After he was fired as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan said injuries were the biggest problem he faced.
“When we weren’t short-handed, we were kicking ass,” Ryan said.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, however, doesn’t remember it that way.
In an interview on KTVT-TV in Dallas, Jones said the Cowboys’ defense was healthy in a Week Two loss to the Seahawks and a Week Four loss to the Bears, and those games were the ones that first made Jones think he was going to have to make changes to his defensive coaching staff.
“I thought we could play better before the injuries, and so I factored that in,” Jones said, via ESPNDallas.com. “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. It’s not hard for me to go to those games and say what can we do to improve when we played Seattle and when we played Chicago.”
Jones may be right that Ryan deserved to get fired, but blaming the losses to the Seahawks and Bears on Ryan’s defense suggests that Jones only remembers the 27-7 and 38-16 final scores, and not the way Ryan’s defense played.
Here’s how the loss to the Seahawks started: Felix Jones fumbled the opening kickoff and the Seahawks recovered to set Seattle up at the Dallas 29-yard-line, but Ryan’s defense held Seattle’s offense to a field goal. On the next possession, the Cowboys’ offense went three-and-out, the punt was blocked and the Seahawks recovered for a touchdown. On the next possession, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw an interception, again setting up the Seahawks in Cowboys territory, but Ryan’s defense held firm and forced the Seahawks to punt. It’s true that in the second half of that game the Cowboys’ defense allowed the Seahawks to run out the clock with two long scoring drives, but only after the Cowboys’ offense and special teams had handed the Seahawks a lead.
And the loss to the Bears was more about Romo throwing five interceptions, two of them returned for touchdowns, than it was about the Cowboys’ defense. If that game led to Ryan losing his job, should it also lead to Romo losing his job?
Ryan’s defense didn’t get the job done last season, particularly in the two losses to the Redskins that, had the Cowboys won, would have made the Cowboys NFC East champions. So it’s not a surprise that Ryan was fired. But while Jones may not want to hear any excuses, Ryan is right that the Cowboys were hit hard by injuries on defense.