Former head coaches continue to populate the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator search. Following the Ron Rivera and Mike Zimmer meetings, Rex Ryan has entered the mix.
The former Jets and Bills HC met with the Cowboys about their DC vacancy, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson tweets. Entrenched at ESPN for the past several years, Ryan has been out of football since his late-season Bills ouster in 2016.
Ryan, 61, did interview for the Broncos’ DC job last year — one that went to Vance Joseph. Beyond that, the former NFL mainstay has largely fallen off the radar (beyond his analyst work, that is). The Cowboys are looking for a new defensive play-caller, with Dan Quinn having become the new Commanders HC. Ryan and Rivera do not have a history in Dallas. Zimmer does, having been a Cowboys assistant for 13 years. The Cowboys did employ Rex’s brother, Rob Ryan, as a DC from 2011-12.
Although Ryan has become amenable to coordinator positions, he has not held one in more than 15 years. Ryan’s most recent NFL employment outside of the HC level came when he served as the Ravens’ DC from 2005-08. That marks Ryan’s only stretch as an NFL coordinator, though he certainly made a mark as a defensive-oriented head coach.
Ryan’s Jets stint represents the franchise’s best work since at least Bill Parcells‘ 1998 season, and Ryan outdid the Parcells-Bill Belichick nucleus by leading the team to two AFC championship games. Ryan guiding the Jets to back-to-back AFC title games with Mark Sanchez at quarterback aged well, and the Jets’ subsequent 13-season playoff drought continues to spotlight Ryan’s accomplishment. The brash HC, though, did miss the playoffs over his next six years as a head coach. The Bills hired Ryan in 2015 but fired him before his second season ended.
This would qualify as an unorthodox hire for the Cowboys, as Ryan has now been out of the league for seven seasons. Rivera has coached in the NFL in each season since 1997. Zimmer has spent the past two seasons out of the league but was on staff from 1994-2021 previously. Ryan’s Darrelle Revis-fronted Jets defenses earned their reputation during that 2009-10 period; his Bills units ranked 15th and 16th, respectively.
Via PFR’s Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker, here is how the Cowboys’ DC search looks:
- Aden Durde, defensive line coach (Cowboys): Interviewed 2/6
- Al Harris, cornerbacks coach (Cowboys): Mentioned as candidate
- Ron Rivera, former head coach (Commanders): Interviewed 2/5
- Rex Ryan, former head coach (Bills): Interviewed
- Joe Whitt, defensive backs coach (Cowboys): Frontrunner?; hired as Commanders DC
- Mike Zimmer, former head coach (Vikings): Interviewed 2/6