LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler has admired current Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan since the time the veteran NFL coach ran the Oakland Raiders' defense when the quarterback played for AFC West rival Denver from 2006-08.
"I love Rob Ryan," Cutler once said. "I think that he has always liked and respected me. I think he's a great coach, and you can just hear the energy he brings on the sidelines for those guys. I've always enjoyed playing and competing against him. I think he's one of the best in football. I've always enjoyed going against the guy."
But that supposed mutual level of respect didn't stop Cutler and Ryan from getting into a spirited verbal sparing match with each other at Solider Field in 2009 when Ryan served as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. On several occasions, Cutler was observed yelling at the Browns sideline while Ryan waved off the quarterback and motioned for him to go back to the huddle.
One of the players wearing a Browns jersey that day was Bears linebacker/special teams ace Blake Costanzo, who spent two years under Ryan in Cleveland. Costanzo chuckled when asked about the memorable back-and-forth between the coach and quarterback in early November 2009, a game the Bears eventually won 30-6.
"(Ryan’s) just a fiery guy," Costanzo said. "He gets into the games and gets behind his players. I think we were doing fairly well on defense that day and he was just pumped up for us. Stuff like that happens. He just wears his emotions on his sleeve when he coaches. I think that's what you got to do. He's just so into the game. That's just the way he coaches, that's his style."
So far, Ryan's style is working in Dallas as the Cowboys enter Monday night with a record of 2-1, due in large part to the play of the defense. Ryan's unit ranks No. 1 in total defense, No. 2 in passing defense, and has surrendered a league best 4.4 yards-per-play.
Through three games the Bears rank No. 27 in total offense (290.0) and No. 28 in passing offense (186.3).
"Coach Ryan was awesome," Costanzo said. "He's everything you want in a football coach. He would do anything for his players and it's just a ball playing for him. I have great memories playing for him in Cleveland, and like I said, he believes in every single one of his players no matter what position you are. When you go out on that field he's got all the confidence in you. To play for a guy like that is really fun.'
"Look who his father is (Buddy Ryan). He comes from old school. He's got the work ethic and all that stuff. Definitely an aggressive guy and a defensive guy all the way. Like I said it was a pleasure playing for him."