May 29, 2014; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan during offseason team activities at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Charismatic leadership, a keen football sense, and distinguished flowing locks of hair are just some of the many reasons that make it easy for any person to like Rob Ryan. While many may already be familiar with Rob and his fraternal twin brother Rex, who is head coach of the New York Jets, someone you might not know as much about is their father, Buddy Ryan.
Buddy Ryan was a fiery defensive mastermind who started coaching in 1968, but it was his move to the Chicago Bears in 1978 that skyrocketed his claim to fame. Buddy was responsible for creating the 46 defense (shown below courtesy of Wikipedia), and arguably put together the best defense in NFL history with the ’85 Bears. Ryan’s coaching tree produced such talented coaches as: Wade Phillips, Jeff Fisher, Richie Kotite, and Guy Morris. Needless to say, defense was built into the Ryan brothers DNA from day one.
Ryan spent nine seasons (2004-2012) between three NFL teams before joining the New Orleans Saints. Ryan would start with the Oakland Raiders (2004-2008), move on to the Cleveland Browns (2009-2010), and finally end with Dallas Cowboys (2011-2012). Sadly, Ryan was never part of a winning team and philosophy in his tenure with any of those franchises. The best record any team could manage was with the Cowboys, producing two back-to-back 8-8 seasons while Ryan was there. Rob Ryan was fired after the 2012 season, and would be forever remembered for his quote stating, “I’ll be out of work for like 5 minutes“. As DeadSpin pointed out, it was more like 22,987 minutes. Literalists.
It didn’t take long for Who Dat Nation to fall in love with Rob Ryan. After all, he had nothing but good things to say about the organize when he joined the franchise.
"“I have had the opportunity to get to know Sean Payton and his staff a bit better recently and I am excited about joining the team,” Ryan said. “I have a ton of respect for (owner Tom) Benson, (general manager) Mikey (Loomis) and the organization and I’m ready to get to work on all facets of the game. This is a great opportunity and we’re getting started right away.” (NFL.com)"
Ryan also increased his popularity by mingling with fellow Who Dats in New Orleans. Ryan was appearing at Ms. Mae’s after games, reigning as grand marshal of Krewe of Argus during Mardi Gras, taking pictures at St. Patrick’s Day festivities, and dancing at the New Orleans Greek Festival. To suggest that Ryan loves the city of New Orleans is a more than fair assumption.
Ryan finally found the ultimate pairing that he long desired to work with: a consistent high-powered, proven, potent offense paired with an opportunistic defense. Now, I’m not ignoring the fact that the Dallas Cowboys did field a top three passing attack in 2012, but clearly the woes towards the end of the season were the ultimate downfall of the team. Ryan was not solely to blame. If you remember, New Orleans was one of those respective teams who helped end the Cowboys playoff hopes in 2012. The support cast in New Orleans fits Rob Ryan better, as Drew Brees and Sean Payton are a nightmare pairing for any opposing team.
Ryan’s first season produced nothing short of brilliance, as the New Orleans Saints churned in a 4th overall ranking in 2013, which was one of the best turnarounds in NFL history. Just take a look at the year over year comparison.
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Clearly, you can see the improvements in just a short time frame. The faces didn’t change a whole lot from 2012 to 2013, which further speaks to the abilities and coaching of Rob Ryan. However, I would be completely insane if I did not mention the impact of free agent Keenan Lewis and rookie Kenny Vaccaro being added to the mix. You can also speak to the amount of younger players (John Jenkins, Glenn Foster, Corey White, Rod Sweeting to name a few) who were having to step in for many of the injured veterans. If anything, the deck was stacked up against Ryan even more in 2013. However, he made the most of it, producing two ten plus sack leaders (Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette) for the first time in nearly ten years (2004). The Saints defense would finish ranked in the top 10 in nearly ten different categories.
Making a switch to a base 3-4 defense from a base 4-3 defense could have saved the New Orleans Saints for the next several seasons to come. As for this year, Ryan has already talked about the importance of forcing more turnovers, which should be helped by the additions of safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Champ Bailey. The team will also re-gain the services of outside linebacker Victor Butler, who thrived under Ryan in Dallas.
Although Ryan has been overlooked from being a head coaching candidate (mainly due to his hairstyle – which is a farce), teams would be wise to keep their eye on him, as Ryan will continue to consistently deliver under the New Orleans Saints. He’ll simply make opposing offenses ‘pay for it’ through his defense. Rob Ryan has everything on his side to continually produce one strong season after another. For now, it looks as though Rob Ryan has put losing behind him for good.