Austin On Dallas: Jones Passes Buck, Ryan Made Scapegoat

Jerry Jones promised substantial, ‘uncomfortable’ changes immediately following the Dallas Cowboys’ annual denial into the postseason.  The hair-raising termination of Rob Ryan certainly fits the bill and then some, as few saw this curveball coming.

The shocking change was “uncomfortable” just as Jerry promised, no doubt about that. However the brunt of my comfort loss comes from Jones ridiculously passing blame to Rob Ryan.  He’s the one coach in Dallas I have zero doubt earned every penny of his 2012 salary.

All the while, Jerry conveniently overlooks the average production of his 21-19 head coach.  The same team general who has yet to qualify for the postseason, nor even come close to winning either of the all-or-nothing showdowns that concluded each season.

He continues to let Garrett lead the team, run the offensive strategy, and call the plays.  An immense workload for any NFL head coach, much less a guy in his rookie campaign.

Garrett has declared none of those duties will alter in 2013…loving the big changes!

Jason clearly struggles with effective, in-game team strategy and simple time management in close games, yet remains spread razor thin with responsibilities.

Not many can deny that after 5 years with Garrett calling the offense, it just looks plain old stale and predictable most of the time.

Is Jerry making big, “uncomfortable” changes to any of the above mentioned?  Not at all.  Oh yeah, he did dismiss the running backs coach.  I’m sure that will fix the atrocious o-line run blocking right away.

Getting back to firing Rob Ryan, I do support a move to the 4-3 defense if that’s the idea here. Bringing in a solid, veteran 4-3 coach to run it seems like a winning idea with this personnel.

However, not at the expense of this move fulfilling the “uncomfortable” coaching change portion of Jerry’s latest megaplan to cure constant mediocrity.  This defense fully healthy under the guidance of Rob Ryan was the last thing that kept me up late at night.

There are landmines all around this team, yet Jerry picks a water puddle to cover and tell the fans that he’s just made this monumental move and we are now on our way.  What do you expect from a GM who passes the buck as an annual off-season ritual?

As we regretfully send Rob packing and erase him from our Cowboy minds going forward, I feel the right thing to do is re-visit some of the atrocious circumstances Ryan had to overcome during his unfortunate (for Ryan) stay here.

 

YEAR ONE:  NO OFF-SEASON TO TEACH SYSTEM

When Rob arrived in Dallas in early 2011, the NFL was in lockout mode.  Coaches were unable to speak to players nor work with them at the facilities.  In the end, he was relegated to around 2 weeks before the season opener to teach the defense his highly complex schemes.

Translation…the Ryan defense in 2011 was a shell of the strategies and wrinkles that make it so effective and hard for offenses to diffuse.

His system thrives with cornerbacks who can take their guy out of the play by themselves and allow other defenders to apply pressure or coverage elsewhere.

Ryan inherited one of the lamest secondaries in the league and was forced to play much zone and soft pass coverage simply because the secondary didn’t have the ability to enforce his most effective defensive packages.

In my opinion, we barely got to see 1/2 of the Ryan defense in 2011, and what really makes it aggressive and special.  The unfair circumstances he had to deal with in year 1 involving the lockout and inept coverage personnel were unforgiving.

Little blame can be placed on Ryan’s shoulders for the defense finishing 2011 ranked 16th in points allowed (21.7).  As a matter of fact, he improved the awful defense from 31st in 2010 (27.3 ppg), and did so under unbearable conditions.

All the while Ryan made no excuses and shouldered all the blame for his defenses’ lackluster production.

 

YEAR TWO:  DEFENSE DECIMATED BY INJURIES

In all my years carefully observing the sport, I’ve never seen a defensive coordinator have to frantically fill so many gaps both to the starting line-up and backups due to such a massive collection of serious injuries.

By the last game in Washington, Ryan was coaching his defense minus 5 regular starters.  Slot cornerback Orlando Scandrick also graced the MASH unit, and All-Pro DeMarcus Ware was severely banged up and admittedly nowhere near 100%.

On the final two-deep defensive depth chart, 5 out of 22 players were not even on the Dallas roster for most of the season. Many weren’t employed anywhere in the NFL when Dallas signed them off the couch.

Over the last 6 games, it’s a miracle Ryan had his ragtag defense play well enough to allow only one opponent to break the 35 point mark. After all he coached 2 of those 6 games against the 4th ranked Redskins’ offense (27.3 ppg), and another against the 3rd ranked Saints’ offense (28.8).

Despite both hands tied behind his back personnel-wise, Ryan held his unit together long enough for Dallas to make a legitimate run at victory each week.  Dallas won 3 of those contests, and a had a reasonable shot in the others

 

VERBAL SMOKESCREEN, THEN PASS THE BUCK (VINTAGE JERRY)

As I said earlier, if the master plan here is to switch to the 4-3 defense to better fit our roster, I’m all for it.  With the right coach Dallas has a real shot at a dominant defense in 2013, only a few tweaks and additions are necessary.

However, Jerry Jones made a claim that even when Ryan had most of his starters healthy this season, there were a few games early on (Chicago, Seattle) where the defense was at fault and playing poorly.

I didn’t like the way we were playing in a lot of cases. I thought we could play better before the injuries, and so I factored that in. It wasn’t like we had a lot of injuries out here when we played Chicago. It wasn’t like we had a lot of injuries when we played Seattle. I didn’t like the way we played there.  — Cowboys’ Owner and GM Jerry Jones

Really Jerry, you should be ashamed!  Do you think we forgot Tony Romo threw 5 interceptions in that Chicago game?  2 of those 5 INT’s were returned for defensive touchdowns…aka 14 points.

