Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 1/4/12
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he expects defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to return next season. That's both good news and bad for the Cowboys. It's good news because Ryan impressed Jones enough in his first season to retain him. It's bad news because Ryan didn't impress anyone else enough to be in the mix for a head coaching job, at least so far. Under Ryan, the Cowboys improved from 23rd to 14th in total defense this season. However, his defense also played a role in the Cowboys blowing fourth-quarter leads five times this season. Still, it was a decided improvement over the previous season despite few personnel changes. The Cowboys did not add any big-name free agents. Safety Abe Elam was brought in because he is familiar with Ryan's system. Kenyon Coleman was added to the defensive front and second-year man Sean Lee took over at inside linebacker. Ryan also didn't get the benefit of an offseason to teach his multiple system, which is designed to confuse quarterbacks. "Rob Ryan, I like philosophically what happens on defense," Jones said Tuesday on his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM. "If you look at some of the better defensive teams around, philosophically they match up with a lot of what Rob does. We're going to have more time to work with the players than we had in the offseason to institute some of the newer things he does." The most dramatic improvement was in scoring defense. After finishing 31st -- next to the bottom -- a year ago, the Cowboys improved to 16th in 2011. Ironically, Jones compared Ryan to the man who coordinated that No. 31 defense last season, former head coach Wade Phillips. Things are much better for Phillips this season as the coordinator of the Houston Texans. "He's not far off from what Wade Phillips does," Jones said in describing Ryan's philosophy. "You look at what Wade does, he ended up No. 1 or No. 2 in the NFL after the regular season down there (No. 2 in total defense behind the Steelers). Well, Rob's not too far off that. "Rob has a little more emphasis on the secondary, believe it or not, a little less emphasis on the front. But philosophically I like what we're doing on defense. We've got to get better and not give up the big play." Giving up those big plays are probably what cost Ryan a chance to be a hot commodity in head coaching searches. That, and the way the season ended for the Jets, whose head coach is twin brother Rex Ryan. Around the time the Cowboys held the Patriots to 20 points and less than 300 yards passing, it looked like Ryan could be gone after one season in Dallas. After the Cowboys were torched for 34 points and 495 yards by the Eagles, and later for 37 points and 510 yards by the Giants, it was clear Ryan wouldn't be going anywhere. At least not voluntarily. Yet Ryan showed Jones enough in his first year to earn the owner's confidence. "I think we've got good coaching," Jones said on The Fan. "I know that they know that it can be better, but every team can say that. I look at our coaching, I like it." Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire
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