In Rob Ryan, Jason Garrett Finds a Coordinator As Fast as He Is

Update, Sunday, 11 am:  ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that Rob Ryan is the Cowboys new defensive coordinator.  (See box on right.)

Jason Garrett wants a fast football team.  The biggest initial change to appear once he took over from Wade Phillips involved pace.  He practiced faster.  He practiced harder.  He urged his men to work mid-week at the same place they would play on Sunday.  The urgency translated onto the field — his Cowboys scored 27 or more points in their first seven contests.

Garrett’s new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan probably sealed his job by selling increased pace on defense.

On page 3 of a recent Ravens coaching clinic presentation on their style of 3-4, brother Rex Ryan’s case for the 3-4 is made in several points.  The front creates increased confusion, because it offers more rush options for the offensive line to prepare for.  The Ryan 3-4 presents a mobile front which can line up in a straight up 2-gap look, or shift to a shaded look, the front Wade Phillips presented the majority of his snaps, and an attacking, slanting look.

In those bullet points sits a point which will answer a question many Dallas fans have asked for years:

“A dominant nose can control a game — increased pressure on the center.”

This is a 3-4 maxim straight out of papa Buddy Ryan’s 46 scheme.  The elder Ryan took his best defensive lineman and parked him over the center.  He reasoned the center was often the weakest lineman and putting your best man over him created a major mismatch at the point closes to the quarterback.  Ryan did this in Chicago, moving DT Dan Hampton to nose tackle in the 46 and he did this in Philadelphia, sliding DE Reggie White inside, where he terrorized centers.

In Dallas, Ryan will have interior rusher extraordinaire Jay Ratliff, whose 17 sacks the past three years top all interior linemen, 3-4 or 4-3 players.

Ryan stresses disguise, a quality lacking in Phillips’ ’10 incarnation, whose blitzes seemed telegraphed and obvious to opponents, especially those in the division.  The Ryan 3-4 uses a four man rush as its default, but will work five man “fire zone” blitzes and use lots more pressure from corners and safeties.  It will use the outside rushers like Demarcus Ware most of the time, but will change up from time to time.  With four men as a default, look for Ware and Anthony Spencer to play more with their hands down, even when starting in a base 3-4 look.   The emphasis on rushing from the ends suggests that the top DEs we’ve discussed in our draft talks all fall may be even more important to Dallas’ defensive plans.

The philosophical mesh comes in the Ryan practice philosophy.  See if you spot similarities with Garrett’s preparation methods in these bullet points from that same presentation:

  • If your players cannot RUN, are not trained to DEFEAT BLOCKS and TACKLE, the best schemes in the world are worthless.
  • Create a fast practice tempo — no wasted time!
  • Coach effort.  Never accept anything less than great effort.  Reward hustle/punish loafing!
  • Stress Tempo!  Playing Fast!  Play on our terms!

The next Cowboys training camp, whenever it comes, will likely be the hottest, fastest environment since Jimmy Johnson left.

Better get that camp donation fund going…

Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Senior Analyst Cowboys at Sports Talk Line
Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for
Rafael Vela

Enjoyed this post? Share it!

  • Selke99

    Holy crap I can’t wait for training camp to begin!

  • Deeznuts

    I love this news dudes. Lets see…Yes, move Ratliff to DE, Dump the overratted newman(he going to cost $9 mil next year, no way he stays), Coach up Jenkins & Scandrick (just turn around and look for the ball sometime stupid), Get a real backup thumper for Bradie, Resign Spears (I think if you look back to his tape at LSU he had plenty of sacks and pressure. He was being used wrong totally), Cut Igor Olshansky (He stinks…call him the invisible man. He doesnt do anything of value but steal our salary cap space) Move Ball back to the 4-5 corner, Get a Real FS & SS and finally Draft Defense and OL ONLY….no projects….no reaches…no trading. Our last 2 drafts werent all that hot..especially 09 which was a total waste.


