As the Redskins spent much of the offseason filling out their coaching staff, head coach Jay Gruden had his eye on a longtime NFL defensive mind to further boost his inside linebacker corps.
In his prior 19 years of experience, Rob Ryan held the title of assistant head coach/defense for the Buffalo Bills under his twin brother Rex Ryan in 2016, and previously was the defensive coordinator in New Orleans (2013-15), Dallas (2011-12), Cleveland (2009-10) and Oakland (2004-08). He is the second former coordinator added to Gruden’s staff this offseason, after Ray Horton was hired to coach defensive backs in late January.
Before taking the job with the Redskins, Ryan found himself in unfamiliar territory working alongside the courageous men and women of our armed forces.
"I went to the docks and got a job on the Navy ships working side by side with America's finest and it was awesome. It was a great experience," Ryan said. "I probably wasn’t the most skilled worker there, and haven’t done physical labor in about 20 years, so there’s a lot of stories, lot of camaraderie, and it was an awesome experience.”
For the Redskins, Ryan will be working alongside fellow NFL coaching veterans Jim Tomsula (defensive line), and Ray Horton (defensive backs). Although new to the confines of Redskins Park, Ryan has been comforted by the excitement and hospitality provided from his fellow coaches.
"It’s all about the people," Ryan said. "You know, you come in and you kind of have to find your way a couple weeks before you know everything but these guys have been great. They make you feel welcome, I’m coming in to a defensive staff with Greg Manusky, Jim Tomsula, and then Jay [Gruden] has been fantastic so I mean it feels great I already feel like I’m home. I got a new place, so I’m digging into my new roots here and just finding my way around. Met some of the players in the building, and I’m just really excited, I feel like I’m already apart of the team.”
The defense will be led for the third year by Manusky, who adds Ryan to lead a linebacking core that touts physicality, speed, veteran leadership and exciting young energy.
This past season, the Redskins finished 17th in yards allowed and 15th in points allowed. Ryan will coach a group that includes top graded 2018 Washington defender Zach Brown, as well as defensive captain Mason Foster, in addition to Reuben Foster, who could be facing a suspension from the league.
"The source of the passing game is the quarterback, so you always have to affect him whether it’s by hitting him or by disguise, that’s always how it’s been in the passing game," Ryan said. "In the running game, you know, especially coaching inside linebackers, we have to come down and create a new line of scrimmage and that’s going backwards. You know my philosophy is coming downhill, strike, dent some helmets, and get to the football. And especially with Greg being here with some underfront, and some 3-4, the inside backers have to come downhill and press the line. It’s a perfect fit for me, I’m excited to get back in it doing something I’m really familiar with.”
After interviewing with the Redskins for the same position just a couple years ago, Ryan said he made the initiative to call Gruden after Kirk Olivadotti left to take the same position in Green Bay.
“I know our guys are going to come downhill fast and we’re going to be fun to watch,” Ryan said. “I’ve always been a long admirer of [Gruden] and what he does. He’s a special coach. I just wanted to be a part of it."