

Looking back I will always be thankful for the opportunity to cover Ryan these last two seasons. He was always very honest to me and had time to answer questions about his dad’s “46” defense but this is a bottom line business and he even understands that. The general manager told you he wasn’t happy and no one took this seriously but I guess we will now. I will be interested to see in what direction he and Garrett go, but that is for another story.   

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout

DEFENSIVE AFTERMATH: What ‘Philosophical Change’ means for Rob Ryan’s defensive assistants

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks with reporters about the drafting of USC tackle Tyron Smith - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – Trying to decipher what head coach Jason Garrett meant by going “in a different direction philosophically on defense” after Rob Ryan’s departure can be tricky.

The first way to take those comments is he might want to switch from the 3-4 scheme Ryan utilized during his short tenure in Dallas. Moving to a 4-3 might make some sense given the linebacker personnel, as well.

Jay Ratliff had been a dominant force at nose tackle, and despite not possessing the gigantic frame of most nose tackles, he managed to play the position and still create pressure. As the injuries pile on, though, a switch to a 4-3 could be helpful for him, not having to play directly on top of the center.

The likelihood of a possible switch could also depend on the team’s confidence in signing Anthony Spencer. If Spencer’s back, and IF he and DeMarcus Ware are capable of playing as pass-rushing defensive ends. If he doesn’t return, the Cowboys will have a few decisions to make about that spot opposite Ware, though that’ll be the case regardless of the scheme.

If it’s a 4-3, Sean Lee can play middle linebacker and Bruce Carter can play on the outside, while Alex Albright, Kyle Wilber or a new addition could try playing the other outside linebacker spot. If Spencer’s not back and the Cowboys still want to go 4-3, they could try Albright at end. Tyrone Crawford, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore could all get time at defensive tackle, alongside Ratliff. Clearly, more defensive tackles are needed.

This is all speculative, of course. It’s possible Garrett only meant philosophical changes regarding the members of the coaching staff.

Ryan’s already gone, and the status of the defensive position coaches remains in serious question. Linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson both worked with Ryan in Cleveland before coming to Dallas. The defensive coaching staff will need to re-interview with whomever the new defensive coordinator is to keep their jobs, and the position coaches will be allowed to interview for jobs with other teams in the meantime.

Odds are pretty good that the incoming defensive coordinator in Dallas would want to bring at least a few members of his own staff, so this would allow the current position coaches time to find work elsewhere with so many hiring’s and firings taking place so quickly right now around the NFL.

It’s possible Garrett referred to a complete staff overhaul and a scheme change when he made the comments about going a different philosophical direction. High profile defensive coordinators who run the 3-4 are still in the mix, as are those that run the 4-3, including veteran coach Lovie Smith.

Right now, it’s all speculative until further changes are made. But it’s clear with Ryan’s firing that a philosophical change likely means a significant overhaul going further than just the release of the defensive coordinator.

Editors comments: You could also interpret the ‘philosophical change’ to mean a change in the scheme … primarily reverting to zone coverage at inopportune moments and the subsequent third-down collapse we witnessed time after time. 

Dallas does have the linebackers to allow for a 4-3 switch. However, they would need to add skilled defensive tackles to the roster. The DT’s listed above are young, up and coming players. They might have what it takes to make the switch successful, but Dallas should bring in a veteran or two to reduce the risk. Trying linebackers to fill this role won’t hold up during the long course of a game and 16 game season. Linebacker blitz packages could work, if they are supplementing an effective four-man defensive line.

Because of the salary cap, Spencer could become an expensive luxury. If he’s not re-signed, this could allow for a pass-rushing specialist to be added. Any of this can happen, if the Cowboys make the defensive coordinator hire quickly enough to put a plan in action (draft, free agency).

Lovie Smith’s ego may not allow him to take a demotion as a defensive coordinator. The NFL’s demand for defensively-minded veteran head coaches this year also makes the Smith hire unlikely. Let’s hope Jerry Jones has a man in mind that can take this roster and roll with it. There is a lot of talent that can be utilized by the right system.

STAFF WRITER REACTIONS: Termination of Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan

IRVING, Texas – For starters, I don’t think Rob Ryan deserved to lose his job.

