Skip to main content

Former Saints DC Rob Ryan explains what went wrong in New Orleans: "I wasn't running my defense"


As the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, Rob Ryan orchestrated one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history for a defensive unit, and then a few years later oversaw one of the worst defenses in the league.

So what happened?

In an MMQB article, Rob - who has since reunited with his brother Rex in Buffalo - sat down and explained what happened from his perspective, and there's a great lesson in here for all head coaches and coordinators.

Rob shared with Jenny Vrentas of MMQB that the Saints defense that struggled so much the past two years wasn't his defense, and he's tired of having to say that it was. He then added that he wasn't "forced" to run another system, but that everyone wanted to adopt and run Seattle's scheme.

"No, I’m not going to say I was “forced.” I advanced the plan to the best of my ability. All of a sudden, we let some good players go; we changed the system after we finished fourth in the league in defense. I don’t know, it just seems strange to me."

"Everyone wants to run Seattle’s defense. They should have hired a Seattle coach. I did the best job I could. Under the circumstances, trust me, I did the best job I could. I’ll be better anywhere else. (Pause). I’ll be great anywhere else. But it was unfortunate. When you move as many times as I have moved, I want to take my family where we can have a chance to win. Later on in your career, you pick those teams. I picked out of five teams the first time I moved to Dallas; I picked out of three others [in 2013]. I am used to picking my spots, but this time, I had one choice. When I was fired by the Saints, I came here to look at it. Rex loves this team, he brags about this team, so I wanted to be around it."

His biggest regret in New Orleans was not saying anything about the change in schemes to head coach Sean Payton.

"The only thing I regret is two years ago, when this [scheme change] was going to happen, I should have gone into Sean and talked to him. Sean is a good person. I didn’t, and I just let it happen, so I deserve what I got. Look, I have been fired before. But I get pissed in New Orleans because I know I am better than that. I am a way better coach than I was allowed to be, and that’s just the truth. Oh, we are dead last in defense. Well, yeah, you are going to be dead last playing this bullshit defense. But it is my fault because I didn’t say anything. I never stood up and said, F-- you, I ain’t coaching this. I promise you I’d say it now. When it starts to trickle down to your kids and starts hurting them, then it’s like, damn, I should have done better here. I am tough enough to take it."

As a coordinator or head coach, if you're going to put your name on something, be sure that it's a product on the field that you know inside and out better than anyone else, and it's something that you can be proud of at the end of the day. All of that is impossible if you're being asked to run the latest trending scheme that you're not comfortable with when the bullets start flying.

Head over to MMQB to read the full interview with Rob and his brother Rex, which is full of great stuff.