BEREA — Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson has no doubt Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is plotting something special for his former team.
“He’s probably going to draw up a blitz called the ‘Cleveland Browns’ or the ‘Pat Shurmur,’” Jackson said. “He’s going to have some wrinkle that he hasn’t shown all year and, believe me, he’ll show it.”
Ryan is in his second season with the Cowboys. He spent the previous two years in the same position with the Browns under coach Eric Mangini. Ryan left when Mangini was fired and replaced by Pat Shurmur.
“Anytime you pour everything you have into it and apparently management didn’t see it as it was good enough, of course, it’s personal,” Ryan told Dallas-area reporters Friday. “I spent a lot of time in those offices. In fact, I slept in them for seven straight weeks when I said, ‘I’m not going home until we win a game.’ I’ll never say that again.”
That’s typical Ryan. He consistently bragged about how hard he worked and how much he cared, and made almost weekly headlines with outlandish comments at his news conferences. Jackson was in the meeting rooms and got to know the long-haired, big-bellied, loud-mouthed free spirit.
“He’s going to want this one bad. It’s going to be an exciting game,” Jackson said. “I know Robo, man, he’s going to bring out something just for us and he’s going to make sure we all see it.”
During his stint in Cleveland, Ryan walked around as if he had a permanent IV drip of 5-Hour Energy. When they played against the Jets and Patriots, he reached another level of intensity and bravado because he had even more motivation. His twin brother, Rex, coaches the Jets, and Ryan spent time as an assistant under Bill Belichick in New England.
This week he can point to president Mike Holmgren firing Mangini.
“Eric’s a good friend of mine, he hired me to do a job. Hell, I did it and got everybody fired anyway,” Ryan said. “I don’t know why. But I wasn’t in charge of that decision. But I plan on doing something about it.”
Ryan said it became a no-brainer for him to leave Cleveland.
“It’s not like they asked me to stay,” Ryan said. “But they should have. But I would’ve said no.”
Many of the Browns defenders enjoyed playing for Ryan. He felt the same way about coaching them.
“I love some of those players that are still there,” he said. “T.J. Ward, Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, these are some of the best people I’ve ever coached. But I plan on beating them.
“I think when you watch Cleveland play, there’s some individuals there that know all about the game, and I feel like I’ve had a good influence on them. They know it’s all about toughness, and they’ve got some of the toughest players that are still playing. That T.J. Ward will rip your face off.”
The Cleveland offense has changed drastically since Ryan left. Shurmur installed the West Coast system, and the best skill-position players are newcomers.
“Once you leave, you don’t care what’s left behind,” Ryan said. “As far as the new coaches coming in, I don’t care about them, and I don’t care about their system. We plan on handling it, though.
“I can get a read on their offense ’cause I’ve coached 15 years in this league and I know every bit of their offense.”
The Browns ranked 31st and 22nd defensively in Ryan’s two years. The Cowboys are eighth overall, 13th against the run and seventh against the pass.
“He calls the game through his emotions,” Jackson said. “That can tend to get you in trouble at times, leaving guys open. That’s who he is. That’s why he was hired.”
One of the interesting dynamics of Ryan’s career is the head coaches he’s worked for. From Belichick to Mangini to Dallas’ Jason Garrett, none is as outgoing or boisterous or controversial as Ryan. Yet they love having him around.
“Rob’s done a great job for us, we’re fortunate to have him,” Garrett said. “He’s very good with scheme but also good at motivating players and getting them to play.”
The television cameras love to focus on Ryan on the sideline, because he’s usually screaming at someone with his silver hair flying. But Ryan’s locks are trimmed — a sign he’s hoping for a head-coaching job — and he’s settled down a bit this season. He’s also gone to more conservative game plans with fewer exotic formations and blitzes.
That could change against Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden. Facing his old team with a rookie quarterback on the road seems like the perfect scenario for the mad scientist to work overtime in the lab.
“That’s the thing, you never know with Rob,” Ward said. “He can be aggressive as anyone. He can be as conservative as anyone. He’s going to do what he feels is going to stop our offense. I don’t think he’s going to sacrifice winning for that.”
Brown didn’t want to give Ryan too much credit.
“I don’t know too many people that can reinvent the wheel of football,” he said. “It’s about blocking and tackling and doing that kind of stuff.
“Will he have some defenses that he had when he was here? Obviously. Will it be anything different than we’ve ever seen? Probably not. It’s football.”
And it’s personal.
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