Sometimes we don’t always get what we deserve. That’s the harsh reality of life. And that’s the harsh reality of the business they call the NFL.

I’m not sure about the old saying “nice guys finish last” but I’m pretty sure “fall guys” always finish near the bottom. And that’s simply what this was for Rob Ryan. He was the fall guy, or at least one of them, for a Cowboys franchise that hasn’t been able to escape mediocrity here for the last three years.

I don’t have to speculate on this part – judging from emails, Twitter and these fan comments, there are a lot of people out there who think there are bigger changes that should occur rather than axing a defensive coordinator who didn’t even have half of the defensive starters by the end of the season.

But there’s not going to be a new owner or GM. It doesn’t appear like we will see a new head coach and the quarterback isn’t going anywhere either. It’s just not happening.

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DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWN: Dallas Cowboys felt that Ryan’s schemes and philosophy were inconsistent

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan talks to Cleveland Browns punter Reggie Hodges and Cleveland Browns kicker Phil Dawson - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones promised last week that he would consult outside counsel on his team before making decisions on the future.

The reviews of now-fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan weren’t good, despite him having to play with an injury-riddled unit.

The Cowboys found that his schemes and philosophy at times were unsound. They also felt he was inconsistent in his attack, considering he blitzed too much in his first season and got burned because of poor play in the secondary. The Cowboys gave up 3,906 passing yards in 2011, the second-most allowed in team history.

They made moves in the off-season to upgrade the personnel, namely the addition of cover corners Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. They sought to improve the pass defense, so Ryan could play his aggressive style.

Yet, Ryan rarely blitzed and chose to play conservatively in 2012 as opponents averaged 355.4 yards per game, the most in team history The Cowboys allowed an average of 22.4 points per game. They had 34 sacks, seven interceptions and nine forced fumbles. The 16 turnovers were a franchise low.

A few of names to keep in mind as possible replacements for Ryan are Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who has experienced running the 3-4 and 4-3 defense, former Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, a 3-4 guru, and former Bears coach Lovie Smith, who is a 4-3 coach.

UNCOMFORTABLE ZONE: Rob Ryan fired by Dallas Cowboys after two seasons

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan walks the sideline during the game against the New Orleans Saints - The Boys Are Back blog

Jerry Jones promised changes were coming. The Dallas Cowboys owner said the weeks and months ahead at Valley Ranch would be very uncomfortable following another 8-8 failure.

Rob Ryan learned Tuesday he was one of those changes, fired as defensive coordinator after two seasons in a move first reported by NFL Network contributor Jay Glazer and later confirmed by the Dallas Cowboys.

Ryan told The Dallas Morning News that he learned of his fate while on vacation in Turks & Caicos. Coach Jason Garrett called Ryan on his cell phone with the news.

"They want uncomfortable," Ryan said. "I’m comfortably numb."

We didn’t need Jones to tell us changes were on the way following a second consecutive Cowboys season that ended with a bitter Week 17 loss to an NFC East rival. It started Monday with the dismissal of running backs coach Skip Peete.

Tuesday, it was Ryan’s turn.

With his long silver hair and brash attitude, Ryan often found himself in the headlines during his time in Dallas. But the Cowboys were a middling unit in both his seasons with the team, finishing 14th in total defense in 2011 and 19th this season.

"I inherited a team that was 31st in the league in defense and made them better," Ryan told "I (expletive) made them a hell of a lot better.

"I’ll be out of work for like five minutes," Ryan went on. "I think I did a good job, and I think our staff did a good job on defense trying to compete with what we had at the end of the year. But the best job we did was when we were able to coach our starters."

Garrett said last week that Ryan "did a really good job managing" a Cowboys defense besieged by injuries, but the coach declined to confirm Ryan would be back. Now we know why.

Ryan’s future might not be as safely mapped out as he believes, at least if he’s looking for a lateral move. It’s hard to ignore the fact that none of Ryan’s teams have posted a winning record during his nine years as a defensive coordinator.

And no, don’t expect to see the beat writer apocalypse that would be Rob Ryan united with twin brother Rex on the New York Jets. Glazer already tweeted that’s not happening.

