BEREA: With the bravado that endeared him to Northeast Ohioans, Rob Ryan made it clear he’s carrying a grudge into his reunion with the Browns.
Ryan served as the Browns’ defensive coordinator during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. After President Mike Holmgren fired coach Eric Mangini following the 2010 season, Ryan was not asked to return.
“I spent a lot of time in those offices,” Ryan told Dallas reporters Friday. “In fact, I slept in them for seven straight weeks when I said, ‘I’m not going home until we win a game.’ I’ll never say that again. So I got to know the office personnel very well and everything. Anytime you pour everything you have into it and apparently management didn’t see it as it was good enough, of course, it’s personal.”
Ryan, the boisterous twin brother of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, landed on his feet with the Dallas Cowboys. He became their defensive coordinator last year and is now guiding a crew ranked eighth in the NFL (318.8 yards allowed per game).
Ryan and the Cowboys (4-5) will host the Browns (2-7) on Sunday.
“I love some of those players that are still there,” Ryan said. “[Strong safety] T.J. Ward, [cornerback] Joe Haden, [cornerback] Sheldon Brown, these are some of the best people I’ve ever coached. I still love those guys, but I plan on beating them.
“I feel like I’ve had a good influence on them. They know it’s all about toughness, and they’ve got some of the toughest players that are still playing. That T.J. Ward will rip your face off. He knows how to play the game. So these guys are good people, but they’re not on offense. We plan on getting after their ass.”
Some thought Ryan should have been a candidate to coach the Browns after Mangini was fired. Ryan, though, said he didn’t share that view.
“I came in with Eric,” Ryan said. “I was proud to go out with him. I don’t think a coach does that in my situation. Eric’s a good friend of mine. He hired me to do a job. Hell, I did it and got everybody fired anyway. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t in charge of that decision. But I plan on doing something about it.
“The bottom line is Eric’s a great friend of mine and if he gets fired, then you go. I don’t care what it is. It’s not like they asked me to stay, but they should have. But I would’ve said no.”
The Cowboys are happy to have him.
“Rob’s done a great job for us,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said during a conference call. “We’re fortunate to have him. I feel like he’s an outstanding defensive coordinator. He’s very good with scheme but also good at motivating players and getting them to play. I think we’ve grown a lot on defense, and Rob’s certainly been the leader there.”
Browns Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Thomas expects to be tested by Ryan’s 3-4 scheme.
“He’s a fantastic defensive coordinator,” Thomas said. “I know guys on the defense love playing for him. He’s a guy who’s tough to prepare for because of how detailed he is and how he calls his games, so it’s going to be a great challenge.”
Of course, Ryan’s personality also stands out.
“It’s hard to be any more entertaining than he is on the sideline,” Thomas said. “He was a hoot. … He’s just a fun guy. He’s really funny, and he’s a great defensive coordinator. He’s really jovial and just fun to play for coming into work every day.”
Ryan won’t be the only Cowboys coach reuniting with the Browns. Linebackers coach Matt Eberflus (2009-10) and secondary coach Jerome Henderson (2009-11) also worked for the Browns.
Ryan was asked if he has brought up his personal beef with the Browns this week in conversations with his Cowboys players.
“Honestly, I’m going to say no,” he said. “Honestly, honestly, honestly, I’m going to say no. Honestly, I haven’t talked about it. Honestly, I don’t know how that got out there. Honestly, I don’t know.”
A reporter then quipped, “How about dishonestly?”
With a slight smirk on his face, Ryan admitted, “I’ve addressed a few things.”
Haden will travel to Dallas, and the Browns will make a game-time decision to determine whether he plays Sunday, coach Pat Shurmur said Friday after practice. Haden is listed as questionable on the injury report.
“Joe definitely wants to play,” cornerback Buster Skrine said. “He’s doing everything he can to play. So if he can play, I think he’ll definitely be out there.”
Haden missed practice each of the past two days after injuring an oblique muscle Wednesday. Haden was not hurt because of contact, Shurmur said.
“It’s something that can happen with a very harmless movement, and we’ll just see where he’s at,” Shurmur said. “He feels better today, and on game day, we’ll decide if he can go.”
If Haden doesn’t play, the defense will be extremely thin at cornerback. Skrine and Sheldon Brown would start, and rookie Trevin Wade, a seventh-round draft pick, would cover slot receiver Miles Austin in the nickel package.
“Miles is just a veteran guy, so he knows how to get open,” Wade said. “He’s very physical, and he has that connection with [quarterback Tony] Romo, so they’re going to be in tune.
“You’ve got to step up. There’s no other choice. There’s nowhere to go but up for us as a team. So we’re trying to go out there and play hard and stay motivated.”
Undrafted rookie Johnson Bademosi is the only other healthy cornerback on the roster. He has played special teams, but not defense this season.
“He’ll be available as a corner for sure, and he’s had a good week of practice,” Shurmur said. “He’s another one of those guys that’s developed. He’ll continue to develop. He just hasn’t had the on-the-field reps that Trevin’s had.”
Still, if Haden is ruled out, it will be tough for the Browns to compensate.
“I’ve been here long enough to know that this stuff happens at the craziest time, especially for us,” middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “For whatever reason, it happened this week. [We] don’t know if he’s not going to be out there for sure, but not having Joe out there is going to be a big blow, a huge blow.”
Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who’s in his eighth NFL season, ranks third among the league’s active sack leaders with 109. Ware has 9½ sacks this season.
“Everything he does is phenomenal,” Thomas said. “He’s the type of guy that you try to keep quiet, but you can’t shut him down no matter what you do for a whole game.”
Ware often lines up on the weak side of the offense, which means he’s usually roaming away from the tight end. Thomas and rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz know they must beware of Ware.
“He’s kind of a hard guy to describe and scout,” Schwartz said. “He does a lot of things. He’s really slippery it seems like. He’s able to get by guys and you kind of wonder how he did it. Some guys are very defined. They do this move. They do that move. He does a lot of things.
“He’s very quick. He’s got the long arms. He’s very strong. He’s also just such a good athlete. He’s very fluid. He’s kind of able to get out of situations where other guys aren’t. So I think if he’s not the best rusher we’ve gone against, I don’t know who would be.”
The Browns have ruled out cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle) and special-teams ace Ray Ventrone (hand/calf). Patterson, the team’s top nickel corner, will miss his fifth consecutive game. Ventrone said he was hurt Thursday during special-teams drills.
In addition to Haden, starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf) is listed as questionable. But Shurmur said Rubin “had a great week of practice” and is expected to be ready for Sunday. Rubin has missed three of the past four games.
The Browns also listed 12 players as probable.
The Cowboys ruled out center Phil Costa (ankle), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) and defensive tackle Sean Lissemore (ankle). They listed center/guard Ryan Cook (knee), cornerback Mike Jenkins (back) and running back DeMarco Murrary (foot) as doubtful and four other players as probable.