One of the biggest questions asked by those who thought Rob Ryan shouldn't have been fired as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator has been whether he got a fair shake because of injuries.
Jerry Jones answered those questions during an interview on Wednesday and made it clear that the decision was about more than the way the defense played in the final weeks of the season. To Jones, there was a problem with Ryan's defense long before players started dropping like extras in a Civil War movie.
"I thought we could play better before the injuries, and so I factored that in," Jones said. "It wasn't like we had a lot of injuries out here when we played Chicago. It wasn't like we had a lot of injuries when we played Seattle. I didn't like the way we played there. It's not hard for me to go to those games and say what can we do to improve when we played Seattle and when we played Chicago."
It's a very fair point raised by Jones and one that even the most dyed in the wool Ryan supporters would have a hard time arguing against. The defense wasn't the only problem the team started the year 3-5, but they were a factor and it's perfectly reasonable to demand more from the guy hired to coach the unit.
What's more, there were a ton of excuses about the lockout last season as well. Teams have to overcome obstacles and Ryan hasn't shown a particular knack for that the last two years.
It's a good answer to that first question, but it doesn't quite clear up everything. If injuries aren't an excuse for the defense, what's the excuse for the offense putting up fewer points than they did a year ago while gaining more yards in proportion to the rest of the league?
You can't say the defense underachieved in those games without also pointing the finger at an offense that managed to score 25 points in those two games. There's plenty of offseason left to make changes and the Cowboys seem to be remaining purposefully vague about their ideas involving a change to the play calling, but it won't cut it to just say that everything that went wrong this season was because of the defense.