RELATED: Coaching Changes Hit Defense With Rob Ryan’s Release

IRVING, Texas The Dallas Cowboys second major coaching change in as many days occurred Tuesday, as defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was released.

Coaching Changes Hit Dallas Cowboys Defense With Rob Ryan’s Release - The Boys Are Back blog

Ryan, who spent two seasons in his position in Dallas, led a battered group of veterans and a horde of backups and recent free agents filling in for injured starters this year.

Though the injuries came in bulk, owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett never wanted to use them as an excuse. That became more evident with Ryan’s departure.

"I want to express my appreciation to Rob for all of his efforts and contributions to the Cowboys over the past two years," Garrett said in a statement. "At this time, the decision has been made to move forward in a different direction philosophically on defense. I have an immense amount of respect for Rob as a person and as a football coach and I wish him and his family the very best."

The change Jones promised began on the offensive side of the ball, with the release of running backs coach Skip Peete on Monday. Ryan is the first defensive staff member to be let go after coaching a defense hit by a slew of injuries, beginning with a season-ending Achilles’ injury to safety Barry Church.

Linebacker Sean Lee, the primary communicator on defense, only played in six games before a season-ending toe injury. The defense also lost Bruce Carter, Orlando Scandrick, Jay Ratliff, Josh Brent and Kenyon Coleman, while DeMarcus Ware played through pain the entire second half of the year.

Though the 8-8 finishes of the last two seasons haven’t been viewed at positively, they’re actually the two best finishes in Ryan’s career as a defensive coordinator after stops in Oakland and Cleveland.

Ryan was under contract for another season after guiding the No. 19 total defense in the league this year. Through the early portion of the season, the Cowboys were among the leaders in total defense and passing defense, but they started sliding as injuries piled up.

They finished 19th in the league in passing defense and 22nd in the lead in rushing defense, culminating in a 200-yard rushing performance by Alfred Morris in the season finale.

Ryan’s defense finished last in the league in interceptions, led by Brandon Carr’s three picks. The first interception of the season went to Sean Lee. It took until rookie Morris Claiborne’s interception against Carolina in Week 7 for the Cowboys’ secondary to record its first interception. The Cowboys recovered nine fumbles, and their 16 combined takeaways tied for 29th in the league.

Free agents filled in throughout the year, as starters continuously went down. Ernie Sims joined the team in Week 8 and started soon after. Linebacker Brady Poppinga, cornerbacks Sterling Moore and Michael Coe and defensive lineman Brian Schaefering were among the other free agents to contribute defensively after joining the Cowboys past the halfway mark of the season.

Despite all the injuries, the end result wasn’t enough for the affable, extroverted defensive coordinator to hold onto his duties.

And as Jones promised, things are getting more and more uncomfortable at Valley Ranch.

SPIRAL STAIRCASE: You should love the Dallas Cowboys more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow

Home for the playoffs - Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – Home is usually good.

You know, home for the holidays; home for the summer; home on leave.

But home for the playoffs is not.

And for the third consecutive season the Dallas Cowboys are sitting at home this weekend, not involved in the NFL playoffs. Not this wild-card weekend and certainly not next weekend’s divisional round of games reserved for the top two teams in each conference and this weekend’s four winners.

         Ba-humbug. Nobody is in a good mood.

         Not you.

         Not the local media.

         Not the coaching staff here at The Ranch.

         Not the players.

And for sure, not the owner, Jerry Jones spewing his frustration this past Wednesday on his local 105.3 The Fan radio segment, saying, unprovoked, mind you, “I can assure our fans this, it’s going to be very uncomfortable from my standpoint, very uncomfortable for the next few weeks and months at Valley Ranch.”

Absolutely, not a soul is happy with 8-8, especially on the heels of an 8-8 season, the only time in the 53-year history of the Cowboys that they have finished .500 in consecutive seasons and just the fourth time overall. Not a soul is happy landing there by losing the final two games of the past two seasons, which includes the final game of each season playing for the division title.

My guess is, though, finishing with back-to-back 9-7 seasons, NFC East titles and two first-round playoffs losses also would have left all souls fire-spittin’ mad, no?

