It was first from Jerry Glanville during one of those classic NFL Films moments when he uttered the phase to a referee after a call against his Oilers, “This is the NFL which stands for not for long if you keep making calls like that.” Whether you are a front office member like I was for 13 years or a coach in this league, it really can be for not for long. There are so many highs in this profession but there are also gut wrenching lows and you fully understand when you sign up for this job.
Rob Ryan was removed as defensive coordinator of this team Tuesday night by Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett in a move that was described as going in a different philosophical direction. Ryan is a proud man but this is the situation that coaches live with every day. In the case, the general manager and head coach were not happy and this was the best course of action in their minds. Was it the right move? That is up for debate because you can look at Ryan’s side for the number of starters he had to play without for the majority of the season and appalled how they managed to hold his defense together during a difficult time.
For Jones and Garrett, they can point to games where they did have a full squad of defensive players against Seattle and Chicago but were unable to win those games but I think it’s really much deeper than that. When Ryan was in line to take this job, I reached out to friends that I had with the Browns to ask them about Ryan and what he could bring to this team. The majority of the dialog was extremely positive but to a man the one area they focused on was his lack of organization and maybe this is his fatal flaw. There were reasons that Ryan always spoke how fortunate he was to have Matt Eberflus, Brian Baker and Ben Bloom to help him coach and to his credit, he was absolutely correct. They are outstanding coaches.
There is a side of me that believes that Ryan lost this job in the eyes of the general manager and head coach because there simply were times where he tried to do too much with this defense and the lack of organization got him in trouble. The scheme was more important than just lining up and playing. Every game was a track meet from the sideline to the field with Ryan trying to match personnel and I understand that is part of the game but there were times where you saw either too many men on the field or not enough. My gut tells me that the general manager and head coach want a simpler approach in how this team plays defense. It is more about how you can line up in your base front, get off blocks and tackle. It’s fundamental football and not about having seven linebackers on the field. You look at the Chicago Bears and how simple they play defense but also create turnovers. Again, the injury situation limits what Ryan can do but it’s a cleaner approach.
Looking back I will always be thankful for the opportunity to cover Ryan these last two seasons. He was always very honest to me and had time to answer questions about his dad’s “46” defense but this is a bottom line business and he even understands that. The general manager told you he wasn’t happy and no one took this seriously but I guess we will now. I will be interested to see in what direction he and Garrett go, but that is for another story.