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News » Oakland Raiders Inside Slant 2009-02-01

Oakland Raiders Inside Slant 2009-02-01

Oakland Raiders Inside Slant 2009-02-01
The Raiders' murky offseason plan finally took shape in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. And in typical Al Davis fashion, it happened in reverse order from the typical restructuring plan of NFL teams.

First, Dwaine Board was hired as the defensive line coach. Then Paul Hackett joined on as quarterbacks coach. Finally, word came down that Tom Cable will have the interim tag removed from his title and become the permanent head coach.

Naturally, the Raiders have been mum on the subject.

Defensively, Raiders fans won't have Rob Ryan to kick around anymore.

The question remains as to whether they'll find a savior or just another assistant worth assigning blame.

Even before Ryan's contract officially expired, the Cleveland Browns confirmed Ryan was hired as the defensive coordinator under new coach Eric Mangini.

Ryan arrived in Oakland four coaches ago -- having been hired in the first year of Norv Turner (2004) and lasted through Art Shell, Lane Kiffin and having finished under Cable.

"It's about time a Ryan joined this organization," he said upon his hiring.

Ryan was big and brash, full of himself but at the same time not taking himself so seriously he couldn't laugh at himself.

He arrived from New England, having coached the Patriots inside linebackers, winning Super Bowl rings following the 2001 and 2003 seasons.

Mangini was a New England assistant during those seasons. Following the 2008 season, Kiffin told Ryan he wanted a new defensive coordinator, and Mangini had his opening, hoping to replace Bob Sutton with Ryan.

Problem was, Raiders owner Al Davis took exception to Kiffin's demand to fire Ryan. When Ryan went to Davis' office to say goodbye, the Jets were no longer an option.

Davis said Ryan would remain for the final year of his contract.

Mangini would have to wait.

Ryan completed a tumultuous final season of his contract. After the season opener in which the Denver Broncos moved the ball at well, Kiffin deflected all blame of the defensive performance to Ryan and Davis, going so far as to say the game plans were concocted in collaboration between the two.

So Ryan was then dispatched to rebut Kiffin's claims -- by the Raiders' public relations staff, no less -- and insist it was his defense.

Kiffin was gone after Sept. 30, Ryan later said he was delighted with Cable, and has never uttered so much as a discouraging word about working for Davis and the Raiders.

Yet questions remain.

In five years under Ryan, the Raiders never succeeded in consistently stopping the run, and in fact got worse in that department in terms of yards per game every year he was in Oakland.

In those five years, the Raiders gave up 101 rushing touchdowns in 80 games -- more than any team in the NFL.

Ryan started out in a 3-4 defense, quickly switching to a 4-3 when things didn't go as well as hoped in the season opener against the Patriots team he used to work for.

Despite the fact that Ryan was schooled in heavy-pressure defenses by his father, Buddy Ryan, the Raiders more often than not relied on four-man rushes with heavy emphasis on man-to-man defense.

Combine that with the fact that coaches who respect and have interviewed with Davis -- such as the Patriots' Bill Belichick -- have talked of the influence the Raiders owner wields on that side of the ball.

As much as Ryan emphasized the company line and said it was his defense, it looked a lot more like a traditional "we've got superior athletes" Raiders defense than anything else.

The way Ryan described it?

"We put our superior athletes in a position to win one-on-one battles."

Did Ryan have complete autonomy with the Raiders?

If that's the way they play it in Cleveland, we'll have our answer.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 1, 2009

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