So driving home the other night, for some reason thinking of just how to portray this season, the third time in the last five the Cowboys have been beaten in a winner-takes-the-East contest while winning another, this 8-8 didn’t seem as bad as last year’s 8-8. In fact, this 8-8 almost seems encouraging.

SPIRAL STAIRCASE - You should love the Dallas Cowboys more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow - The Boys Are Back blog

And right about then, seriously, no lie, over the radio here comes the refrain from the 1969 hit by the Spiral Staircase: I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow.

Yea, that’s it. Maybe that’s this 2012 season, minus the mushiness:

These Cowboys are better than last year’s Cowboys, but not as good as the Cowboys will be next year.

Seriously now, if you just cut through the emotion, that all-encompassing dejection that has you screaming to trade this guy, cut that guy, blow up this unit, fire that coach and or that coordinator or that general manager, don’t you see the progress?

Certainly not tangible progress, since no matter how you cut it, 8-8 is 8-8, and third place is no better than second place or fourth place. All the same place when it’s not first place or at least a wild-card place in the playoffs.

But didn’t this team grow on you as the season wore on? Didn’t you start to get the feeling you actually had a team out there playing, not just a bunch of individuals thrown together on 11-man units? That these guys genuinely cared about one another, cared about what was going on from play to play?

I should apologize for sort of jumping one of our Talkin’ Cowboys callers Friday on when he insisted “the culture” needs to change out here. So sorry, that hit a raw nerve I guess, because if anything, “the culture” has changed out here over the past two seasons with Jason Garrett as the head coach.

This is not that team care has forgotten. Telling you, these guys did care about winning:

Jason Witten fighting like heck to the last minute trying to find a doctor who would allow him to play with his lacerated spleen in the season opener.

Newcomer Brandon Carr playing with a sore Achilles in the middle part of the season, and not uttering a peep.

Dez Bryant passing on what should have been season-ending surgery for that fracture left index finger so he could help his team in the final three games.

DeMarcus Ware unable to practice because of that useless right arm the final month of the season, strapping himself together with an elbow brace and shoulder harness to give whatever he could give to the bitter end.

Marcus Spears doing whatever was medically necessary to drag his degenerative knee out there as a starter once Kenyon Coleman was lost for the season.

Chris Jones trying to still punt with a right knee he shouldn’t have been punting on when his recently-signed backup Brian Moorman was injured too badly to punt in his place.

Recent-comer Ernie Sims arguing to convince trainers to leave him on the field after suffering what they suspected – and was – a concussion.

Felix Jones playing on two knees so banged up that putting them together would not have comprised one good knee.

All 53 rallying together in Cincinnati, less than 24 hours after finding out practice squadder Jerry Brown had been killed in a one-car accident with teammate and best friend Josh Brent behind the wheel and subsequently incarcerated for intoxication manslaughter.

On and on and on.

This does not happen within a losing culture.

Now, if you want to argue a deficiency of talent, that’s another matter. Yet, seriously how many of you realistically thought there was enough talent on this team before the season began to win the NFC East, to be better than the Giants and Eagles?

Yet here they were, these never-say-die Cowboys with a chance to win the East in the final game of the season – hey, in the final 3 minutes, 33 seconds of the season, playing on the road and the majority of the game without seven defensive starters if you include nickel back Orlando Scandrick and Ware out there with one arm, and then finishing the game with their two starting wide receivers out and two more wideouts suffering injuries severe enough to sideline them this weekend had they won.

Does this team need to improve on the offensive line? Let me answer for Tony Romo, you bet. Does this team need to improve on the defensive line? Yes indeed. Does this team need more depth at wide receiver, running back, safety and cornerback? Yup. Does this team need to figure out somehow, someway to retain the rights of Anthony Spencer? Absolutely!

But let’s not overlook Bryant’s emergence this second half of the season, in the last eight games catching 44 of his 92 passes for 869 of his 1,382 yards receiving and 10 of his 12 touchdowns.

You now definitely know who Dwayne Harris is, not only as a return specialist, but a receiver, too, and same goes for rookie James Hanna, emerging as a receiving threat at tight end.

