METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is a "changed man," according to safety Malcolm Jenkins. Although Ryan is still one of the most dynamic, colorful and witty personalities in the NFL, he has clearly made it a point to edit himself as much as possible this year -- especially around the media.
"I know this year, knowing he's in a good place and he has something special here, he's been on his best behavior," Jenkins said. "It's been fun, and he keeps it light, and we enjoy him. But he has made a conscious effort of watching what he says in the media and not drawing a bunch of attention to himself."
Jenkins, however, knows Ryan will be tested even further when he faces his weekly Friday media session this afternoon. This week, the Saints are hosting the Dallas Cowboys -- the team that fired Ryan in the offseason.
Even the edited version of Ryan has made no secret about how upset he was by the Cowboys' decision to fire him after their defense was plagued by injuries during the second half of last season.
Ryan made cracks about being fired repeatedly this summer. Usually they were subtle or sarcastic:
"We were No. 3 in the league for 10 weeks of the season [in 2012] until every single player on the team was hurt and then I got fired. We should have been No. 1, but that's OK. But I learned. You can't have enough good players."
Other times Ryan was more introspective. But he always made it clear that he was motivated to prove the Cowboys wrong:
"I think you get humbled when you're fired and you're not fired with the entire staff. I think that has a way of humbling you and a way of pissing you off. And I've got a lot to prove. I know I'm great. I've been coordinator of the year, I think probably the only coach ever to be coordinator of the year in major college and pro football. So it's not like I can't coach. I know I can. I haven't lost any confidence. But I know I gotta earn my respect."
Jenkins said the players are aware that this particular game will mean a lot to Ryan. But he said the coach hasn't made a big deal about this week.
"This is how we know Rob Ryan is a changed man. This is his opportunity to make it all about him and how he can get redemption and all this other stuff. But he's really focused on us just going out and playing well, getting a win and moving on," Jenkins said. "I think he's tried to make a conscious effort of not making about himself, knowing that he can't go out there and put a helmet on and make a tackle.
"I'm sure he definitely wants this win. But I know he's happy here. He may be a little disappointed in the way they handled his firing. But being here, he says, is the best thing that's happened to him. So he's worried about getting the win."
Ryan's new approach probably has a little bit to do with the fact that he was humbled in Dallas after becoming a high-profile personality there. It probably has even more to do with the fact that the Saints prefer a more buttoned-down approach. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, for instance, wore out his welcome with his dynamic, often-boastful personality, even before the bounty scandal erupted.
By all accounts, Ryan has meshed well with Saints coach Sean Payton and the rest of the organization. And he has done wonders for the Saints' defense.
Ryan has been a huge hit with players off the field and has been getting the most out of them on the field. Cowboys reporter Todd Archer and I broke down why he wasn't getting the same results in Dallas during our Double Coverage feature this week.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett also addressed Ryan's firing this week during his conference call with the New Orleans media -- though that decision was reportedly made by owner Jerry Jones.
"Decisions are made for a lot of different reasons, and I think anybody who's been around [knows that]," Garrett said. "I have great respect for Rob as a person and as a coach and wish him nothing but the best. ...
"Rob is a fantastic coach. There's no question about that. He's a great guy and did a lot for our organization in the two years that he was here. Defensively, we played very well, particularly last year for most of the year. Probably through Week 10 or 11, we were one of the best defenses in the league. We really just got decimated by injuries, and I thought Rob did a good job of keeping everybody together and working through the different players that were in for us. I think he's a fantastic coach. It doesn't surprise me one bit that he's having the success he's having down there."