Saints Fire Rob Ryan – But Will The Defense Get Better?

Rob Ryan, the New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator who had some glorious sideline reactions, is gone.

The Saints announced on Monday to WWL Radio that they parted ways with Rob. Dennis Allen, who coached the Oakland Raiders from 2012 to 2014 (and won just eight games total during that stretch), will be taking over Ryan’s spot.

Is Rob Ryan’s firing a refreshing change which can revitalize this disappointing New Orleans season? Or is it a meaningless move by Sean Payton to keep his job by shifting the blame on Ryan?

Let us get this out of the way. New Orleans’s defense has been a catastrophe, and it showed badly in Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins. The Redskins scored 47 points, their most since 2005. In fact, they failed to score more than 24 in a game in 2014. And despite averaging just 91.3 rushing yards over their first eight games, Washington ran for 213 yards against New Orleans.

In fact, the Saints are by some numbers on pace to be the worst defensive team ever. According to Mike Triplett from ESPN, the Saints are on pace to allow the highest opponents’ passer rating of all time – and that was before the Washington debacle, where Kirk Cousins, who has a career rating of 83.1, had a rating of 158.3 against New Orleans.

Just think about that number.

And Rob Ryan deserves some share of the blame. The reality is that while Rob is a great individual, he does not have the track record of great defenses that might be expected from such a visible defensive coordinator. Ryan has been coaching for 12 years now. In 12 of those years, his team were only top 10 in terms of points allowed one time. They finished in the bottom ten 7 times.

Rob Ryan certainly deserves credit for revitalizing the New Orleans defense back in 2013. But in 2014 and 2015, the Saints have been an embarrassment, and Sunday’s defense against Washington was the final straw. There is absolutely no doubt that Rob needed to go – if not now, then in the offseason.

But if we are going to bring up Ryan’s poor track record of defensive results, what about Sean Payton? Bradley Warshauer points out that since the New Orleans head coach took over in 2006, “the Saints have ranked 20th or worse in total defense an astounding seven times.” Payton has looked disinterested throughout this season, and speculation that he may be looking to jump ship to another team such as the Miami Dolphins continue to remain.

By firing Ryan, Peyton can claim that the Saints’ poor defense was Ryan’s fault and that he acted to replace Ryan when it was clear that enough was enough. The fact that Peyton and Rob Ryan have a long, acrimonious relationship would also make this idea more plausible.

But if Peyton really wanted to avoid taking the heat for this defense, then perhaps he could just blame Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and point out this miserable Saints defensive roster. The New Orleans secondary has been torched throughout this season, and they are constantly getting beat on coverage (though Rob’s blitz-happy defense did not help in that regard).

Brandon Browner in particular deserves a shout out for being too aggressive on defense, which has led him to be called for 15 penalties so far this season. No other NFL player has more than nine. And then there was his cheap shot against Redskins offensive linemen Spencer Long where Browner decided to tackle a player not in the play rather than chase running back Matt Jones who was streaking down for a touchdown. Jairus Byrd and Keenan Lewis, two players who have been battling constant injuries over the past few years despite rich contracts, also serve as further evidence of the fact that perhaps no defensive coordinator could make these guys respectable.

As noted above, Rob Ryan certainly should share some of the blame for this depressing and horrible New Orleans defense. But any Saints fan who thinks that this defense is just going to magically turn around under Allen is deluding himself. The Saints for the rest of the season need to think about making incremental improvements, developing younger players like Stephone Anthony and Hau’oli Kikaha, and laying the foundation for what will be a better season next year.

It is a blasted shame that this will mean wasting yet another prime season from Drew Brees. But it is absolutely necessary.

[Photo By Chris Graythen/Getty Images Sport]