    all I can say is THANK GAAAWWWWWD. Finally we get a dynamic defense where we dont line up right after the huddle and dont move anyone…it was way too easy…youve heard like 3 or 4 teams publicy say it during interviews. And that was when our D was decnt…imagine what they thought of us last year. Plus we have no leaders…no fire…its sad…you watch a team like Pitt. They are always disguising coverages and blitzes, lining up at the last second, then moving around, flying to the ball….its crazy…not us..I think with Ratliff (we need to move him to End) and get a beef eater (330+lbs) to hadle the dbl teams and wear and tear. Put Ratliff on the Ware’s side and blitz from the left side and up the middle…Imagine that…Some corner & safety blitzes (we hardly ever did that).. Plus a coach that will yell at guys when they mess up or show no effort ot shy away from a play (Ahem…Jenkins)…Ryan will get up in that bootie. We sorely needed a fiery, brash, hot headed, confident guy to lead us. FINALLY GOT THIS 1 RIGHT.

  • kameleon_o

    Adam Schefter reports Ryan has now been hired as the DC.!/AdamSchefter/status/26652859995004928

  • kameleon_o

    Sent a training camp donation on the way. Figured I’d start now

  • The son of fat butt Buddy Ryan will be on the Dallas sidelines. I never thought Jerry would hire a Ryan family member. But I do think this move will improve our defense for the reasons Raf stated so eloquently above.

  • Jarhead

    well, here is my comment on the 2nd playoff game of the weekend, actually a couple of comments.

    all i can think about, watching the pack destroy atlanta, is all those packers fans screaming bloody murder when favre was cut loose for rodgers. one GB sportswriter started an I/V with the packers coach with a sarcastic “do you know what you’re doing?”

    What do you think now writer man?

    • Rafael Vela

      They did know what they were doing. I give GM Ted Thompson as ton of credit. He was crucified in the press, but he wanted to promote Rodgers over Favre a year before it actually happened. The organization was very wary of fan backlash but bit the bullet and did the right thing.

      He who gets the last laugh…

      • cowboyny

        Rodgers should thank the Cowboys for his opportunity. Here is why:

        Remember a few years ago, when Dallas played GB the week after Thanksgiving for the #1 Seed in the playoffs, Farve got knocked out early in that game, in which Rodgers had tremendous sucess against the Cowboy Defense. After his performance, although in a losing effort against the Cowboys, their Front Office knew Rodgers was their man at the position, for years to come. I believe Farve left after another season, before Rodgers took over the reigns.

      • Jarhead

        oh I agree. I was preaching that it was the right move to any packers fan I knew. Most of them just scowled and shook their heads. amazed me.

  • Jarhead

    man, the ravens completely melted down in the 2nd half of that game. talk about choke after choke.

  • David Lusk

    According to Schefter, John Garrett re-upped with Dallas as TE coach and will add passing game coordinator to his duties.

  • AZCowboy

    Everyone acts like this is a done deal, but it is not reported anywhere as official that I can find….what the hell is going on?

  • AustonianAggie

    Best endorsement of Rob Ryan I’ve read so far: “Before his five-year tenure with the Raiders, he collected two Super Bowl rings as the Patriots’ linebackers coach from 2000-03. “

  • bleee

    As long as Garrett was behind this (we won’t truly know for a while), I’m all for this. If Garrett is fine with Ryan’s personality and is satisfied that Ryan will be loyal, etc. then it’s all good. Because this also could be a typical Jerry hire (big name)…

    I’d like to see Ryan install a bit of nastiness and swagger to our defense. Our D does too much of patting opposing players in the butt, DWare seems to hold back on his sacks (though strips are better than big hits anyway), and no one on our team is a particularly big hitter (Newman shows surprising flashes once in a blue moon, Jenkins started putting his head in there and got hurt every time, Spencer showed some nastiness in the Eagles game). I think our D is a few key pieces away from being pretty good, but I’d like them to be feared…

    • AustonianAggie

      Yeah I’ve seen Ware lighten up on hits – and it’s even hurt him before, allowing a QB to dodge him

  • AustonianAggie

    In the lead up to this Steelers vs Ravens game, some sports writers are talking about Ed Reed being the best player to ever play Free Safety. I don’t know if that is true, but we drafted Roy Williams #8 and Ed was taken #24. Dallas has been bad at drafting safeties for a long time!

