|Oakland Raiders defensive struggles could put coordinator Rob Ryan's job on the line|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 28 December 2007 07:59|
The only bright spot from last year's team has been the biggest disappointment in this year's model. The defense has been gashed on the ground and struggled to stop opponents when the Raiders (4-11) do manage to take a fourth-quarter lead.
After ranking third overall and first in pass defense a year ago, the Raiders head into the season finale against San Diego on Sunday with the 26th-ranked overall defense and second-worst rush defense in the NFL. Oakland is allowing 60 yards more a game than last year.
``Obviously, we're not fired up about the way things have come, but our players are playing hard, and we've still got great players,'' Ryan said. ``Did we think we'd be where we are statistically? No, or as a team. We thought we'd be in a hell of a lot better shape than we are, but that's life in the big city.''
The biggest problem has been in the run game, where Oakland has allowed 147.6 yards per game on the ground and a league-worst 4.9 yards per carry. The Raiders have allowed the most runs of at least 20 yards (18) in the league and 10 100-yard rushers.
That all has helped contribute to Oakland blowing fourth-quarter leads in five of their 11 losses.
Despite those problems, Ryan says he is not concerned about his job security.
``I'd be out of a job for two minutes. I mean, who are we kidding?'' he said. ``I'm not worried about it. I love the Raiders, if that happens, so be it. I'd be out of a job for two minutes.''
Ryan is the son of former great defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan and the twin brother of Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. Before coming to Oakland, Rob Ryan won two Super Bowls as the linebackers coach on Bill Belichick's staff in New England, so the confidence is not misplaced.
Ryan interviewed for the head coaching job that eventually went to Lane Kiffin after last season. When Kiffin came on board, he replaced the entire offensive coaching staff from a team that scored just 12 offensive touchdowns under Art Shell.
Kiffin said this week he hadn't made any decisions so far about the coaching staff for next season. He did acknowledge being disappointed in the defense's performance, but noted the offense and special teams have not always helped out.
``We definitely felt that the defense was going to be the strength of our team this season, coming off of last season and hoping that we'd improve into this season,'' Kiffin said. ``But it all goes together. There's been a number of times that the offense has not helped the defense and put the defense right back on the field, and the special teams has not won the field-position battles in a number of games. So, our record has shown what we've done as a team and not on one side of the ball at all.''
In an odd way, the offense's struggles last season might have ended up benefiting the defense. Teams often played very conservatively offensively because the Raiders showed they were unable to drive the length of the field.
Ryan dismissed that theory and also said the Raiders did not necessarily need a new influx of talent.
``These guys are great players here,'' Ryan said. ``I've seen this happen before. This isn't the first time on my watch this has happened. We won a Super Bowl in New England, you know, felt really good, obviously, wearing the hardware, and came out and stunk up the joint with the same players, then the next year followed up with a Super Bowl year, and won a Super Bowl with a great defense, but that's the NFL.''
Ryan's players appreciate his loyalty and stand by the man many wanted for the head coaching job a year ago.
``We definitely kind of feel bad for him because everybody sees he's the defensive coordinator and they think it's his fault,'' safety Michael Huff said. ``But a lot of it has to do with us not hitting certain gaps, not tackling, so it's not all on him.''
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said the players are ``comfortable'' with Ryan and would like him to stay. But he also knows nothing is certain after another disappointing season.
``I'm sure anything is a possibility here, especially when you don't win games, so you never know who's job is on the line, players included,'' Asomugha said. ``But I have no idea what they're going to do. Lane's always expressed how much faith he has in Rob and the players have, too. We don't know what's going to happen.''