Cowboys’ son of a Buddy lives up to his billing
By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
IRVING — Rob Ryan tried his best to be guarded and conservative.
But the Dallas Cowboys’ new defensive coordinator couldn’t help himself.
He is who he is.
He is the son of former Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan, legendary for great defenses as well as his cocky attitude and vile mouth.
And he is the brother of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, also known for his defensive expertise, confidence, predictions and use of profanity.
So roughly three minutes into his first session with the area media since being hired to fix a Cowboys defense coming off the worst season (most points allowed) in franchise history, Ryan became vintage Ryan.
He was confident in his defensive abilities, cocky and, yes, profane.
“I’m going to do a great [expletive] job and you’re going to see that.” Ryan said. “Sorry. Only one so far. I was guarded early, but, hell, that’s on me.”
It is on him and it’s all about him.
The Cowboys held a meet-and-greet session Thursday for the media with the new members of the coaching staff, hired by new head coach Jason Garrett. The other newbies included linebackers coach Matt Eberflus, defensive coach Brian Baker, receivers coach Jimmy Robinson and defensive assistant Ben Bloom. Strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik was a no-show.
But the man everybody wanted to talk to was Ryan.
And he didn’t disappoint.
Whether it was talking about his defense, his family history or how he fits in with Garrett’s button-downed style, Ryan was colorful and cocky.
“I’m an honest, hard-working guy who’s not exactly a picture of perfect health, a male model, but I’m a damn good football coach,” Ryan said. “That’s what you should expect, and that’s what you’ll get. The right guy is standing here in front of you. Anybody can talk the talk, but I can walk it.”
He joked that he was initially surprised to be offered the job, considering his father’s turbulent history with the Cowboys.
But Ryan said his dad celebrated his 80th birthday Thursday wearing a Cowboys hat.
“He is [a Cowboys fan now],” Ryan said. “Back in the day, I don’t think he was. But I think that’s been well-documented. He’s definitely one now. He will be out here in training camp. And he is looking forward to coming. Hopefully, people aren’t throwing batteries at him and things like that.”
Ryan said he wasn’t used to the huge number of cameras and reporters surrounding him coming from his last outpost with the Cleveland Browns.
He fit right in — though Thursday probably will be one of the few times he gets to hold court.
Garrett has banned his assistants from talking to the media.
Ryan said he can handle that mandate, and he can handle working with the Princeton-educated Garrett.
“I don’t have the SAT and ACT scores that he does,” Ryan said. “I will do a good job.
“We are going to have a defense the way he wants. He hired me to run the defense and not give out public-speaking deals. I will be ready to go. I will be a strength, not a liability.”
That strength will be a defense that plays and acts like its coach: cocky, aggressive and tough, with a little swagger thrown in.
“Absolutely, I always refer to myself as a genuine tough guy,” Ryan said. “Hell, that’s the truth. I am just going to be myself. I don’t know if I got swag or not. I’m sure I do. I’m just going to be me. That’s usually been good enough.”
Ryan said he was excited to work with Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware and Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff. He said Ratliff was staying at tackle and not moving to end, although he would be moved around for schematic purposes.
He had a pointed message for cornerback Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins. He said there is no room for cowards and expects them to tackle as well as cover.
“They’ll have to be cover guys first in our system and they have to be accurate tacklers,” Ryan said. “Anything other than that, that’s not us. We have to get tremendous players out there on the corner and be able to shut down receivers and again be accurate tacklers. There is no place in football for a coward, and definitely not on a corner for us. It’s a marquee position. That’s what it is here and in the NFL.”
The only issue Ryan didn’t address was the looming labor negotiations and how they could potentially impact the Cowboys’ ability to implement his new defense if there is a lockout.
“Well, I came in here just trying to be humble and boring, so I’m not going to say anything about that,” Ryan said. “That’s one thing I accomplished today. I’m not going to say anything about that.”
Ryan did say nothing would stop the Cowboys from being great on defense from the outset next season. He refused to get into the problems of last year’s defense under the departed Wade Phillips, saying he didn’t want “to farm on anybody’s land.”
He did promise that the Cowboys would go from being one of the worst defenses in the league to one of the best in 2011.
“We’re not making excuses,” Ryan said. “We’re going to be great the first week of the season. We’re going to be ready to go. To be honest with you, I haven’t seen talent like this on a defense in a long time. I’m awfully anxious to get going with them.”
Asked the root of his confidence, Ryan said it has something to do with his success as a coach and his being born cocky.
“Maybe it’s something with genetics,” Ryan said. “We’re all winners. We’ve all got Super Bowl rings, so maybe that’s what it is.”