Five Candidates Who Could Replace Rob Ryan

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Rob Ryan

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

As the “uncomfortable changes” continue to take place in Valley Ranch, it’s worth asking, now what?

On Tuesday, the Dallas Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, and Head Coach Jason Garrett had this to say:

“I want to express my appreciation to Rob for all of his efforts and contributions to the Cowboys over the past two years. At this time, the decision has been made to move forward in a different direction philosophically on defense. I have an immense amount of respect for Rob as a person and as a football coach and I wish him and his family the very best.”

So, I ask again, now what? What does moving forward in a different direction philosophically on defense mean.

It could mean one of many things; one example is that the Cowboys could be switching to the 4-3 defense. It could also mean Garrett had seen enough, and felt that under Ryan, the team wasn’t going to achieve much more than what it had the previous two seasons.

If the Cowboys decide to stick with the 3-4 defense, their first priority must be re-signing Anthony Spencer the No. 1 ranked outside linebacker in the league according to Pro Football Focus. Should the Cowboys decide that they’re going to the 4-3 defense, they must evaluate the talent on defense and decide if they can make the switch successfully.

Nonetheless, the Cowboys must now address that vacant spot on the coaching staff. Assuming that they stay in the 3-4 defense, I have assembled this list of coaches who could ultimately be Ryans’ successor in Big D.

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Ray Horton

Ray Horton

This former Cowboys’ defensive back has been the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator the past two seasons, and under his guidance the Cardinal defense had the ninth-fewest points allowed in the league. A Dick LeBeau pupil, Horton was instrumental in the development of six-time Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, and was part of the Pittsburgh Steelers staff that made three Super Bowl trips in six seasons.

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Todd Grantham

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

You may not remember Grantham, but he served as the Cowboys defensive line coach for a couple of seasons, in 2008-09 before taking the defensive coordinator job at the University of Georgia. He’s a 10-year veteran and was instrumental in turning the Cowboys defense around. During his tenure, the Cowboys improved from 13th in 2007 to 2nd in 2009, in points allowed. Under Grantham Georgia finished ranked 27th in 2012, and produced stars like Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, John Jenkins, and Bacarri Rambo.

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Winston Moss

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A Dom Capers pupil, entering his 25th season in the league, 7th with the Green Bay Packers, Moss is the Packers’ assistant head coach and linebackers coach. Since taking over as the assistant head coach in 2007, the Packers rank No. 1 in total takeaways with 166, No. 1 in interceptions with 126, No. 2 in opponent passer rating at 73.1 and No. 4 in points allowed.

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Thomas Johnson

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

This former second round pick of the New York Giants has spent the last 10 seasons learning from, possibly the greatest football mind in the game today, Bill Belichick. Johnson is a defensive assistant for the New England Patriots, but technically handles the responsibilities of a defensive coordinator. He has been an instrumental part of the Patriots reaching five Super Bowls and has the hardware to show for it.

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Ken Norton, Jr.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

This former Cowboys second rounder has spent his entire time as an assistant coach under defensive mastermind Pete Carroll, first at USC and now with the Seattle Seahawks. Under his guidance at USC, he developed standouts like Rey Maualuga, Clay Matthews III, and Brian Cushing. He was also instrumental in the development of former Seahawks standout linebackers Lofa Tatupu and David Hawthorne.

Jesus Flores is a Dallas Cowboys writer for RantSports.com Follow him on Twitter @SSgtFlo1


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