It’s not often one would look at the final defensive rankings and overwhelmingly praise a defensive coordinator who produced the 19th ranked defense out of 32 teams.
At first glance it would seem the overall defensive results were even below average. 24th in points allowed per game, 22nd in rushing yards allowed, 19th in passing yards allowed…none of these stats scream greatness.
However, facing multiple, almost insurmountable losses and setbacks, Rob Ryan’s coaching performance during the 2012 season exceeded far beyond merely competent.
As a matter fact, the skill, willpower, and perseverance he displayed no doubt earns him the award for best coaching job on the entire Dallas Cowboys coaching staff; if not the most impressive defensive coaching performance in all of the NFL.
INJURIES SHRED THE DEFENSE
By the final game of the season, Rob Ryan’s defense was occupying the field with roughly 5.5 of it’s original 12 starters.
I say 12 starters instead of 11, as the slot corner position in the NFL is almost as important as any of the rest.
The casualty list was far more extensive as the Cowboys lost the following original starters at some point during the season…
Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Barry Church, Orlando Scandrick, and half of DeMarcus Ware.
Almost all of these players missed multiple games due to suffering season-ending injuries relatively early in the year.
MULTIPLE PLAYERS NEEDED TO FILL POSITIONS
This forced Ryan to continuously search for new answers and use an unbelievable amount of replacement players just to field a defense that could keep the Cowboys in a position for the offense to win the game.
7 Defensive ends (were used to fill 2 positions)
4 Defensive tackles/nose tackles (1 position)
6 Outside linebackers (2 positions)
8 Inside linebackers (2 positions)
9 Cornerbacks (3 positions)
9 Safeties (2 positions)
FORCED TO USE MANY UNKNOWN FREE AGENTS
The most amazing part of the excellent job Rob Ryan did this season was the fact he was forced to use countless players that weren’t even Dallas Cowboys when the season started.
Meaning these guys had zero time in the off-season to learn Ryan’s defense and had to be taught on the fly as the season was underway. On top of that, he was also backed into using several rookies as well.
Brian Schaefering, Brady Poppinga, Robert Callaway, Ernie Sims, Vince Agnew, LeQuan Lewis, Sterling Moore, Michael Coe, Eric Frampton, and Charlie Peprah.
Who? You have got to be kidding. Not only was Ryan forced to play all of these unfamiliar names, as a whole they were on the field for 990 snaps.
That’s almost 1,000 plays turned in by guys few fans had heard of before this season. None of the 32 teams in the NFL felt several of them were even talented enough to be on their opening day rosters.
Rob Ryan filled the gaping holes with these obscure players and kept the Cowboys hanging around long enough to fight for a division title. Now if that is not a masterful job done by a man with both hands tied behind his back, I don’t know what would be.