PHOENIX — Rex Ryan wants his players to believe in him so much that if he says he has the social security number for the unknown soldier, they’ll believe him blindly.
And once those words pass through the Buffalo Bills coach’s mouth and hit the air, he’ll believe them himself. That’s how confident he is in his talents as a head coach. It comes from his upbringing and learning from his father, Buddy Ryan, who was one of the more confident men to pass through the NFL coaching ranks.
Rex Ryan sees the same qualities in his brother, Rob Ryan, the defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints. He believes his brother has the talent and knowledge to one day become a head coach but believes some things are holding him back.
“Absolutely. So much so that he believes in himself so much he won’t get a haircut and keeps that belly the way it is,” Rex Ryan said. “He’s darned determined to show the league that ‘I’m going to be a head coach and do it my way.’ No you’re not. It’s unfortunate. I’m still trying to get that message across to him.”
Rob Ryan is widely considered to be one of the sharper defensive minds in the NFL, but he came upon hard times last season when the Saints finished 31st in the NFL in yards and 28th in points allowed. In 2013, Rob Ryan’s first in New Orleans, the Saints finished in the top five in defense.
Despite speculation about his future, Rob Ryan will remain with the Saints this season. The team did, however, hire Dennis Allen to help oversee the defense and serve as an assistant to Rob Ryan. It also appears the organization believes some of the downfall was because of a lack of talent.
General manager Mickey Loomis has a stated goal of improving the defense. He traded away key players on offense, such as tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Kenny Stills, to acquire more draft picks, which will allow the team to address some needs on defense.
What sold Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin on Kenny Stills?
His stats and his hands.
Before he pulled the trigger on a trade that sent linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick to the Saints in exchange for Stills, the Dolphins conducted a study to see how reliable his hands were during the 2013 season.
“One of the things we liked about him — and I don’t know if I’m exactly right — but he was targeted about 84 times and I think he had 63 receptions,” Philbin said. “He was second, I believe, in the league in terms of, if you throw him the ball, he’s going to catch it. We like the fact that when the quarterback is throwing him the ball, a lot of times they were completed passes.”
Stills was actually targeted 85 times, but he did catch 63 of those passes for 931 yards with three touchdowns. And according to Pro Football Focus, among players with 50 or more targets, Stills ranked third in the NFL in catch percentage. Saints receiver Brandin Cooks topped their list.
Speaking on Monday, Loomis said he expects Stills to remain effective in Miami, but he liked the value the Saints received in the trade.
“I think, again, just being able to acquire more assets,” he said. “Listen, he’s a good player and will do a great job for Miami. But I look at it that we were able to take a fifth-round pick and turn it into a third-round pick and the opportunity to have another player come in with that.”
Philbin also said he liked Stills’ production on third down. Last year on third down, Stills caught 21 passes for 361 yards with two touchdowns.
“We thought he was productive on third down, he had good statistical conversions on third down,” Philbin said. “He fits what we do.”
The Miami coach wasn’t as expansive on Ellerbe.
“He played hard in 2013 for us, had a lot of production, got hurt in the first game,” he said. “We made the decision as an organization collectively. We wish him well in New Orleans.”
The Saints’s nine picks in the draft were finalized Monday night when compensatory picks were handed out.
The team will have two picks in the first round (Nos. 13 and 31), one in the second (44), two in the third (75 and 78), two in the fifth (148 and 154), two in the sixth (186) and one in the seventh (230).
New Orleans did not receive a compensatory pick.