IRVING, Texas -- As the injuries piled up on the defensive side of the ball during the course of last season, everybody associated with the Cowboys said they could not be used as an excuse.
Rob Ryan kept saying it every week but always with some sort of snide remark, just to let everybody know that the injuries were why the defense kept sliding in the rankings.
Hey, it’s true. Injuries did affect Ryan’s ability to call what he wanted. By the end of the year he was without Sean Lee, Barry Church, Bruce Carter, Kenyon Coleman, Orlando Scandrick and Jay Ratliff. He had DeMarcus Ware playing with one arm.
But if injuries could not have been used as an excuse two weeks ago, then they can’t be used as an excuse now that Ryan has been told he’s no longer the Cowboys defensive coordinator.
His two-year run was filled with more soundbites than highlights.
Even when relatively healthy, the defense did not make enough game-changing plays. The Cowboys forced 16 turnovers in 2012, a franchise low. They did not come up with enough crucial stops either, and that wasn’t just a 2012 issue.
The Cowboys lost five fourth-quarter leads in 2011 on their way to an 8-8 record.
Far too many times the Cowboys were disorganized on the sidelines. They had anywhere from nine to 13 guys on the field over Ryan’s two seasons. In Cincinnati, Ryan lost his poise and drew a penalty for yelling back at tackle Andre Smith.
How can a coach ask players to remain calm, when he can’t remain calm?
In 2011, Ryan tried to be a genius by devising all of these blitzes and the Cowboys couldn’t cover on the back end. In 2012 he largely played it safe -- even before all of the injuries -- and that did not work well enough either.
Ryan has been a coordinator for nine years for three teams and none of those teams finished with a winning record.
Is that all his fault? Of course not, but Jerry Jones promised change and so far Ryan is the biggest change.
And change can be good.