Sean Payton can yell at Rob Ryan all he wants. He can say things that aren’t fit for print both on the sidelines and behind the scenes, and it won’t change how he feels.
Ryan has the utmost respect for the Saints head coach and nothing he says or does will change how he feels. The truth is, when Payton gets in Ryan’s ear on the sidelines and it’s broadcast to the world, Ryan is typically already beating himself up for whatever has his boss fired up.
One of those instances came during last week’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers when the cameras caught Payton ripping into Ryan after the defense put 12 men on the field. Ryan didn’t need to hear it. He was already embarrassed by the mistake, but he also understood why Payton jumped on him.
“We had 12 guys on the field,” Ryan said. “And things like that … look, the two best coaches in the league right now are Sean and (New England’s) Bill Belichick. I’ve been fortunate to work for both. And both of them have ripped my (butt) on the sideline.”
And, really, Ryan is thankful when the scolding only involves words. Sometimes it gets worse than that.
“Belichick popped my earmuff on my head one time,” Ryan said. “I felt like filing a suit, but I didn’t. But I still have damage.”
Ryan has found himself in the crosshair in recent weeks for the struggles his defense has endured this season. The Saints currently rank 31st in the league in yards allowed per game (390.5) and 24th in points allowed per game (26.5).
Prior to Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, CBS Sports reported that there was a growing rift between Payton and Ryan. Payton emphatically shot down the reports after the game, saying the reporter got his information from a former defensive coordinator, and that he “loves” what Ryan is doing with the defense.
Speaking for the first time since last week, Ryan said that he has the utmost respect for Payton and said he is unaware of any rift.
“I don’t admire many people outside of my own family,” Ryan said. “But Sean’s at the top of the list. You know, people (who) don’t know Sean, they don’t know this guy’s a great father, a great man, he’s genuine.
“He’s the easiest guy in the world to work for because he’s just good people. And they see us, whatever, talking on the sideline. I mean, give me a break down.”
Like Payton, Ryan said it’s not unusual for coaches to get on each other the same way they might with a player. Emotions run high and things are said. Once it’s over, then everyone walks away and typically lets go of any hurt feelings.
Still, it’s frustrating to struggle. Ryan said he experiences the same frustrations with the defense as Payton. This is his fourth stint as a defensive coordinator after also serving in Oakland, Cleveland and Dallas.
He did not stick at any of those locations, though the Cowboys were the only team to outright fire him. There’s a reason for that.
“This is a win business,” Ryan said. “Look, my goal is to hang some of these banners there. I want my goal to be up there.
“All right, if it’s not, I know how this business is, it’s like whatever happens. I’ve been at a lot of different teams, and that’s because you don’t hang banners, you get your (butt) fired, that’s how it is.”
In the end, Ryan is just trying to be a good soldier in this army.
“He’s a pilot, I’m one of them gunnery guys in the back going, ‘Huh? What’d you say?’ Keep (expletive) shooting,” Ryan said. “Come on.”