    • Rafael Vela

      How quickly they forget Ronnie Lott.

  • SFcowboy

    is there a link for that 3-4 clinic page?

    • Rafael Vela

      No, got my hands on it a while back. I’ll post more materials from it going forward, once Ryan’s hire is official.

      I have to say, there are a lot of similarities in preparation style and in playing style between the Rex Ryan approach and Dave Wannstedt’s stuff from the early 90s. Big difference being this 3-4 works a lot more with 3-4 zone blitzing and it works a lot on stopping spread offenses.

  • Emmitt>Barry

    Raf, I’m a little confused– what document are you citing when you say things like “on page 3” and quote those bullet points above? It sounds like a Ryan defensive philosophy document of some sort, but I don’t see it specifically referenced?

    • Rafael Vela

      Its a coaching clinic presentation the Ravens coaches made about their 3-4, why they prefer the 3-4 and how they run it.

  • bevomav

    Job one, get a new collective bargaining agreement. Job two, get Garrett and Ryan the players needed to succeed. We can’t afford to waste two drafts like the last two. No starters in two years out of the draft.

  • T.

    This is definitely an intriguing hire. One that makes me a bit nervous as it is well known that he has not coordinated a top defense.

    In addition, wasn’t one of the problems at the beginning of the 09/10 season that the scheme was a bit too complex for the players. I seem to remember Bryan Stewart and Phillips talking about the need to simplify things on D before Stewart got canned. However, I guess the team could be looking at three new bodies down the middle of the field, so that might help bring up the D’s IQ.

    • Mojo

      I think part of the problem when it came to executing the defense was lackadaisical practices. Players simply weren’t learning the positions.

  • Hatetheiggles

    Does anybody have any idea what assistant coaches Rob Ryan may be inclined to bring to Dallas with him?

    • Bluefin

      His assistants in Cleveland are likely candidates. DL coach Bryan Cox, LB coach Matt Eberflus and secondary coach Jerome Henderson.

      • Rafael Vela

        The Browns drafted a dandy SS in T.J. Ward this year. When they picked him in the late 2nd, a lot of people said, ”who?” cause most ”pundits” rated him a 4th rounder.

        The Cowboys would kill to get a safety that good. Guy can track a ball in the air, pick it, and hit hard.

        • AustonianAggie

          I was surprised to read that both him and Ed Reed ran in the low 4.5s for their 40s, I would of thought that especially Reed was a 4.4 guy. This ability to see the ball in the air is something different from pure speed

          • Rafael Vela

            Darren Woodson is an anomaly. Charlie Waters was a smarts player. He was considered a failed CB.

            Instincts and smarts means so much more at the safety spot.

          • kameleon_o

            That’s why Alan Ball failed.

  • CMcClure

    I like Ratliff, but he appeared to get walked about five yards downfield by double teams more than a couple times last year. Plus, this defense has been getting gashed on runs up the middle for years. This team needs better DEs and ILBs around Ratliff as much as it needs a good DC.

    • kameleon_o

      Exactly. Add a pass rushing DE to the mix and other teams won’t be able to double Rat as much. Just one more guy who can beat a man one-on-one is all we need up there.

  • kameleon_o

    I can’t wait to send you to training camp!!!

  • We have to get you enough donations to afford all the ice cold lemonade you’ll need to stay cool in the sweltering training camp!

  • jerryw

    Raf, Does this change the types of players dallas will target on D in the draft and free agency ?

    • Rafael Vela

      Don’t think so. It will change how they are coached, but the talent on roster, for the most part, can make it work.