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Rob Ryan left Rams to find perfect fit

12/13/2013

METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan talked at length Friday for the first time about his decision to leave the St. Louis Rams after less than a week on the job this past offseason. Although Ryan said he didn't specifically leave St. Louis to pursue an opportunity with the Saints, he made it clear that New Orleans was always a job that he truly coveted.

In fact, Ryan said the second phone call he made after being fired by the Dallas Cowboys in January was to former Saints offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, asking if he thought the Saints might be looking for a new defensive coordinator.

But at the time, the Saints didn't have an opening yet because Saints head coach Sean Payton was still under suspension.

"Absolutely, this was a job I wanted," Ryan said Friday. "The first thing when I got fired on a phone call in Turks & Caicos, the first thing I did was call my brother [Rex] and say, 'What the ... What the hell happened here? This is a joke.' And then the second call I made was to Aaron Kromer saying, 'Hey man, I don't know what's going to happen there, but can you talk to Sean?' Well he couldn't. Nobody could.

"So I was like, 'Damn. Because that would be the perfect spot for me.' And I'll be damned. It ended up being here."

But first, Ryan took a short detour through St. Louis, where he had agreed to go work for head coach Jeff Fisher in late January before changing his mind after just a few days on the job.

Ryan reiterated Friday that the main sticking point in St. Louis was a difference in football philosophy -- which is what was also reported at the time. Ryan has always preferred a 3-4 defense, while the Rams wanted to stick with a 4-3.

And at that stage of his career, Ryan said he didn't feel like settling for less than the perfect fit. Not after bouncing from Oakland to Cleveland to Dallas in a span of five years before that.

"Well, it was kind of a complicated thing," Ryan said. "Getting fired in Dallas was a shock to my system and I was a little pissed off. But I took a job with the Rams and hadn't had anything signed, and just from being there and finding out the direction of how they wanted to do things, it was my obligation -- not only to me but to them -- to just walk away and look for something different. ...

"What really came into my decision was this was going to be my fourth stop in [six] years. So, whatever it was, I wanted the perfect situation. I wanted to coach a defense that I'm an expert at, and I know I'm damn good. But I want to do the best job I could do. I was tired of moving around every single year, every two years, and ... in this business you gotta be fully in. You're either all the way in or not. For me, hell, I'm an all-the-way-in coach. No one's going to work longer than I do. I'm going to prepare as hard as I can. And with that situation, I don't think I could fully commit to something that wasn't exactly what I could believe in, despite having great people in the building."

Ryan then went on to specifically compliment Rams coaches like Fisher, Dave McGinnis and Mike Waufle.

From a timeline standpoint, the Saints' vacancy must have weighed into Ryan's decision in some fashion. Payton fired former Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo one day before Ryan was announced as the Rams' new defensive coordinator in late January.

But asked if he specifically knew that there would be any other opportunities available when he left St. Louis, Ryan said, "No."

In his usual confident style, however, Ryan said, "I knew I was going to get one, wherever it was going to be. I was going to get one because I believe in myself. Then, hell, whatever it was, a week, two weeks later, I got a call to interview here. And this is the situation I was dreaming of. ...

"It's been great for me and my family. And, hell, when you move that much, you have to take your family into consideration. And hell, this place has been fantastic for us."

Obviously Ryan, who celebrated his 51st birthday Friday, is happy with his decision for football reasons, as well.

Although Ryan won two Super Bowl rings as a linebackers coach with the New England Patriots earlier in his career, this is actually the first time he has been part of a team with a winning record in 10 years as a defensive coordinator.

He's a big reason for the Saints' success. They set a NFL record for most yards allowed in 2012 (440.1). This year, they're the sixth-best team in the league in that category (313.6).