In just their first year under head coach Jeff Fisher—and without the services of an official defensive coordinator—the Rams improved from 2011 finishes of No. 26 in points allowed and No. 22 in total yards allowed to No. 14 in both this season.
With Gregg Williams, who was suspended for the 2012 season, not returning to St. Louis next season, the Rams began a search for a new defensive coordinator this offseason.
That search has led to Ryan, who, according to ESPN, was in St. Louis Friday for a meeting with Fisher.
While Fisher and Ryan have a history—Fisher played and coached under Rob's father, Buddy—a much better fit for these Rams can likely be found on the current coaching staff in St. Louis.
Both assistant head coach Dave McGinnis and secondary coach Chuck Cecil have experience as defensive coordinators. In fact, Cecil was Fisher's defensive coordinator in Tennessee for the 2010 season.
Sticking with someone on the current staff ensures the kind of continuity that a young, improving defense needs.
A core of Chris Long (11.5 sacks in 2012), James Laurinaitis (142 total tackles), Robert Quinn (10.5 sacks), Cortland Finnegan (three interceptions), Janoris Jenkins (four interceptions, four defensive touchdowns) and Michael Brockers (four sacks, 2012 first-round pick) represents one of the best any NFL defense has to offer.
In its first season together, the group helped transform the Rams defense from laughing stock to respectable.
Bringing Ryan on board complicates matters.
While an experienced coordinator, Ryan has primarily used the 3-4 front—a defensive look the Rams aren't currently ready to employ. The current personnel fits perfect for a 4-3 front. Ryan would be the one having to adjust, and that might not be a good thing.
When you consider Ryan's defensive rankings over his last three NFL stops, it's easier to see why he's currently out of a job. Mike Sando of ESPN.com has the numbers.
Over five years (2004-08) in Oakland, Ryan's defenses ranked 29th in points allowed and 23rd in yards allowed. With Cleveland for two years (2009-10), the Browns ranked 32nd in yards and 15th in points. And over the last two years in Dallas, the Cowboys finished No. 16 in yards and No. 18 in points.
The numbers get worse. In opposing passer rating, Ryan's defenses ranked in the bottom third of the NFL at all three stops. The same can be said for third-down percentage, yards per rush attempt and defensive EPA, or ESPN's expected points added statistic.
Ryan, for all his volume and chest-beating, has been nothing more than an average defensive coordinator over the last decade or so.
The Rams can and should do better.
This is a defense on the cusp of being very, very good. Fisher and his defensive staff did well without an official coordinator in place this past season and handpicking someone from that group would seem to make the most sense.
Hiring an outsider—especially one as overrated as Ryan—simply isn't the right move for a young Rams defense.