IRVING, Texas — Dallas defensive end Jason Hatcher has a pretty good idea what Rob Ryan is telling his players in New Orleans while getting ready to face the Cowboys less than a year after they fired him.
Hatcher heard some of those choice words last season, when Ryan was preparing Dallas to face Cleveland, the previous team that dumped the defensive coordinator after just two seasons.
“I don’t remember all the details,” Hatcher said Wednesday, smiling and squirming just a bit, trying to keep the content suitable for a general audience. “But yeah, he’s going to be jacked up for this one.”
Ryan offered some version of “heck yes” when asked a year ago if playing the Browns was personal.
It’s hard to imagine the feeling will be any different Sunday night after he declared that he would be “out of work for like 5 minutes” when Dallas let him go last January.
It’s personal for the Cowboys, too — in a positive way.
Hatcher credits Ryan for a sudden upward swing in his career that has him tied for second in the NFC with seven sacks.
Dallas coach Jason Garrett says the relationship “didn’t end” after he had to inform Ryan of his firing by phone because Ryan was out of the country.
Cornerback Orlando Scandrick, coming off one of his best games in a 27-23 win over Minnesota, says “that guy was one of the best coaches I ever had.”
Ryan, who enjoyed a 23-20 overtime win against Cleveland a year ago, became something of a scapegoat for a defense that broke under the weight of serious injuries in the final two games, keeping the Cowboys out of the playoffs for the third straight year.
First, Dallas was helpless to stop Drew Brees — the quarterback on Ryan’s side now. Then the Cowboys let rookie Alfred Morris run wild in a winner-take-all finale against NFC East rival Washington.