Fix the pass rush by ditching Ryan and the 3-4
Rob Ryan did a yeoman's job this year. After being less than impressed a year ago, I have to give him some credit. He patched the end of the season together with guy's he met about 10 minutes before kickoff.
But I think he has to go, and for no real fault of his own.
This team has two major issues before it can take the final step. It has to shore up the offensive line and find a pass rush. Everything else is pretty much in place except for a player or two.
The offensive line can only be fixed in the draft and free agency. And money is at a premium, so emphasis on the draft. However, the pass rush might be largely fixed simply with a change in scheme.
For too long, we've tried to force 4-3 players to play the 3-4. It's not working. Nose tackle remains a problem, and we don't have true 3-4 ends that can hold up against the run and get pressure on the QB. We have our best pass rushers dropping into coverage far too often.
And when we do play a 4-3 on 3rd-and-long, Ryan plays it more like a 2-5 with Ware and Spencer upright and roaming around. Looks cool, doesn't work.
Ware and Spencer need to have their hand on the ground every down as defensive ends. Lissimore can play the off tackle really well, as can Ratliff if he's restructured. Then, Spears, Coleman, Crawford, etc, can handle the nose position better with help inside. Lee plays the middle linebacker spot, with Carter on the outside with Albright, Butler, or whoever the best left is.
Bingo, the pass rush is already better than before. Maybe Lovie Smith or a Mike Zimmer disciple will come in to coach it up.
But that leaves Rob Ryan looking in from the outside. He's just not a 4-3 guy, and to date, he's still never had his defense in the playoffs. Telling.