In his absence, you thoroughly understand now the creative ability and hard-nosed style of DeMarco Murray, what he means to the Cowboys running game. You have little, to no doubt when Dan Bailey lines up for a field goal, from anywhere and under any circumstance. And don’t you forget Tyron Smith returns next year with his first season at left tackle under his belt (college or pro) and at all of 22 years of age.

Now admit it, Carr and Morris Claiborne stepped up the corner play. Barry Church, if three games is any indication, is a keeper at safety. Sean Lee and the emergence of Bruce Carter have inside linebacker in great hands. Tyrone Crawford has something for sure.

All huge steps in the right direction.

So let’s not be throwing around terms like “blowing it up” or even “rebuilding,” because before your very eyes, without even invoking the R word, and without regressing to like the 4-12 depths that come with “staring over,” the Cowboys have been rebuilding. Been rebuilding through free agency these past couple of years and through the draft if you’ve cared to notice, and with “the right kind of guys,” if I may quote Garrett.

No one bats 1.000 in the draft, but again, since Garrett has become the head coach, the Cowboys have added through the draft Smith, Carter, Murray, Harris, Claiborne, Crawford, Hanna, and don’t be surprised next year by Kyle Wilber or when finally healthy Matt Johnson and Danny Coale. And if you care to include the 2010 draft, then Bryant, Lee and Sean Lissemore. Hey, if I’m right about those other three guys we’ve seen very little from, going 13 for 21 is to die for compared to the Cowboys draft record from 2006-09 or from 2000-04.

Feel any better?

Then there is this, tangible numbers, too. After the 2011 season everyone was quick to point out how the Cowboys lost five games after leading going into the fourth quarter – though very few temper that by pointing out they also won four games when trailing in the fourth quarter.

But this year the Cowboys  went 3-1 holding leads going into the fourth and engineered five, fourth-quarter comeback victories – three of those in overtime – and came back a sixth time in the fourth quarter to force overtime against the Saints, only to lose.

Also, let’s not forget the overtime loss to New Orleans, the winning field goal set up by forcing a Saints fumble that they recovered at the Cowboys’ 2-yard line. Or Dez’ fingertips landing beyond the back of the end zone to wipe out a game-winning touchdown reception in the final seconds; or Bailey’s 51-yard field goal attempt at Baltimore drifting a foot or so wide in the gusting crosswind as the game expired, one of only two misses all year (29 of 31).

This team has grown better with age. These comebacks and that tragic accident have galvanized this core group of guys. Jason Garrett, head coach, has made a difference and has this franchise headed in the right direction. And no matter what you think or how heartbroken you were with that last interception, without Romo none of this would have even been possible, not even the close call in the end.

This all is headed in the right direction, the Cowboys rebuilding without anyone realizing they’ve been rebuilding, going 21-19 ever since the 1-7 start to 2010 that most everyone else wants to disown.

So absolutely, and with regards to Spiral Staircase, better than yesterday and betting you not as good as tomorrow.

Courtesy: Mickey Spagnola

SCHEME SPECULATION: Changing to the 4-3 defense could be considered ‘almost unconventional’

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (center) is flanked by sons Stephen Jones (left) and Jerry Jones Jr. - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – What is Jerry Jones talking about when he mentions doing something “almost unconventional,” in attempting to shake the Cowboys from their 16-year state?

It would be nice to get to talk to the owner and general manager, but he’s not been around Valley Ranch since the season has ended.

So let’s raise some possibilities:

Change the head coach? He has backed Jason Garrett all season. And if he is waiting this long to make a move with the coach, then the Cowboys could be last in line when putting together coaching staffs. So, no, Garrett, isn’t the change.

Change the guys who call the offense and defense? Maybe, but I’m wondering if it goes a little deeper than just the play callers, especially on defense. Maybe it’s the scheme.

Could the Cowboys scrap the 3-4 and become a 4-3 team in 2013?

The Cowboys moved to the 3-4 in 2005.

Truth be told the Cowboys played a lot of 4-3 in 2012 because that’s their sub package defense with DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer putting their hands on the ground. They also mixed in more 4-3 base looks when they had five linebackers on the field. The only difference was that Ware and Spencer didn’t line up in a three-point stance.

