Rob Ryan fired: Cowboys' defense declined in 2012


Rex Ryan's defense may have been banged up in 2012, but the Dallas Cowboys were apparently looking for results, not excuses. He was fired Tuesday night.

The Dallas Cowboys, after once again limping to the finish in 2012, have parted ways with Rob Ryan, the team's defensive coordinator for the past two seasons.

Jerry Jones, owner and general manager of the Cowboys, warned his team that the status quo wouldn't be good enough following another season without a trip to the postseason. This appears to be the first major shock to the system in Dallas. Ryan, according to Calvin Watkins of, had a year left on his initial three-year deal.

As KD Drummond of Blogging the Boys notes, 2012 was a trying season for Ryan's defensive unit, which was hit especially hard with injuries. For one, linchpin defensive tackle Jay Ratliff battled injuries and didn't take the field for the Cowboys until mid-October, ultimately playing in only six games. Safety Barry Church and linebacker Sean Lee were both supposed to be major factors in Dallas's defense, but both were lost to season-ending injuries by Week 7.

The further into the campaign they went, the more members of the defense they lost. Linebacker Bruce Carter, defensive end Kenyon Coleman and cornerback Orlando Scandrick were out for the season before December, and disruptive linebacker DeMarcus Ware was hampered by shoulder and elbow injuries throughout the season. But while a shorthanded unit certainly contributed to the Cowboys' defensive struggles, Blogging the Boys thinks part of the problem still traced back to Ryan:

That excuse resonates with a lot of fans for the season. What they may be forgetting are all of the missteps along Rob's career. Rob has always been boisterous and outspoken. Yet it seemed that each time he would open his mouth about what the Cowboys were going to do, his unit did not come through. It may not be much of a leap to say that differs from head coaches Jason Garrett's philosophy.

Dallas finished 2012 ranked 19th in total defense, giving up an average of 355.4 yards per game. Their pass defense (230.3 yards per contest) also ranked 19th in the NFL, while their rushing defense came in at 22nd overall, surrendering 125.2 yards per game. In terms of scoring, the Cowboys gave up 25.0 points per game, which ranked 24th in the league.

Ryan's defenses, which are typically known for their aggressiveness, tallied 34 sacks in 2012 in Dallas, which tied for 20th with the Detroit Lions. That's down from 2011, when the Cowboys tied for seventh overall in the league with 42 sacks.

As a whole, the Dallas defense slipped from 2011 to 2012. The Cowboys allowed 343.2 yards per game two seasons ago, which was good for 14th in the league. Their rushing defense was one of the best in 2011, surrendering only 99.1 yards per game, seventh-best in the NFL. Additionally, their points-per-game average was a 16th-best 21.7 in Ryan's first year on the sidelines.

Finally, turnovers also took a dive. Twenty-five total takeaways in 2011 slipped to 16 this season, the third-lowest total in the NFC. The only category that improved from 2011 was pass defense, as Dallas gave up 244.1 yards through the air per game, coming in at 23rd in the league.

This, along with the release of running backs coach Skip Peete on Monday, signals that the offseason in Dallas will focus on improvement through change, especially in a crucial role such as defensive coordinator.

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