The New Orleans Saints have hired Rob Ryan to fill their defensive coordinator vacancy, Jay Glazer of FOXSports.com reported on Saturday morning.
“I am excited and thrilled to be joining the New Orleans Saints,” Ryan said in a statement released by the Saints. “I have had the opportunity to get to know Sean Payton and his staff a bit better recently and I am excited about joining the team. I have a ton of respect for Mr. Benson, Mickey (Loomis) and the organization and I’m ready to get to work on all facets of the game. This is a great opportunity and we’re getting started right away.”
Ryan replaces Steve Spagnuolo, who, upon Sean Payton's reinstatement from a season-long suspension, was fired in late January. Under Spagnuolo, the 2012 Saints ranked 32nd in total defense, allowing 440.1 yards per game, setting an NFL single-season record for yards allowed. The Saints were also dead last against the run (147.6 yards allowed per game), were 31st against the pass and were 31st in scoring defense.
Upon Spagnuolo's firing, Payton announced that the team would be converting to a 3-4 defense on a full-time basis. The Saints had mixed in some 3-4 looks and appear to have the personnel to make the switch
.2011 first-round pick Cameron Jordan played in a 3-4 defense at Cal and would make a good "5" technique end. Veteran Brodrick Bunkley played nose tackle during his brief stint with the Denver Broncos and could play the nose if the team is unable to re-sign Sedrick Ellis, who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. 2012 third-round pick Akiem Hicks is 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds and could play multiple spots in a 3-4 front and 2011 third-round pick Martez Wilson has been miscast as a 4-3 defensive end and could benefit by a move to rush linebacker in the new system.
Not all of the current Saints will fit in with the new defense. Veteran defensive end Will Smith is 6-foot-3 and 282 pounds and is better suited to play in a 4-3. Smith will turn 32 before training camp and the move to a 3-4, along with his hefty contract ($10.15 million due in cash, $14.541 million cap number), could hasten his exit from New Orleans.
Ryan had been closely linked to the position, but was not the only candidate. University of Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham interviewed for the position before withdrawing his name from consideration on Friday.
The son of Buddy Ryan, and the twin brother of New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, Rob Ryan has been defensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders (2004-08), Cleveland Browns (2009-10) and Dallas Cowboys. Under Ryan, the Cowboys ranked 14th in total defense in 2011 and were 19th during a 2012 season where several key players - Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee - had injury-plagued seasons. Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer blossomed under Ryan, posting a career-high 11 sacks in 2012. Spencer is an unrestricted free agent and could be an option for the Saints if he hits the open market on March 12.
Ryan interviewed for the St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator position, and many reports had him reaching a deal to join Jeff Fisher's coaching staff, but no deal was finalized and the Rams' search for a defensive coordinator continues.
In addition to Ryan, the Saints announced the hiring of Stan Kwan as assistant special teams coach.
“I’m pleased the opportunity has presented itself for us to be able to add both Rob Ryan and Stan Kwan to our coaching staff," Payton said. "In regards to Rob, we have experience in preparing and playing against his defenses and they’ve always been challenging in terms of the different looks and pressures that they feature. We’ve had the chance to visit with each other and talk about our visions for our team and I’m excited about moving forward as we prepare for the 2013 season.
"Rob is enthusiastic about joining our team and getting right to work. Stan is a veteran coach that understands all nuances of the special teams games and will work closely with Greg McMahon. He has a wealth of knowledge and I believe he will be a good fit on our staff."
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