NFL Nation: Rob Burnett

Rams' vets Robbins, Hall getting it done

December, 27, 2010
12/27/10
10:13
AM ET
ST. LOUIS -- Fred Robbins' sixth sack of the season Sunday gave the St. Louis Rams' veteran defensive tackle a career high at age 32.

It also highlighted the significant contributions St. Louis is getting from two defensive linemen thought to be past their primes.

Defensive end James Hall, 33, collected 1.5 sacks Sunday, giving him 10.0 for the season.

Hall joins a short list of players to reach double-digit sacks at that age since sacks became an official stat for the 1982 season. The others: Trace Armstrong, Rob Burnett, Richard Dent, Chris Doleman, William Fuller, Kevin Greene, Rickey Jackson, Leslie O'Neal, John Randle, Warren Sapp, Bruce Smith, Michael Strahan, Jason Taylor and Reggie White.

Robbins, signed in free agency from the New York Giants, joins Keith Traylor, Jeff Zgonina and former Ram Ray Agnew among defensive tackles to set career highs for sacks at age 32 or older in the free-agency era (since 1993). The Rams are not particularly deep at defensive tackle. Their defense would have a hard time holding up without Robbins, in my view.

The team needs to draft fresh talent at the position. In the meantime, Robbins is providing the steady play Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo sought when he reconnected with Robbins, a player he coached with the Giants.

Robbins has also set a career high with seven passes defensed.
 
  Andy Marlin/Getty Images
  After success in Baltimore, Rex Ryan takes over the reins in New York.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

INDIANAPOLIS -- Rex Ryan doesn't hear much about nepotism these days. His work has spoken for itself too long and too loudly for such mockery.

He's head coach of the New York Jets, thank you, after establishing the Baltimore Ravens as an elite defense and then maintaining it for nearly a decade.

"By me circling back here, busted down to college football and all that kind of stuff, I think I made my mark," Ryan reflected last week at his first NFL scouting combine as a head coach. "I know I earned it."

A dozen years ago, however, his coaching career was being defined by repeated accusations he and his twin brother, Rob, didn't belong in the NFL and wouldn't have been there if not for their father.

Buddy Ryan gave Rex and Rob their first NFL coaching jobs, hiring them as defensive assistants with the Arizona Cardinals. Neither of the twins had been a full-time coach at the Division I-A level, let alone in the pros.

What happened in Arizona wasn't pretty.

"That was brutal," Rex Ryan said last week with a weary smile. "We couldn't stop a nosebleed."

Arizona quickly grew tired of Buddy's act. He was brash before he arrived. Punching fellow coaches, public insults, bounties ... that behavior can be tolerated if you win.

But the Cardinals were losers. The Ryan boys came under fire. They were portrayed as symbols of their father's failure.

As for Ryan, his blatant nepotism is finally catching up to him, and those close to the situation now realize it. -- Atlanta Journal Constitution, Nov. 26, 1995

Buddy Ryan lasted two seasons as Arizona's head coach and general manager. He was fired, and the fact his sons were on the staff played a significant role. He also was criticized for signing tackle Larry Tharpe, whose agent was Ryan's oldest son, Jim.

"It was a nasty time because one bullet got all three of you," Rex Ryan said. "We're all gone. I think dad knew that was a possibility when he hired us.

"The first year, when we had the best defense in the National Football League, he really never heard a whole lot about nepotism, but the next year you did."

[Ryan] hired two clueless assistants who didn't have any pro coaching experience -- sons Rex and Rob. Players fought each other in locker rooms before games. Buddy's defense was 26th in the 30-team league, his offense was 27th in scoring. The only thing he led the league in was arrogance. -- Washington Post, Dec. 28, 1995

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