GRAPEVINE, Texas -- It’s a question that has been asked a lot since the Cowboys faded into playoff spectators last season: Do you still believe in Rob Ryan?
“Rob’s skills, the thing that he brings to the table, are easily bought into,” Jerry Jones replied. “We did, we have and we continue to buy into those.”
Why would the Cowboys have changed their mind about the defensive coordinator they hired a year ago? The Dallas defense made a drastic improvement in Ryan’s first season, advancing from awful to mediocre.
It’s silly to make Ryan the scapegoat for an 8-8 season. His unit ranked 16th in scoring defense. The Cowboys ranked 15th in scoring offense. This was simply an all-around mediocre team.
The biggest mistake Ryan made was constantly opening his big mouth to brag about what great talent he was coaching. That was all a bunch of bull, perhaps intended to inflate confidence.
All it did was artificially inflate expectations.
If you listen to Ryan, it was all his fault that Dallas’ defense didn’t live up to expectations. He skipped English 101 -- how many four-letter words are taught in that class? -- and threw too much, too fast at his players without an offseason to implement the complicated schemes. He’s vowed to go with a slower approach this season.
Just remember, Wade Phillips’ scheme was too simple in his last half season with the Cowboys. The same scheme seemed to work pretty well in Houston last season, huh?
The front office made it clear this offseason that Ryan was handcuffed by over-the-hill, inadequate talent. That’s why the Cowboys paid $50 million for cornerback Brandon Carr, packaged their first two picks for cornerback Morris Claiborne to headline a defense-loaded draft class and signed potential starters at safety and inside linebacker in free agency.
Ryan shouldn’t have to go with smoke and mirrors all the time this season. He should have personnel good enough to win without a lot of gimmicks.
It’s on Ryan to find the fine line between being too smart for his own good and not creative enough with his calls.
“Where I’m coming from there is, it just isn’t about personnel at all, but it is also about education, how well those players understand the scheme and also a real good coaching job on how much to give those players so that they can go out there and perform instinctively,” Jones said. “That’s all a mouthful, but I’ve got a lot of confidence in Rob Ryan and the defense and the defense we’ll have.
“You want to get all of Rob you can possibly get and his philosophy, but it’s a little like (Tony) Romo. You want to basically get it in a way that it’s sound and wins ballgames. Some of the things he wants to do -- bring it -- we want to do. That’s why we went to the defense.”
They spent the offseason upgrading the defense, giving Ryan a realistic shot to back up his bold words.
Is Ryan really the great defensive coordinator he claims to be? We’ll find out this season. It’s foolish to judge him after one season in which he was handcuffed by poor personnel.