For as much screen time as he gets, and for as much as analysts fawn over his "exotic" blitz packages -- He throws everything but the kitchen sink! And sometimes he even throws that! He must be strong! Sinks are generally quite heavy! -- Rob Ryan can't be a very good defensive coordinator. Can he?
The statistics send rather mixed signals: 17th in total defense, 16th in points allowed, 5th in takeaways, ninth in sacks, 12th in third-down stops. But what we watched last night, and what we watched in the Cowboys' other meltdowns, tells a pretty consistent story. When things gets ugly and pressure-packed and important, the Cowboys' defense recalls my days as a Pop Warner cornerback, only with presumably less pee down the leg.
You have to wonder whether Ryan has fooled everyone -- including his players -- with his intricate Xs and Os. Pre-snap, the Cowboys appear more disoriented and confused than any defense I've seen this season. They have a knack for fully blowing coverages, like they did multiple times last night. And for all that exotic blitzing, they often can't get to the quarterback at all. Eli Manning dropped back to pass 47 times last night. They never sacked him. They hit him twice.
It could be that they haven't had the players; I'm sure that's what Ryan would say. But more likely it's that Ryan spends too much time drawing shit up, and too much time making players remember the shit he draws up, and not enough time teaching them how to win -- how to tackle, how to swarm, how to cover, how to fucking catch, how to be crazy people in total control, like all the best defenses seem to be.
More and more, schemes are the overvalued currency of the NFL coaching world. They're great if you're trying to convince everyone that your some sort of mad scientist with the terrible hair of an untamable genius. But if you're trying to win, they're just schemes, and it's just bad hair.