By Jay Betsill
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired by the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, marking the second major coaching change at Valley Ranch in as many days as it comes on the heels of running backs coach Skip Peete losing his job on Monday. The Cowboys defense finished 19th overall in the NFL, 17th against the run and 21st against the pass.
Dallas’ defense was plagued by injuries all season, including linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, safety Barry Church, cornerback Orlando Scandrick, nose tackle Jay Ratliff and defensive end Kenyon Coleman. They also lost nose tackle Josh Brent following the tragic accident in which practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown lost his life. Free agents such as Ernie Sims, Brady Poppinga, Sterling Moore and Michael Coe filled in throughout the second half of the season. Despite all the injuries and constant change, the end result wasn’t enough for the brash defensive coordinator to return for the final year of his contract.
“I inherited a team that was 31st in the league in defense and made them better,” Ryan told ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon. “I (expletive) made them a hell of a lot better. I’ll be out of work for like five minutes.”
Do I think Ryan was the biggest problem with the Cowboys last season? The fact that Dallas was able to hold any of their opponents under 45 points in the second half of the season was a minor miracle and he certainly deserves due credit on that front. However, the unit was often disorganized, including plays with only 10 men on the field and one of the team’s many low points was when Ryan drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Cincinnati for running onto the field to yell at Bengals’ tackle Andre Smith.
Rumors have abound that former Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner, fresh off being fired as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers, could possibly be brought in to try and make some sense of the offense. Perhaps Jerry Jones will reunite Turner with Dave Wannstedt, the Cowboys defensive coordinator under Jimmy Johnson for the Super Bowl XXVII win. Wannstedt was recently fired by the Buffalo Bills as the team’s defensive coordinator. Another name to watch for in the job search — should Jones decide to go outside of his comfort zone — is former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel.
Change can be a good thing, but ESPNDallas.com’s Calvin Watkins reported that Ryan was fired by phone while on vacation. If that is the practice the Cowboys use to release their employees, perhaps the next call should be placed to the person who was in charge of the team’s woeful offense. In the meantime, things could still become more uncomfortable at Valley Ranch.