On Saturday the Saints announced two coaching hires. New Orleans landed Stan Kwan as the assistant special teams coach and Ryan as defensive coordinator. In a release by the team, head coach Sean Payton said:
In regards to Rob, we have experience in preparing and playing against his defenses, and they’ve always been challenging in terms of the different looks and pressures that they feature. We’ve had the chance to visit with each other and talk about our visions for our team, and I’m excited about moving forward as we prepare for the 2013 season.
One of the games Payton was referring to was a 2010 beatdown handed to the Saints by the Cleveland Browns. In Week 7 of that season, with Ryan as the Browns ‘ defensive coordinator and Eric Mangini as Cleveland’s head coach, the Saints lost 30-17 as quarterback Drew Brees was sacked three times and picked off four times.
But Payton gives too much credit for that win to Ryan, who was handed his job with the Saints even though there were at least two more viable candidates available.
Mangini was also a candidate and probably a better fit. So was Romeo Crennel, who was most recently head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. Both Mangini and Crennel would have brought more to the Saints’ table. But according to NBC Sports, Crennel was never contacted by New Orleans, and it’s too soon to know whether Mangini wished to stay with his television analysts’ gig or was even approached at all.
So Ryan is now the man, no matter who else the Saints could have chosen. The good thing for Ryan—on top of getting a more-than-decent gig with a potential playoff team—is that the bar is set incredibly low.
The Saints gave up an NFL-record 7,042 yards in 2012. Ryan doesn’t have to make much of an impact to improve on that disastrous league low.
That’s a good thing, because believe it or not, Ryan hasn’t coached too many stellar defenses.
In nine years as a defensive coordinator, Ryan has never enjoyed a winning season. His best year in yardage allowed was 2006 with the Oakland Raiders, when Ryan’s team was the third best in the NFL. But over his career, his defenses have an average NFL ranking of 21.67 in yards allowed.
Ryan’s best defense in points allowed was 2010, when his Cleveland Browns were 13th. Over his career, however, Ryan’s defenses average an NFL rank of 22.
From a numbers standpoint, Ryan isn’t a great addition. But the Saints don’t need him to be.
The Saints are moving to a 3-4 defensive scheme in 2013, a defensive front Ryan is intimately familiar with. New Orleans needs Ryan to make this transition as smooth as possible.
If Ryan can get the Saints' team defense to match his career average, he’ll be worth every penny the team spent. In 2012, New Orleans ranked last in yards allowed and next-to-last in points given up.
With the Saints’ offense, if Ryan’s defense ranks just No. 22 in both categories, New Orleans is a sure playoff team.
While the goal for Ryan in 2013 surely isn’t mediocrity or a below-average defense, for him to be successful, that’s all he needs to do. And that’s good, because that may be all that Ryan is capable of doing.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.