Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made his first public comments about the release of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan during a taped interview that aired Wednesday.
Jones alluded to two losses -- at Seattle in Week 2 and to Chicago at Cowboys Stadium in Week 4, when Dallas' defense was almost completely healthy -- as part of the reasons why he let Ryan go.
The Cowboys lost to the Seahawks, 27-7, but two special-teams turnovers put Dallas into a 10-0 hole in the first quarter. As a defense, the Cowboys were missing only one starter, nose tackle Jay Ratliff, to injury.
In the 34-18 loss to the Bears, quarterback Tony Romo threw five interceptions, with two of those returned for touchdowns. The Cowboys were missing two defensive starters to injury in that game, Anthony Spencer and Ratliff.
"I didn't like the way we were playing in a lot of cases," Jones said in the taped interview that will air in its entirety Saturday night on KTVT-TV in Dallas. "I thought we could play better before the injuries, and so I factored that in. It wasn't like we had a lot of injuries out here when we played Chicago. It wasn't like we had a lot of injuries when we played Seattle. I didn't like the way we played there.
"It's not hard for me to go to those games and say what can we do to improve when we played Seattle and when we played Chicago, and I liked the way we played in subsequent games and I know we didn't have the talent level on the field that we had when we played Seattle and Chicago."
The Cowboys played a bulk of the season without five starters and two major contributors to their defense. In the last two games of the regular season, Pro Bowl outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who led the team with 11.5 sacks, played with injuries to his elbow and shoulder. He will undergo surgery to repair a right shoulder injury Thursday.
During the season, the Cowboys never used the injuries to the defense as an excuse, but Ryan noted he had to mix and match personnel because of it.
"When we weren't short-handed, we were kicking ass," Ryan said Tuesday night after being released. "We weren't at full strength ever, but we were pretty damn close and pretty damn good. We were a long way from 31st. If I'm fired on the last six games, that's OK."
As a defense, the Cowboys finished 19th overall, 22nd against the run and 19th against the pass.
But Jones was hoping for a much better effort from the defense.
"It's not hard for me to go back there and say, 'OK, we had all of our players out there we had our talent level there,' " Jones said. "That's what we've been saying we didn't have. Now let's evaluate that. When we had all of our talent level, we've got to be able to beat Chicago at home and we've got to be able to go to Seattle and win that game there.
"We know they're formidable. We know Seattle had a good football team and I don't think we underestimated Seattle at all when we played them. But you're going to have to get to where we want to go and you have to go into Seattle and win games in Seattle."
Jones also acknowledged that the Cowboys' poor recent performance against their divisional rivals factored into his decision.
"We certainly do need to not change for change sake," he said. "But basically we need to look at what we're doing. I've heard it even criticized that maybe we shouldn't look at the matchups. We play six games in a 16-game schedule against our division, and we need to be successful in that division. We let Washington beat us twice this year, Philadelphia beat us twice last year -- so all of those things are under our consideration."
In a taped interview Monday, Jones made what could be perceived as a precursor to his thought processs regarding Ryan's status.
Jones released Ryan of his duties Tuesday with one year remaining on his contract.