Rob Ryan eager to mold Cowboys' D

Updated: February 18, 2011, 9:53 AM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- New Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's goal for his first meeting with the Valley Ranch media was to be "humble and boring."

But Ryan, the brash son of longtime NFL coach Buddy and twin brother of New York Jets coach Rex, couldn't help himself.

He vowed -- and swore -- that a team that allowed the second-most points in the league last season (27.3 per game) would feature a dominant defense again.

"The problems and all that? Hey, I'm not here to farm anybody else's land," Ryan said. "I'm going to do a great [expletive] job and you're going to see that."

After a brief pause, Ryan smirked and offered a half-hearted apology for the profanity.

"Sorry. Only one so far," said Ryan, who saw humor in his father's hatred of the Cowboys during Buddy's days as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. "I was guarded early, but hell, that's on me."

It's also on Ryan to turn around a defense that deteriorated drastically last season. The Cowboys went from the No. 2 scoring defense in the NFL in 2009 to No. 31 in 2010, costing former head coach/defensive coordinator Wade Phillips his job in the process.

But Ryan, who was hired by Jason Garrett after getting let go following a coaching change in Cleveland, prefers to focus on the positive.

"To be honest with you, I haven't seen talent like this on a defense in a long time," Ryan said. "I'm awfully anxious to get going with them."

Ryan didn't only praise the talent he'll inherit on the Dallas defense, which is headlined by perennial Pro Bowl outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. He repeatedly referred to himself as "a damn good football coach" and proclaimed that his assistant coaches, including two he brought with him from the Browns, are even better. And he promised that his defense would have immediate success after implementing his 3-4 system, which disguises coverages and fronts more than Phillips' scheme.

"We're not going to have to make any excuses," said Ryan, whose unit in Cleveland ranked 13th in the NFL in scoring defense last season, allowing 20.8 points per game. "We're going to win."

Ryan made it clear that he didn't anticipate a change of position with nose tackle Jay Ratliff in his system.

There had been speculation that Ratliff, considered undersized for a 3-4 nose tackle at about 300 pounds, might move to defensive end. Ryan quickly shot down that idea.

"He's a great player," Ryan said of Ratliff. "Our system can find a spot for any great player. He's going to do just fine over the football."

Ryan, however, seems to have little doubt that Ratliff will wreak havoc in opposing backfields again.

"He's an excellent player," Ryan said. "I can't wait to get to work with him. I already met him and what an encouraging thing that is, because if they're all like him, we're going to be in great shape."

Ryan, who won two Super Bowl rings as the New England Patriots' linebackers coach last decade, said it's been a long time since he's seen a defense with more talent than the Cowboys'. That, combined with his vast self-confidence, made Ryan comfortable making bold predictions.

"We're going to be a great defense," Ryan said. "If I never said that, if I didn't believe that, then you've got the wrong guy. But the right guy is standing here in front of you."

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

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