IRVING -- One day after the Cowboys' season-ending loss at Washington, Dallas coach Jason Garrett said he thought highly of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's ability to cope with an injury-riddled unit throughout the 8-8 campaign.
Garrett also was quick to point out that injuries were not considered an excuse for the team's failures in 2012. Not only did the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs for the third consecutive season, but they also gave up the most yards in team history.
Ryan, who joined the Cowboys in 2011 with bold promises of greatness, ultimately paid with his job on Tuesday as he was fired two years into a three-year deal.
"I want to express my appreciation to Rob for all of his efforts and contributions to the Cowboys over the past two years," Garrett said in a statement. "At this time, the decision has been made to move forward in a different direction philosophically on defense. I have an immense amount of respect for Rob as a person and as a football coach and I wish him and his family the very best."
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It remains to be seen whether Garrett's definition of a different direction philosophically means a schematic change from the 3-4 alignment to the 4-3 or a personality and attack change from the man in charge of the defense.
The Cowboys had the 19th-ranked defense in the NFL, while failing to rush the passer or force turnovers on a consistent basis.
Blame can be partly attributed to the loss of four starters to season-ending injuries, including linebackers Bruce Carter and Sean Lee, defensive end Kenyon Coleman and safety Barry Church. Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff played in only six games due to a foot injury and sports hernia. Nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick was also put on injured reserve with a fractured wrist.
It should also be noted that Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware played the final half of the season limited by shoulder, elbow and hamstring injuries.
That doesn't include dealing with the tragic death of practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown and the intoxication manslaughter charge of nose tackle Josh Brent. Brent had started in place of the injured Ratliff.
Ryan ended the season playing with a number of Cowboys who weren't even with the team at the beginning of the season.
In the end, it didn't matter as much as the bottom line to Garrett and owner Jerry Jones, who promised last week that uncomfortable times were ahead for the staff.
The Cowboys sought outside input in the decision with Ryan and found that his schemes and philosophy at times were unsound. They also felt he was inconsistent in his attack, considering he blitzed too much in his first season and got burned because of poor play in the secondary, according to a source. The Cowboys gave up the most passing yards in team history in 2011.
Dallas made moves in the off-season to upgrade the personnel, namely the addition of cover corners Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, to improve the pass defense.
Yet Ryan rarely blitzed and played conservatively in 2012 as opponents averaged 355.4 yards per game. The Cowboys allowed an average of 22.4 points per game. They had 34 sacks, seven interceptions and nine forced fumbles.
It also didn't help Ryan that his flamboyant and boastful personality was never a good fit with the button-downed Garrett. After making a few statements that turned into bulletin board material for opposing teams in 2011, Ryan was instructed by Garrett to tone it down before the 2012 season.
He did his best stay out of trouble with his mouth in 2012, but his penalty for going on the field to jaw with an opposing player in a game against Cincinnati didn't sit well with Garrett.
Ryan is the second coach to be fired by the Cowboys in as many days, joining running backs coach Skip Peete who was released on Monday.
Possible replacements for Ryan are Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who has experience running the 3-4 and 4-3 defense, former Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel, a 3-4 guru, and former Chicago coach Lovie Smith, who is a 4-3 coach.
Clarence E. Hill Jr.