What I think Rob Ryan's firing could mean
January, 8, 2013
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
Well, it turns out Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wasn't just blowing smoke when he said on the radio last week that things were about to get uncomfortable around Valley Ranch. If you're a Cowboys coach right now, you can't be feeling comfortable at all. Running backs coach Skip Peete was let go Monday, and ESPNDallas.com reports that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has been fired as well.
Ryan seems like an odd move in some ways. I mean, yes, the Cowboys finished 19th in the league in defense in terms of yards allowed and 24th in terms of points allowed, but they did lose five starters and their nickel cornerback to injury along the way, which is the kind of thing that can generally get a coordinator a break. Hard to really judge Ryan's performance considering he didn't really have his team.
And it remains to be seen what else happens, as there's some chatter in Dallas about the possibility of Jones taking play-calling responsibilities away from head coach Jason Garrett and hiring an offensive coordinator. But assuming Ryan's dismissal turns out to be the Cowboys' biggest offseason change, it could actually signify continued support for Garrett. The reason I say that is because it's a change that doesn't really strike at Garrett's authority over the offense. It allows Jones to make a big, heads-will-roll splash without undermining the coach in whom he's placed and professed so much long-term faith. Heck, it could even allow Garrett to have more input into the hiring of the new defensive coordinator than he had in the hiring of Ryan two years ago (when, it is believed, he preferred Ray Horton).
It could also allow the Cowboys, if they so choose, to switch to a 4-3 defense, which some have suggested might suit their personnel better. Whether they do that or not could depend on which defensive coordinator they hire to replace Ryan. If they hire Lovie Smith, for instance, expect that they're making that switch. If they hire Horton or Mike Pettine or someone like that, that would signify a desire to stay in the 3-4.
So if this is part of a larger slate of firings still to come, all bets are off and everybody's really uncomfortable in Valley Ranch. But if Ryan's firing is the big-splash move to which Jones was alluding when he talked "change" last week, there's a chance it could portend more power for Garrett instead of less. I admit I don't know which way it will go, but as we watch the Cowboys' offseason continue to unfold, it's worth looking for signs of whether Jones is wavering on Garrett or doubling up on his determination to stand behind him and try to make him successful.