Would it be a difficult move?

Maybe not so much, but the return of Spencer should play a part in a switch. It will be difficult for the Cowboys to keep him off the open market with a new deal, and placing the franchise tag on him for the second straight year could be too prohibitive.

The Cowboys would have to upgrade their defensive line. Ware, Jason Hatcher, Tyrone Crawford and Sean Lissemore are the only guarantees. Maybe a move to a 4-3 would benefit Jay Ratliff, but his future is in some question because of the cap.

At linebacker, they would have two of the three with Sean Lee (middle) and Bruce Carter (weak). Maybe they keep Ernie Sims and move Lee to the strong side.

The secondary doesn’t much change with the fronts, but I can’t see the Cowboys becoming a Tampa-2 team with corners like Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. They are at their best playing press coverage, jamming receivers. Tampa-2 corners play off and soft mostly with their eyes on the quarterback.

Coordinator Rob Ryan has a 3-4 background, but he’s coached enough 4-3 while here.

It would be an unconventional move.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Jason Hatcher not fined for QB hit

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher (97) ready to play - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – DE Jason Hatcher’s roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter of Dallas’ loss at Washington was costly on the field. The NFL chose not to impose a fine.

After the game, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said the penalty was questionable, but replays showed Hatcher hitting Redskins QB Robert Griffin III in the helmet with 2:35 to play. The penalty negated a third-down stop by Dallas’ defense and allowed Washington to score a touchdown with 1:09 to play.

If there hadn’t been a penalty, the Cowboys would have forced the Redskins to kick a field goal for a six-point lead with more than two minutes to play. Hatcher did not speak after the game or on Monday.

Dallas LB Kyle Wilber was fined $21,000 for a blindside block on a punt return by Dwayne Harris, but Wilber was not called for a penalty in the game. With a $390,000 base salary, Wilber made roughly $22,941 per week.

RANCH HANDS ON ALERT: Jerry Jones says change is necessary at 8-8; evaluating options

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones promises changes in 2013-2014 - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted fans to know "I’m very upset, very irritated" after the Cowboys’ 8-8 season, gave a wholehearted endorsement of quarterback Tony Romo, but "I can assure our fans it’s going to be very uncomfortable from my standpoint, it’s going to be very uncomfortable over the next few weeks and months at Valley Ranch."

Jones addressed the Cowboys’ situation on KRLD/105.3 FM The Fan on Wednesday morning during his weekly show. He refused to address two hot topics: Who will be the Cowboys’ play-caller and the status of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

"We’re not having a meeting like that this morning. I haven’t even had a meeting," Jones said, but said that he will have that meeting in evaluating consecutive 8-8 seasons and losing back-to-back finales with the playoffs at stake.

“I’m going to spend a lot of time visiting with people outside of the organization that I have a lot of confidence in that will help us evaluate how to do the things that I know what our fans want to do, and that’s not be sitting here at .500,” Jones said. “There are a lot of teams that haven’t been at .500, but nobody hasn’t been at .500 and spent as much cash as I’m spending.”

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo still an asset to Jerry Jones - The Boys Are Back blog

On Romo, he said, "“Tony is a tremendous asset and he’s an asset that is going to be with the Dallas Cowboys for, as far as I am concerned, a long time." But asked if it should be inferred he would extend Romo’s contract, Jones said, "You shouldn’t infer anything, I’m just saying what I’m saying."

His one theme was that "we need to look at the fundamental things" and spend more time on "how we line up," on blocking and tackling. Jones mentioned Garrett and Romo had been together six years, but indicated he wanted to change fundamentals and not focus on schemes.

Jones didn’t mince words on changing things: "I can tell you change is necessary at 8-8.  We’re going to have changes."

You can listen to Jones’ comments on KRLD here, or click on the button below:

AUDIO - Play The Jerry Jones Show - 1053 The Fan KRLD - The Boys Are Back blog


LOCKER ROOM ENDORSEMENT: Players voice support for Jason Garrett and optimism for next season under his leadership.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett - 2012-2013 season - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys emptied their lockers after another disappointing end to an 8-8 season, they also voiced their support for the head coach who got them there.

