Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 12/16/11
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan continues to insist that he has the most talented players in the league on his side of the ball. It's admirable that he shows so much belief in this underperforming bunch, but he may be in the process of talking his way out of town. It's hard to believe we're only a couple weeks removed from Ryan's name being brought up as a candidate for head-coaching opportunities. That was before Kevin Kolb and the lifeless Cardinals torched the Cowboys in the second half of a comeback win and Giants quarterback Eli Manning hung 400 yards passing and four touchdowns on Ryan's unit. With a 7-6 record, the Cowboys limp into Saturday night's game in Tampa in desperate need of a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. They wouldn't be mathematically eliminated with a loss, but the deck would be stacked against them. Still, Ryan hasn't lost any of his bravado at Valley Ranch. He's the most entertaining personality on the coaching staff, although it helps that reporters are used to hearing from the robotic Jason Garrett on a daily basis. Ryan says he believes in his players, but the only man he truly trusts is himself. "The bottom line is I tell my players I'm Sugar Ray Robinson," Ryan told reporters Friday. "That's who I am. I'm the champ and I always know I'm the best. I do. Now maybe nobody else in the media believes it, but I know the guys in the locker room do and I do, so whatever it is, hey, I'm the man who is in charge. I'm the man who will fix our problem. And I will get it fixed." This sounds like a man who's trying to convince himself that this season isn't falling apart. No matter how much blame Garrett deserves for what happened in Arizona (and it's a lot), Ryan's unit was handed a 34-22 lead with just over five minutes to play against the Giants a week later. In the postgame locker room, cornerback Terence Newman said the secondary was having problems with communication, which may explain why Giants receivers kept showing up unattended. A longtime scout from the AFC East told me Friday that he was amazed by how "disorganized" the Cowboys looked on defense against the Giants. "I do not think this is a talent issue," he said. "They have a bunch of guys who look confused before the snap." Ryan admits that mistakes late in games are killing his unit, and he says he's taken steps to address the communication issues. But it doesn't seem like those issues should be cropping up this late in the season. "We're signaling from the sideline as well now," he said. "They give you this headset that you talk into, and one guy gets the call, and you can't line up and you can't huddle. Everybody knows all the signals now, so it won't be one guy looking here. They've got to know where to look first." A debate has raged on local radio this week about whether to blame the defensive failures on a lack of talent or Ryan's scheme. He keeps saying he has the best players in the league, but not a lot of folks believe him. The Cowboys have three core players in DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee and Jay Ratliff. After that, it's sort of a crapshoot. Ryan used a smoke and mirrors approach to have some success early in the season, but now it looks like offensive coordinators have figured him out. This defense is stretched thin from a talent standpoint, but it also seems to be an undisciplined bunch. How else do you explain Ware being offsides on a play late in game on which Manning would've taken a big loss after a poor snap? The Cowboys have had 35 penalties in the fourth quarter this season, which suggests they are mentally weak at the worst-possible times. Ryan seemed like a breath of fresh air in training camp and through the first couple months of the season. But now he's starting to become an eyesore. Everyone used to blame awful Decembers on quarterback Tony Romo, but you can't do that this holiday season. Right now, Bad Santa deserves a lot of the blame. And if he doesn't make good on his vow to fix things in a hurry, he could soon join Garrett on the proverbial hot seat.
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