This one's personal: Cowboys' Ryan has score to settle with Cleveland Browns

Posted Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Bigger D

In his second season with Dallas, Rob Ryan's defense has taken a step forward. Here's a look at a few areas of improvement this season, with the Cowboys' NFL rank in parenthesis:

Stat

2011

2012

Yards

allowed

343.2 (14th)

318.8 (8th)

Passing

yards

244.1 (23rd)

213.6 (8th)

3rd-down

conversion

40% (14th)

34% (6th)

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IRVING -- After his two years as the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator, the people around Rob Ryan have learned that he believes in being honest.

So you could believe him last week when, moments after the victory at Philadelphia, he said he couldn't wait for this week's game against Cleveland -- the team that let him go after a coaching change swept out Eric Mangini and his staff.

"This one's personal," he said after the Eagles game.

So reporters eagerly waited for Friday, when they got a chance to ask him how much he said to his players during the week about wanting to beat the Browns.

"Honestly, I'm going to say none," Ryan said. "Honestly, honestly, honestly. I'm going to say no. Honestly, I haven't talked about it. Honestly, I don't know how that got out there.

"Honestly, I don't know."

Everyone looked at each other.

The joke was sinking in.

Well, how about dishonestly?

Ryan paused.

"I've addressed a few things," he said.

Laughter erupted as everyone understood Ryan's message. Yes, he has said something. Yes, it's personal. Yes, he wants to beat the Browns, not only because it would help the Cowboys, but because he wants it for himself. And if it helps fire up his defense to think that it's personal for him, fine.

"I'm not really sure how all that ended. I know he's fired up about getting a chance to play them, though," safety Danny McCray said. "I know he's fired up, and we love it. We're going out there to play for him. We're going to try to make it happen for him."

Ryan is not down on anyone in particular with the Browns or any players. In fact, he's proud of the influence he left behind in players such as safety T.J. Ward -- "He'll rip your face off," Ryan said -- and cornerbacks Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden.

But Ryan didn't like that he didn't get a shot at being head coach -- not that he would have taken it, out of loyalty to Mangini -- and, presumably, that he and Mangini didn't get more of a chance.

"I came in with Eric. I was proud to go out with him," Ryan said. "Eric's a good friend of mine. He hired me to do a job. Hell, I did it and got everybody fired, anyway. But I wasn't in charge of the decision. But I plan on doing something about it.

"The bottom line is, Eric is a great friend of mine. If he gets fired, then you go. I don't care what it is. Not like they asked me to stay. But they should have. But I would have said no."

Ryan remembers spending a lot of time in Browns headquarters. He said he got to know the faces in the building well.

"I spent a lot of time in those offices. In fact, I slept in them for seven straight weeks when I said, 'Hey, I'm not going home until we win a game.' I'll never say that again," he joked, then was serious again. "Any time you pour everything you have into it, and apparently management didn't see it as it was good enough, of course it's personal."

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said regardless of Ryan's motivation, he likes what has happened with the Cowboys' defense under the fiery Ryan.

"He does have a personality about him that really gets people going," Garrett said. "In so many of the descriptions I got of Rob before we hired him a couple years ago, everybody said, 'Line 1 with Rob Ryan is that guys want to play for him.' ...I think he's helped the young guys. He has a way of instilling confidence in them and helping them play through some of the struggles. Of all his great traits, that's certainly one of them."

Defensive end Jason Hatcher said the players know what's at stake for Ryan, but they will keep the big picture in mind.

"You want to go out there and play for him, but at the end of the day, you're playing for those 11 guys," he said. "Defense, the whole team, you're playing for everybody. We get a win, I'm pretty sure he'll feel like he got some revenge. We'll feel like we took another step. Hopefully, we'll go out there and get a win."

Honestly, that's the plan.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

Twitter @calexmendez

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