Rob Ryan on Cowboys’ D woes: ‘I will get it fixed’
AP Pro Football Writer
IRVING, Texas (AP) – Attention, Cowboys critics: Rob Ryan wants you to know the defensive meltdowns at the end of the last two games are entirely his fault.
“And,” he vowed Thursday, “I will get it fixed.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Ryan and coach Jason Garrett began solving the problem “before the paint dried” following the latest collapse. Ryan said those changes include scaling back the game plan to avoid an information overload, a new system of signaling plays from the sideline during the last 2 minutes and having the entire defense watch game films together instead of doing so in smaller groups.
“We’ll see how we do,” Ryan said. “Adversity has hit our room and we’re ready to roll.”
Dallas (7-6) plays at Tampa Bay on Saturday night. The Cowboys are tied with the Giants for first place in the NFC East, and are guaranteed of winning the division if they win their last three games.
Then again, losing any of those games could be enough to cost them a trip to the playoffs.
Dallas was on a four-game winning streak until this two-game slide. It started when the defense allowed a screen pass to turn into a 52-yard touchdown in overtime against Arizona, then things really got tough for the defense when it allowed the Giants to score 15 points in the final 3:14 of a 37-34 loss.
Ryan held court in the Cowboys’ locker room for more than 20 minutes Thursday, explaining everything that’s gone wrong, why and what he’s doing about it. He kept coming back to the same points, primarily:
-His defense is plenty talented, and he thinks they’ve played well all but twice: in a blowout loss to Philadelphia and by allowing the Giants to rack up 510 yards on Sunday night.
“I’ve got better players than everybody else and that’s just a fact,” he said. “Are we playing perfect? No, but that doesn’t mean our guys aren’t giving effort, they aren’t trying to get it right. Believe me, they are. When you look at the worst thing we’ve done, we’ve had two bad games this year. Period. From the first whistle to the last, Philadelphia and the Giants. Then you look at us the rest of the way and look at it in realistic terms.”
-Their biggest weakness is at the end of halves.
“Two-minute situations have been our Achilles’ heel all year,” he said. “That’s the facts. That’s on me. … I take a lot of pride in this. I want to make sure it’s right. And the communication has been a big part of it. Communication is easy when (things are) going slow and things are going right. But it’s hard to get everybody in a no-huddle, in a lot of pressure going on, to get it done right. We have addressed it. I think it’s going to help.
“I think we’ll think better in that situation and hopefully the game slows down. Because right now, it’s too fast for us at the end of the game.”
-He may be trying to do too much, especially since injuries have sapped their depth and turned some substitutions into hockey-esque line changes.
“I like to stretch the envelope about as far as I can stretch it mentally demanding on our players but if there are some problems and it doesn’t work I’ve got to tone back,” he said. “That’s the hardest thing for me to do, but it’s something that has to be done. And we’re going to do that. … I do a lot of different things on the personnel. I play everybody. I’ve got packages for everybody. Has it cost us a little bit? I don’t think so. I think we get more effort by when you play the whole room than when you don’t. … I think that’s how you develop players and that’s how you develop team chemistry.”
-Don’t blame Garrett or the players for anything that’s going wrong with the defense.
“I’m the boss of this unit,” Ryan said. “That is what you hired me for to get things fixed because things weren’t great last year. I’m proud of the job we have done here, the way we have coached and also the way we have played.”
-Trust him. He’s been part of two Super Bowl-winning coaching staffs and he’s a Ryan, which means he’s brash and confident, like his twin brother, Rex, the coach of the Jets, and his dad, Buddy, a longtime NFL defensive coordinator and coach.
“Confidence is something I have and it comes from having better knowledge than anybody else,” he said. “I tell my players I’m Sugar Ray Robinson. That’s who I am. I’m the champ and I always know I’m the best. I do. Now maybe nobody else in the media believes it but I know the guys in the locker room do and I do, so whatever it is, hey, I’m the man who is in charge. I’m the man who will fix our problem. Alright?”
Ryan’s chances of parlaying this high-profile gig into a head coaching job could be riding on what happens the next few weeks.
And, guess what? After Tampa Bay, the Cowboys’ final two games are rematches against the offenses that beat them up, the Eagles and the Giants.
“I’m a competitor and I want them,” he said. “This season is long from over.”