Speculation arose all season after a 3-5 start regarding head coach Jason Garrett’s future in Dallas. Despite fighting and failing in a Week 17 effort with a playoff berth on the line for the second consecutive year, his players stood by him and his message the same way they had all season.

“I think he did a great job,” said DeMarco Murray. “He’s a great coach, terrific guy, glad to be a part of this team and I’m 100 percent behind him, as well as everyone else in this locker room. I wouldn’t want to play for anyone else, and I’m definitely happy he was our coach and he led us the right way this year.”

Murray said he and the rest of his teammates needed to do more to step up and make the plays necessary to get into the playoffs. He didn’t pin the loss on coaching, nor did the rest of his teammates.

Cowboys veterans and newcomers both voiced their strong opinions regarding Garrett’s future in Dallas. Livings said the team began to mesh on and off the field, and that feeling of camaraderie was encouraged and developed by Garrett, who always believed the right process would eventually reap the right results.

“Just the way he approaches things, it’s not like he’s blind to the fact of who we are, because he was a player,” Livings said. “He sees things differently from our perspective, and he makes the best of it. One hell of a coach, man, a real good coach. I played three years under Nick (Saban), and I played around some good coaches, and Coach Garrett’s up there.”

Rarely did the Cowboys make things easy, but rarely could question their resolve. The Cowboys still put themselves in position to win the NFC East the last week of the season, despite a losing first half of the season, the death of a teammate late in the year and injuries across the starting defense.

One of those injured defenders was Sean Lee, who voiced his adamant support of Garrett as the right person to lead the Cowboys.

“I don’t think there’s anybody else who could,” Lee said. “I think he’s an unbelievable coach. I think we’ve responded to him, and he’s made us better football players, better people. If you watch us, I think we play with a certain relentless spirit. But we need to find a way to cut mistakes and build on our mistakes so we never make those mistakes again and we can win those close ballgames.”

Bruce Carter, another injured starter who was forced to watch the end of the season slip away from the sidelines, said Garrett’s message to the team after the season was to get away from football and come back in the offseason ready to work again.

Carter said “we really wanted to win that game” when the Cowboys fell late to the Redskins in the finale. He still felt as much a part of the team as anyone else despite sitting out with an elbow injury.

He believes another year of Garrett and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and a healthier defense can reap different results next season.

“We went through a whole lot,” Carter said. “The only way we can go from here is up. Guys see that and see we’ve got to keep working and strive to push each other and I think things will go in our favor next season.”

When the season ended Sunday, Garrett didn’t change his tune. He was obviously disappointed with how the year ended again, but he remained proud of the team’s resolve and optimistic for what the future can hold.

He said the team’s identity is beginning to get established with its relentless style of play and ability to keep fighting when trailing late in games. The Cowboys played from behind all season, yet they never lost by more than a touchdown from Week 5 to Week 16, a span that included a plethora of injuries on both sides of the ball. 

Garrett realizes, though, that his message and his beliefs need to get established immediately and eventually translate into the results he’s looking for so the Cowboys don’t have the empty feeling they endured after Sunday’s loss.

“I’m proud to be part of this team,” Garrett said. “It’s not proud of, it’s proud to be part of, and I told them that again today because of the commitment they’ve made. You talk a lot about mental toughness, and oftentimes mental toughness is really dealing with adversity. We’ve had a lot of different adversities this year. We’ve had injuries, we’ve lost close games, we’ve had tragedy, tragedy unlike any other I’ve been around in the National Football League, and at every point our guys responded the right way, they became closer, they became stronger and they kept playing with that relentless spirit that we think is really, really important. We think it’s line one in football, and we have to get lines two, three, four and the rest of them right and we’ll keep working hard to do that. But there was a spirit, there was an undeniable will that our team played with.”

EIGHT AND WAIT: Cowboys limp out of Washington with a loss and an end to the 2012 NFL season

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) is helped from the field - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys had their season ended at FedEx Field Sunday night, losing to the Washington Redskins 28-18.

