Is Rob Ryan the right hire to run the New Orleans Saints Defense?


Aug 25, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of the game against the St Louis Rams at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Rams 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints concluded their search for a new defensive coordinator Saturday morning with the announcement that they have hired Rob Ryan to replace the fired Steve Spagnuolo.

Ryan will help usher in his version of the 3-4 defense as the Saints begin the daunting task of switching from the 4-3, which they have run since the late 90’s, after a disastrous 2012 in which New Orleans cemented themselves as the worst defense in NFL history.

Rumors began to circulate early this week that Ryan was the favorite to secure the job, but head coach Sean Payton adamantly denied those rumors and insisted the club would interview multiple candidates before making a decision.

Besides the University of Georgia’s Todd Grantham, who took his name out of consideration for the position yesterday, Ryan was the only other confirmed candidate to have interviewed with the Saints.

The San Francisco 49ers denied the Saints request to interview secondary coach Ed Donatell for the defensive coordinator position in New Orleans.

For the past two seasons Ryan has lead the Dallas Cowboys defense where his unit’s ranked 14th in total defense in 2011 and 19th in 2012 — an improvement from 23rd overall prior to his arrival.

Dallas was quick to cut ties with Ryan after the Cowboys went 8-8 in 2012 and missed the playoffs again.

The move was one deemed reactionary on the behalf of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who wanted to send a clear message to players, and the coaching staff, that changes were coming in Dallas.

Ryan famously retaliated through the media after his release saying he had no idea why Jones fired him, afterwards quipping he would “be out of work for like 5 minutes”.

Before joining the Cowboys staff Ryan was the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns from 2009 to 2010. In his final season with the Browns Ryan’s squad ranked 11th in total defense.

Saints fans may recall that 2010 season as the Browns came to the Superdome and beat New Orleans easily 30-17 after Drew Brees was picked off four times by Ryan’s defense.

Apparently that game stuck in the memory of head coach Sean Payton, who had this to say about Ryan in this morning’s press release.

"In regards to Rob, we have experience in preparing and playing against his defenses and they’ve always been challenging in terms of the different looks and pressures that they feature. We’ve had the chance to visit with each other and talk about our visions for our team and I’m excited about moving forward as we prepare for the 2013 season. Rob is enthusiastic about joining our team and getting right to work."

Ryan will have plenty of work ahead as he attempts to transition existing 4-3 players  into his 3-4 scheme all while integrating new players either through the draft of free agency.

Realistically the Saints defense does not have to make a dramatic improvement in 2013 to once again make the playoffs considering New Orleans offense, lead by Drew Brees, is still one of the NFL’s top overall units.

But Ryan’s hire will likely divide the fan base as some are likely to think his ability to get the best out of his players will be an asset, while others will downplay the effectiveness of his 3-4 scheme and question his ability to run an effective unit.

Ryan is of course known for his sideline antics, and not unlike his twin brother and Jets head coach Rex Ryan, for being outspoken and opinionated on just about every topic concerning the NFL and their respective teams.

For now though Saints fans may want to stay their judgement. It’s far too early to declare his hiring a bust and of course anything is better than last years defense.

Rob Ryan is also an expert in running the 3-4 defense and his fiery attitude may just be what the Saints defense needs to once again play inspired.

Will Ryan usher in the  second coming of the Dome Patrol? Likely no, but his hiring is a step in the right direction.