The Dallas Cowboys were right to fire former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. NFL.com reported the dismissal and the news should be welcomed after two seasons of defensive underachievement.
The fact is Ryan's brash antics became more of a distraction than a boon, during his time in Dallas. More importantly, he failed to back up many of his boasts. Ryan couldn't turn a talented, yet underperforming group of players, into an effective, cohesive unit.
One of the main problems was simply too much scheme. Ryan mixed his fronts almost on a play-by-play basis. He included, 3-4, 4-3, 46 and psycho looks. Those looks were matched with multiple, complex blitz combinations.
That diet of heavy pressure often relied on risky, single coverage. That put a lot of pressure on the secondary, regardless of its personnel. No defense should need six starting-quality cornerbacks to make its schemes work.
That's evidence of a reckless system that asks too much of its players. So even when the Cowboys spent big to land Ryan the defensive backs he demanded, his pass defense still faltered.
They ranked 23rd in 2011, as Ryan pushed the blitz button too often. That led to a demand for more high-priced personnel and an indecisive blitz scheme.
Signing prized free agent Brandon Carr, trading for touted rookie Morris Claiborne and limiting the number of blitzes didn't help. The Cowboys still ranked 19th against the pass in 2012. They yielded 230.2 yards through the air per game.
Ryan's defensive backs were too often exposed by the overloaded blitz pressures up front. When they worked, they were spectacular. Nobody can deny Ryan's ability to design pressures. He was certainly more creative with premier pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware, than previous coaches.
However, no matter how inventive the schemes were, or how bold the play calling was, Ryan's struggles continued. The Cowboys ranked 24th in points allowed in 2012. They were particularly porous when trying to protect a lead.
In fairness to Ryan, key injuries did blight his efforts this season. Any defense would struggle after losing playmakers like inside linebackers Bruce Carter and Sean Lee. Ryan was also without the services of dominant nose tackle Jay Ratliff for too long.
However, the problem was that Ryan's schemes are so complex, they demand outstanding, versatile athletes to execute them. His defense never mastered the fundamentals and got the basics right.
The 274 rushing yards Ryan's unit surrendered to the Washington Redskins, in the decisive season-finale, proved that. A defense that plays with sound technique and discipline, could offer a counter to the Redskins' option-read offense.
It could also fill the rush lanes and tackle better against a zone-running scheme. Failing at the basics too often, ultimately doomed Ryan in Dallas.
The Cowboys made the right decision to fire Ryan. If they stick with the 3-4 front and they should, the Cowboys must hire a coordinator who favours the more stable, 2-gap model Bill Parcells first installed in 2005.772117