Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest
By ASSOCIATED PRESS  |  Last updated 8/1/13
METAIRIE, La. (AP) -- From his long, gray hair flaring out of the back of his hat to his periodic brash statements, Rob Ryan presents himself as a renegade who does things his own way and doesn't care what anyone else thinks. Yet those who've been around the Saints' new defensive coordinator for a while don't necessarily see him that way. As Ryan aims to turn around a unit that allowed an NFL-record 7,042 yards last season, he has sought regular input from his charges. His players list his willingness to listen to their ideas among his top attributes, and say they appreciate being consulted. "He's always worried about: How do we feel about this? How do we like this look? And if we don't like something, say something," safety Roman Harper said after Thursday's practice. "He understands that we play the game and if we're not comfortable, then it's not going to work." Even his hairstyle isn't entirely of his own making. "Who are we kidding? The wife likes it long," he said. Ryan learned defense and much of what he knows about football from his father, Buddy Ryan, who won Super Bowls as a defensive coach with the New York Jets and Chicago Bears, and who was head coach of three playoff teams in Philadelphia, all of them known for having one of the best defenses in the NFL. Ryan said he and his brother Rex, the head coach of the Jets, both tend to work collaboratively with players because of their father's influence. "I've only been in the league 16 years," Ryan began, somewhat sarcastically, "But I've been around it my whole life. "The greatest defensive coach that ever coached is my dad. ... I watched how he was and the biggest thing he told me and my brother is: Be yourself,'" Ryan said. "We know we're good and we're confident, but we're smart and we don't mind sharing anything. When you have smart veteran players and they're seeing things differently, they're the ones on the field." Ryan spent the past two seasons in Dallas, where his defenses ranked in the middle of the league in yards allowed -- 14th in 2011 and 18th in 2012. He was fired after last season, but was not out of work long. Saints head coach Sean Payton, looking to change his team's scheme from a 4-3 (four linemen, three linebackers) to a 3-4, hired Ryan in early February. Payton, who has been known to work closely with star quarterback Drew Brees on offensive game plans, said Ryan's approach toward soliciting player input fits with the Saints' overall approach. "We, as teachers, as coaches, always want to have feedback," Payton said. "That would be our philosophy. ... One of Rob's strengths is his ability to communicate with a player and make them feel good about what they're doing." The 50-year-old Ryan has run 3-4 schemes for years. He worked as a linebacker coach in such defenses in New England, where he was part of two Super Bowl-winning teams. He then spent five seasons as defensive coordinator in Oakland (2004-2008), followed by two seasons in Cleveland before moving to Dallas in 2011. Ryan's players routinely praise his passionate, fun-loving and aggressive approach to coaching defense. Saints players also noted that Ryan has studied a number of blitzes the Saints ran well under former coordinator Gregg Williams from 2009-11, and brought elements of those plays back. Ryan said he owed his start in the NFL to nepotism; his father hired him as a defensive backs coach on his Arizona staff in 1994. He went back to coaching in college in 1996 before returning to the NFL with New England in 2000, and said one of the keys to sustaining his NFL coaching career was being secure enough in himself to take advice from his players. "The better teacher you are, the more input you can handle," Ryan said. "I don't have a damn dictatorship in my room. I think open forum is good when everybody knows what they're talking about. I've always done that. It doesn't make it right, but it is who I am. I just want it to look right on Sundays." NOTES: RB Mark Ingram did not practice. Payton said he was simply giving the running back a day of rest and expected him back on Friday. ... LB Curtis Lofton returned after missing a pair of practices with back soreness. ... The Saints initially had scheduled Friday's practice indoors in the afternoon and closed to the public. It is now slated to be outdoors in the morning and open to the public. Saturday's scrimmage at team headquarters also is scheduled to be outdoors and open the public. ... A team of NFL officials, as well as some college and high school officials in the leagues training program, were working with the Saints during Thursday's practice and will remain through Saturday's scrimmage. Among the officials was Sarah Thomas of Pascagoula, Miss., who currently is a college official in Conference USA and finalist to become a permanent NFL official. She could become the first woman to officiate an NFL game.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Titans reportedly looking to trade out of top five

Report: Doc Rivers will remain with the Clippers

Rondo rules himself out for Game 5, unsure about Game 6

Report: Vikings unlikely to pick up Bridgewater’s fifth-year option

Jets reportedly willing to trade No. 6 pick to Browns

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Lynch agrees to deal with Raiders, will be traded

WATCH: Jose Altuve leaves game after scary outfield collision

Allen Iverson has savage response to Tim Hardaway’s crossover claim

Fred Hoiberg: Rajon Rondo ‘longshot’ to return during Celtics series

Pat Riley: LeBron James’ departure from Miami ‘was personal’

Marcus Smart fires back at Jimmy Butler over ‘not about that life’ talk

The 'Bonehead blunder that watered down the 1931 AL home run crown' quiz

Draft prospects we're most excited to see in the NFL

Stanley Cup Playoffs: The West is full of surprises

Box Score 4/26: NFL Draft eve

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'QB or not QB? That is the question' quiz

How the Astros are following the Cubs' blueprint to the top

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Paul Millsap needs a twin phone

Perfect matches: Handpicking players for certain teams in the 2017 NFL Draft

NFL Draft do-overs we'd most like to see

NFL Draft X-factor players you may have missed during their college careers

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 'Bonehead blunder that watered down the 1931 AL home run crown' quiz

Draft prospects we're most excited to see in the NFL

Stanley Cup Playoffs: The West is full of surprises

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

How the Astros are following the Cubs' blueprint to the top

The 'QB or not QB? That is the question' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Paul Millsap needs a twin phone

Perfect matches: Handpicking players for certain teams in the 2017 NFL Draft

NFL Draft do-overs we'd most like to see

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker