Saints coach Sean Payton has chosen Rob Ryan as his new defensive coordinator, hoping New Orleans can overhaul a unit that was historically bad last season.
Ryan, the brother of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, spent the past two seasons as Dallas’ defensive coordinator. He was fired after last season, when his defense ranked 19th.
“We have experience in preparing and playing against his defenses and they’ve always been challenging in terms of the different looks and pressures that they feature,” Payton said when Ryan’s hiring was announced Saturday, one day after he interviewed for the job. “We’ve had the chance to visit with each other and talk about our visions for our team and I’m excited about moving forward as we prepare for the 2013 season.”
In 2010, Ryan was Cleveland’s defensive coordinator when the Browns beat the Saints in the Superdome 30-17, intercepting passes by Drew Brees four times. One of those interceptions was made by linebacker Scott Fujita, who had been a captain of New Orleans’ defense a season earlier and had helped Ryan prepare and execute the game plan against the Saints.
Payton said he also has added Stan Kwan as an assistant special teams coach. Kwan has been an NFL assistant 23 years, the past three as special teams assistant in Buffalo.
Just days after returning from his season-long suspension in connection with the NFL’s investigation of the Saints’ cash-for-hits bounty program, Payton fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and said he would switch New Orleans’ defensive scheme from a 4-3 alignment (four down linemen, three linebackers) to a 3-4. The Saints yielded 7,042 yards last season, the worst single-season total in NFL history.
Ryan has run 3-4 schemes for years. He worked as a linebacker coach in such defenses in New England, where he was part of two Super Bowl-winning teams. He then spent five seasons as defensive coordinator in Oakland (2004-2008), followed by two seasons in Cleveland before moving to Dallas in 2011.
Now the 50-year-old Ryan takes his fourth defensive coordinator job since 2004 while becoming Payton’s fourth defensive coordinator since 2006.
“I have had the opportunity to get to know Sean Payton and his staff a bit better recently and I am excited about joining the team,” Ryan said in a statement provided by the Saints. “I’m ready to get to work on all facets of the game. This is a great opportunity and we’re getting started right away.”