The NFL has had their share of families play in the game. Two names that come to mind immediately are the Matthews clan and the Manning family. The Matthews legacy in the NFL began with Clay Matthews Sr. back when he was a lineman for the San Francisco 49ers. He had two sons that were great football players in Clay Matthews Jr. and Bruce Matthews. And Bruce and Clay both had two sons that played in the NFL, including the star of the crew, Clay Matthews III. Not to be left out, the Manning name has been around for a couple generations. Archie started the tree with his career in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints. And now the Manning name is carried by Archie’s sons, Eli Manning (Giants) and Peyton Manning (Colts/Broncos). Both of these families did not just have things handed to them because of their names. They had to work hard to reach the levels of success they currently have or had playing the game. Just like there are player’s names that are synonymous with the game, there are also generations of families that have coached the game. One famous last name that comes to mind is Phillips. Bum Phillips was a defensive coordinator and head coach in places like Houston, New Orleans and San Diego. And following Bum, his son Wade became a defensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL. But one name that many think of more recently is the Ryan family.
Buddy Ryan started the lineage when he was a coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals as well as a defensive coordinator for Chicago Bears during the Mike Ditka era. Many knew him for his fiery attitude and his defensive acumen. He once challenged Mike Ditka to a fight at halftime of a game both were coaching. And just like their famous dad, twins Rex and Rob Ryan gained his fire. Both are defensive-minded guys who took to that side of the ball at the professional level. Rex and Rob both have led defenses in their career. But leading defenses is where the comparisons stop. Rex has been a part of great defenses since he was with the Ravens. Of course he had great players to use in Baltimore like Ray Lewis, but his schemes made players like Lewis even more dangerous and effective. Rex would eventually land a head-coaching job with the Jets and he actually made them respectable for a while. But reality eventually hit and the Jets came back to reality. He was fired from the Jets after last season and is now the head coach of the Bills. Some may have questioned his head coaching skills, but there has never been any question about the defensive acumen of Rex Ryan. Rob, on the other hand, has not had quite the success as Rex. He has bounced around the NFL as a defensive coordinator since 2004 and has yet to land a head coaching gig. He also has not had very many good seasons as a coordinator. But even with the fact that his NFL defenses have been average to below average, he has routinely had a job coordinating defenses. Well, he recently was let go after his defense looked listless versus the hapless Washington Redskins offense. Needless to say, he has not had the touch his brother had with defenses.
Rob Ryan has proven that he cannot be a defensive coordinator in the NFL. The sad thing is it took ten years for some to realize this. But how has he made it this far running defenses when he is seemingly blind to what he is doing? Well, the answer is simple. He has the pedigree of his last name carrying him. The Ryan name has been giving him opportunity after opportunity. And the reality is his shot at being a defensive coordinator should have been over a long time ago. Like many sons of good coaches, he got by with being bad for far too long. Rex Ryan proved that he was able to make it and it’s safe to say that he can actually coach. Rex is truly the one that inherited the acumen his dad had as a coach. Now that Rob has been fired from New Orleans, maybe it’s time he take a step back from the defensive coordinator role he has had over a decade. Whatever he was trying to do in New Orleans was not working. And although he was not all the issue there, he certainly did not make things any better. And naturally after the bad defensive performances the Saints’ defense has been producing, he was the scapegoat for all of New Orleans’s problems. But don’t get it twisted, he really was not doing great things anyway. He had talent. Rob just proved he did not know what to do with it.
The Ryan’s are a perfect example of how pedigree can be a good and bad thing. Rex earned his stripes and proved he could coach. Rob has tried time and time again to show us he can coach, only to fail over and over. If his last name wasn’t what it was, he would have never been afforded so many opportunities. And because of that, it’s almost like Rob failed unilaterally for a decade, wasting the time of each team he coached.