Here are five thoughts on the Cowboys finishing the season at 8-8 and missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) walks off the field after throwing an interception - The Boys Are Back blog

1.) Tony Romo had two first-half interceptions and they wouldn’t have mattered if he would’ve made the big throws in the final minutes. The Cowboys had three timeouts and were only down three with a little over three minutes remaining. Romo could’ve been the hero, marching his team down the field for a victory like the NFL’s elite signal callers are known to do. But when the game and the season were on the line, Romo made a mistake that elite quarterbacks don’t make. He lofted up a weak throw to running back DeMarco Murray that was easily picked off by linebacker Rob Jackson. Game over. Romo never looked comfortable Sunday night, a shock considering the calendar still says December. Romo has been outstanding during the month in recent memory. But like Romo has done throughout his career, when it’s a win-or-go-home situation he has disappointed.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is sacked for a loss by Washington Redskins inside linebacker London Fletcher - The Boys Are Back blog

2.) Why was it so difficult to score against a Redskins defense that is not very good? Like the Cowboys, they had significant injuries on that side of the ball — safety Brandon Meriweather, defensive end Adam Carriker and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo were all on injured reserve. The Cowboys’ offense needed to capitalize in the first half but never did, settling for a 7-7 halftime score. The offense had to carry the load on this night and Romo and Co. never did. There needed to be a sense of urgency, but for some reason the Cowboys play their best when their backs are against the wall. It’s happened all season. This time it came back to haunt them. You can’t play not to lose when the playoffs are on the line.

Washington Redskins punter Sav Rocca (6) grabs Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) by the face mask - The Boys Are Back blog

3.) What a game from Dwayne Harris. His returns were outstanding and his receiving game continues to improve. To go along with his 151 return yards, Harris had a 25-yard reception and a critical two-point conversion catch with 5:50 to go, pulling the Cowboys within 21-18. Not many bright spots Sunday night but he was certainly one of them.

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett with Shanahan while Rob Ryan walks away after the Washington Redskins game

4.) Give Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan one more year. This isn’t a popular suggestion right now but it’s the best option. Re-tooling the entire staff at this point would only make sense if there was an outstanding head-coaching candidate available. I don’t see one at this time. Put everything on the line next season: playoffs or bust. The injuries on defense changed this team, it put everything on Romo’s shoulders. That can be adjusted with healthy playmakers on defense. There is enough talent for this group to make the playoffs and make some noise, if healthy.

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne looks away - The Boys Are Back blog

5.) Where do they go from here? I don’t think major changes are needed. Yes, you read that correctly. Romo’s not elite but he’s still very good. Getting healthy is most important. Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Bruce Carter, Sean Lee and Brandon Carr have demonstrated that there’s enough young talent to aid some of the aging stars on the roster. In the draft, address the offensive line, add another pass rusher and select a quarterback at some point.

TRUE GRIT COWBOY: DeMarcus Ware will wear a shoulder harness as well as the elbow brace

Dallas Cowboys DeMarcus Ware vs Philadelphia Eagles - The Boys Are Back blog

DeMarcus Ware had KT tape on his right shoulder Friday after practice. He’ll have a shoulder harness on it come Sunday, he said.

Ware said earlier in the week he would play without a harness, but on Friday, he said a harness would keep it from popping out again. He left the game with 30 seconds to go in the third quarter Sunday against the Saints and returned for only one play in overtime. He played 59 of 95 plays.

Ware did not practice all week, but he reiterated Friday that he will play. He is listed as probable on the injury report.

Ware has played with a brace on his right elbow the past two games after hyperextending it against the Bengals.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said the Cowboys will pick their spots with Ware, who has 1.5 sacks in the past five games.

"I think we’re going to have to watch how many plays we give him, pick our spots and play our other players," Ryan said. "We’ve got good payers here so we’re going to play them. There’s only one DeMarcus Ware. There’s only one Sean Lee, but we’ve had to function without Sean. Now, sometimes we’ve had to function without DeMarcus. I mean these are two of the premier guys in football. Nobody’s got them except us, but we’re fortunate to have them and when we don’t, we have to move on. We’ll do the best we can. I know DeMarcus will play his heart out when he’s out there, and we’ll just see how much he’s able to give us.”

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