Turnovers at heart of Rob Ryan's exit

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett cited the team's lack of turnovers as the main reason for firing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

The Cowboys tied for 29th overall with 16 takeaways last season, including being tied for last in the NFL with seven interceptions. The Chicago Bears led the NFL with 44 takeaways.

"We had 16. That's 28 more opportunities with the ball," Garrett told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. "Give me some of those 28 opportunities.

"That's something that we really sat back and thought a lot about, had a lot of discussions about -- what's the best way to try to achieve that, and then, 'OK, you want to do that, now who are the guys who can help implement that?'"

By comparison, the Cowboys ranked eighth in the NFL with 29 giveaways last season.

Since firing Ryan on Jan. 8, the Cowboys have undergone multiple changes on the defensive coaching staff, including hiring coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. The Cowboys also will switch from a 3-4 defensive scheme to Kiffin's familiar 4-3 look.

Ryan's defense finished 19th overall -- 17th against the run and 21st against the pass.

"I thought Rob did a really good job," Garrett said after Dallas' 8-8 season ended. "I stood up here a number of times and said, 'You don't want to talk about injuries' and 'We're not talking about them now,' but in answering your question I'm going to say that it was a real challenge for [Ryan]. If you think about the number of guys we lost on defense, starting, marquee players who are just simply out, and the other guys who are battling through injuries and the challenges he had bringing guys from the practice squad up, from off the street and on our team and literally playing them two days later."

Because of injuries, the Cowboys signed eight defensive players to the active roster in the last two months of the season.