For the second consecutive week, much attention has been focused on New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, more due to a “game within the game” matchup than for the actual game.
And for the second consecutive week, Ryan said he’d rather the focus be on the game, rather than the “game within the game.”
Last week, it was the Saints taking on the New York Jets, whose coach is Ryan’s twin brother, Rex Ryan.
On Sunday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Saints (6-2) will play the Dallas Cowboys (5-4), a nationally televised battle between Ryan’s current team and his most recent one. He was Dallas’ defensive coordinator from 2011-12 before being released after last season.
“Obviously, you want the attention to just be on the team,” Ryan said Friday. “That’s what it’s all about. We’re just here trying to do the best we can and get a win, and we’re doing everything we can to do that.
“I haven’t been up all night studying what I’m going to say to the media. I just want to coach football and work hard and get it right and help us win.”
But diligent work, as the Saints' defense looks to rebound after its most disappointing performance of the season (the Jets ran for 198 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries), didn’t rob Ryan of his sense of humor.
“If I worried about every team that’s fired me I’d have a grudge every week,” he said. “This is a huge game, it’s a big game for both teams. That’s the way this sport is.
“People change teams. The players out there were great to me, there’s a lot of great people in that organization and I was fortunate enough to be with them for two years.
“Whatever people suggest (as being the reason for his firing), it doesn’t make a crap to me because I know I’m a great coach. Whatever it is, it is. What I said in Dallas on my way out, ‘There’s a couple of better coaches than me that have been fired.’ Not many, but there’s a couple. That’s just the way it is.”
Coach Sean Payton said that though the matter of a player or coach facing his former team can generate much outside interest, reality often can be toppled over by hype.
“I think that just by the nature of what we do, the appreciation for just a win each week and how difficult it is to get that, I think a lot of (the playing-the-former-team theme) is overblown,” Payton said. “Each week with our league there’s always going to be a connection.
“It’s not like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, where you had the one defensive tackle that just blew up the whole game. Guys are trying to do their best.
“I always get a kick when they say, ‘Well, there’ll be some extra film study.’ We’re studying and preparing as best we can each week, and the worth of a win or the detriment of a loss is the same each week.”
Rob Ryan said that while his father, Buddy Ryan, a former NFL head coach and legendary defensive coordinator, actually may have hated the Cowboys, he doesn’t.
“You’ve just got to come to the conclusion that not everybody thinks like I do,” Rob Ryan said. “I always think I’m going to do great because I pour everything I’ve got into the job. And some people don’t think it’s good enough and they fire you and you get (angry), because you’ve done your best.
“But whatever happens, happens. I’m excited to be here. I love it here in New Orleans. I love this team, I love the players, l love how the team is run, I love the organization. It feels like home.”