Ryan’s defense actually held the Bears to 20 offensive points, just 2 above the 18 points the inept Cowboys’ offense produced.

And how about Seattle, are we forgetting their blocked punt for a special teams TD?  That makes the defensive points surrendered drop to a reasonable 20 again.  Seattle is a FAR superior, balanced team poised to make a serious playoff run.  The team you assembled was outclassed plain and simple.

Let’s take this one step further GM Jerry Jones.  By the 8th game of the season, Dallas was already without the services of starters Barry Church, Jay Ratliff, Kenyon Coleman, and Sean Lee.  Through 10 games or so, Bruce Carter and Orlando Scandrick joined the inactive fray.

Now we will analyze what level the defense was performing at within these intervals, subtracting out the points given up by special teams and the offense.  Below shows where the Cowboys’ defense after 8 and 10 games would have ranked in the NFL end of season ranks.

Through 08 Games – 19.13 ppg – 6th ranked scoring defense

Through 10 Games – 19.60 ppg - 6th ranked scoring defense (tied)

Rob Ryan’s defense was giving up an average of 19.6 ppg through 10 games, with only 6 remaining.  This was without several key starters and back-ups already.  Soon to follow, even more injuries piled on and made it virtually unrealistic to expect a solid performance.

Yes, the defense did dive towards the end, but rather than blame Ryan for it, Jerry should have praised him for preventing it from being much, much worse.

I’ve got no big qualms SO FAR with Jones making a change in defensive systems.  However, it’s shameful and ignorant to throw a salty Rob Ryan defense under the bus when it allowed these point totals over the first 10 contests…17, 20, 10, 20, 31, 14, 22, 19, 23, 20.

Only 1 offense in 10 tries scored above 23 points when the defense was on the field.  I’ll gladly take 19.60 ppg any day of the week through 10 games, even without several starters having missed substantial time.  So would the 25 other teams who trailed that scoring total in 2012.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Bottom line, Rob Ryan was NOT the problem in Dallas.  He was actually a bright spot coaching Cowboys’ players, helping several achieve beyond their normal potential.

Before pointing fingers at a guy like that, try looking at the other side of the ball.  Game strategy, time management, and play-calling were embarrassing at crucial spots in the season.

It can even be debated that Garrett single-handedly erased 2 wins from the Cowboys’ total this season through poor coaching decisions in crunch time.

Garrett has verbally eluded there will be no new play-caller, system changing, or even QB coaching on the offensive side of the ball in 2013.

Looks like all that was changed so far is Dallas getting rid of the most competent, high-level coach on the staff.  The one guy who earned his paycheck this 8-8 season.

Ask Cowboys fans to rank from greatest to least which of these four major changes would help the team make the playoffs (if only one could be selected).  The vast majority would likely rank as follows…

1)  New General Manager

2)  New Head Coach

3)  New Offensive Coordinator (Play-Caller)

4)  New Defensive Coordinator (Switch to 4-3)

Unfortunately yet in predictable fashion, options 1-3 officially aren’t happening this year. Jerry Jones’ monumental, sweeping changes revolve around the 4th most effective option possible, and least likely to make a highly significant improvement.

Vintage Jerry, ignore the serious problems and attack the lesser ones in loud, shocking fashion to divert attention.

In closing, what Ryan accomplished in 2012 with half his defense on the shelf was a performance worthy of praise, not punishment from the owner and general manager.

Thank you Rob Ryan for all your hard work, passion, and belief in our success.  It must have been an uneasy, compromising experience taking orders from the Cowboy’s “country club” owner and his subdued staff manager.  Best of luck at your next stop, try to avoid the NFC.

 

Topics: Cowboys, Dallas Cowboys, Defense, Rob Ryan

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  • James M. Blum

    If Rob Ryan is still being paid, he should take a year off, work on his Abs, read a Psychology book a week, get his hair cut to normal, and learn how to behave as a business man, not a smart so and so, and conduct himself properly in his next job.

  • I agree

    Greenbay played with injuries (half there roster) & won da Superbowl,Da Skins had more key injuries on defense & griffin hurt & still whip Rob”s D!

  • BradAustin

    Not to dispute the Green Bay defense was torn apart the year they won the SB. That was the 2nd worst I’d ever seen a DC have to do serious patchwork. The difference is Green Bay filled almost all of their vacant starting spots with guys who were already on the team in camp and had been taking back-up snaps all season with the Packers.

    Ryan had 11 guys play a total of 990 total snaps that weren’t even Dallas Cowboys in Week 1. Washington was close to the same injury level with starters, but not nearly as wounded in the back-ups. Dallas had games where they were starting 3rd string ILB’s (Albright, Poppinga), 3rd string NT (Lissemore), and 4th team safety (Frampton).

  • http://tinyurl.com/CowboyBooksBlog fgoodwin

    Whether or not Ryan deserved to be fired I can’t say.

    But I refuse to give him a pass due to the 2011 lockout. The Niners were affected by the very same lockout, yet they finished 13-3 and won their division with a new defensive coordinator AND a rookie head coach.

    As to 2012, EVERY team has to deal with injuries. Some teams have better depth than others. Ryan’s job was made harder because he works for an incompetent GM who created that paper-thin depth by over-spending for all the shiny toys at the skill positions, while overlooking the role players we need in the OL, DL, blocking back, etc.

    Ryan has a chance to prove Jerry wrong in 2013 — let’s see how he does. I wish him well.

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