Rob Ryan provided plenty of personality in a guest spot on the NFL Network on Sunday, his first public appearance since the New Orleans Saints fired him as defensive coordinator and turned the reins over to Dennis Allen on Monday.
But Ryan’s four hours of pregame exposure offered little insight into the end of his tenure in New Orleans.
Ryan, who was asked to fill Kurt Warner’s spot on the network’s “NFL GameDay Morning” show after the former quarterback broke his jaw this week, offered a few quips and jokes in reference to his firing, acknowledging the Saints’ struggles on defense and vowing to return in his only extended comment on the matter.
“I’m still happy,” Ryan said. “The big thing is, something had to be done. Right now, the defense is ranked 33rd in the league, and there’s only 32 teams. I had a lot to do with it.”
Ryan, who was the toast of the town after producing the NFL’s No. 4 defense in 2013, fell quickly out of public favor as the Saints tumbled to the bottom of the defensive rankings in 2014 and failed to capitalize on an influx of new defensive talent this year.
New Orleans headed into its bye week with a defense that ranked last in the NFL in scoring (31.5 points allowed per game), last in yards allowed (424.3) and 29th in rushing yards allowed (131.2). It was on pace to set an NFL record for the worst passer rating a defense has ever allowed (116.6).
And things had been getting worse. Beset by injuries, New Orleans has given up an average of 43.3 points in its past three games, bringing back the chorus of voices calling for Ryan’s ouster.
“Everything in New Orleans is being blamed on me, including Katrina. I think that’s a little far-fetched,” Ryan said.
Ryan, for the most part, spent the rest of the time providing defensive analysis on teams around the NFL and providing comic relief for the rest of the show.
Always entertaining, Ryan joked that it was the first time he had worn makeup, either in public or private; that it was the first time he had worn a jacket this year — he borrowed a blue sportscoat from former NFL center Jamie Dukes — and fielded a call from his brother, Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan, who offered a little playful criticism on Rob’s attire and a few more jokes at his fraternal twin’s expense.
Ryan even poked fun at the end of his time in New Orleans.
When former NFL coach Steve Mariucci broke down tape of Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, who threw four touchdown passes in the final game of Ryan’s career in New Orleans, Ryan took a backhanded shot at the 47 points New Orleans gave up last Sunday.
“They made my bye week turn into a bye-bye week,” Ryan said.
Ryan did offer a glimpse into the personal side of the business, saying he enjoyed his time in New Orleans.
“I think it’s the worst part of the profession,” Ryan said. “Nowadays, with my family, we’ve uprooted several times, and it’s tough. Kids have to make new friends; they like a place, (and) now they have to move. This last stop, New Orleans has been fantastic. They treated us with open arms. Newman High School, which the Mannings built, has been fantastic for my son, Matthew. ... My daughter’s going to have to uproot again, so it’s tough.”
Ryan, who acknowledged that the Saints didn’t fire him until at least four hours after the initial Fox Sports report came out Monday morning, was in California visiting his son Joe when the opportunity to make an appearance on the NFL Network arrived.
But he doesn’t plan to move into TV full-time. Despite the way things ended in New Orleans, Ryan expects to be back in coaching soon.
“The bottom line is this: I’ll hold my head high and walk out in the sunset,” Ryan said. “But believe me, I’ll come back with a vengeance.”