METAIRIE, La. -- Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has been through more highs and lows over the past decade than most of the current New Orleans Saints coaches and players.
But, Ryan, too, said Saturday that this season has marked a new low.
"Oh, it’s new," said Ryan, who had never had a winning season as a defensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns or Dallas Cowboys before he came to New Orleans and thrived last season. "Have I had a couple bad seasons? Yeah. Have I had one this bad? No."
The Saints are down to 31st in the NFL in yards allowed after rising to fourth last season. According to ESPN Stats and Information's efficiency rating, they're by far the worst defense in the NFL this season. They are last in the NFL in third-down stops, and they rank 29th in pass defense, run defense and takeaways.
And last week’s 41-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers, especially, was rock-bottom. Ryan called the defensive performance "terrible," "inexcusable" and "ridiculous."
Ryan said the defense "just didn’t show up" -- and that includes "schematically, playing-wise, effort-wise." But he said that lack of emotion and nastiness hasn’t been the problem all season.
"That has not been us, and it’s not going to be us ever again," Ryan said. "We’ve been here for two years, and that performance was not right."
Ryan put the blame for this season's struggles on himself a few times Saturday, specifically saying the late-game breakdowns have to fall on the defensive coordinator.
When asked if he needs to be better at putting players in the right position or at lighting a fire under them, Ryan said, "Well, I mean, hell, if it takes Knute Rockne’s speech, we’ve tried 'em all. Hell, I’ve tried crying at 'em, I’ve yelled at 'em, I’ve cussed at 'em. But bottom line is if you’re the coordinator and it’s not going well, then you start with you, and that’s the way it is. And that’s my fault, because right now this defense hasn’t played up to par, and it’s killing us."
And Ryan didn’t disagree with the need for personnel changes -- which could include a shakeup in the secondary.
"Right now we’ve lost some games, we haven’t held our end up on defense, and whatever has to happen, hell it has to happen," Ryan said. "We can’t give up 41 points and expect everything to stay the same. I mean, who the hell wants 'em to? So that’s bullcrap. So whatever has to happen, we have to change, and it has to be done now.
"We’ve gotta come out with a great game this week, playing a high-powered offense (the Chicago Bears on 'Monday Night Football') with a great quarterback, a great receiver and a great back. We gotta be ready to go. And we will, we’re ready."
When asked specifically about safety Kenny Vaccaro being "benched" after Ryan had praised him so much in the past, Ryan said, "I don’t know about that benching. I mean, that’s you guys (in the media) benching him."
"However it is, I know one thing, last year we had him doing a lot of different things, but in my opinion Kenny was the best safety in football," Ryan said, referencing a comment he made during Vaccaro’s standout rookie season. "I think this year, like all of us, me included, we haven’t been that same person.
"Hell, we’re breaking down at the end of games, which we’ve never done. That’s completely on the defensive coordinator. We go from the best tackling team in football to the worst, hell it’s not gonna look right. And that’s what’s happened. But we have to get better than that, we will get better, and we’re all committed to this. It’s every player, it’s every coach, and we’re just working as hard as we can to get it right."
But as Ryan also emphasized several times during his weekly press conference:
"We’re sick of saying that. We have to start doing it."