NEW ORLEANS -- I briefly closed my eyes after Thursday's OTA, listened to 'coach speak' and found it difficult to differentiate between the two.
Unquestionably, Rob Ryan is the second coming of Gregg Williams, a few pounds heavier perhaps with longer locks but they are one in the same.
For a proud franchise that is trying to put bounty gate in the rear-view mirror and contend for another Super Bowl sooner rather than later, that is a good thing.
Like Williams did in his first season with the Saints in 2009, Ryan hopes to change the defensive culture in 2013, or at least restore the roar to a unit that played a pivotal role during the Super Bowl XLVI championship season.
Last season, the defense played like a cowardly lion under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, unlike in '09 when it played like king of the jungle under Williams. Obviously, extenuating circumstances (ya think?) came into play last season, beginning with the season-long absence of Coach Sean Payton.
That said, yielding 7,042 yards is still yielding 7,042 yards.
As Ryan addressed reporters during his initial media availability since taking the job in early February, my mind drifted back to Williams' first months on the job in the spring of '09 when his bandit defense ran around the practice field in hot pursuit of the football.
That controlled mayhem began in the off-season program and carried over into training camp and the regular season.
I sense something similar is germinating on defense this offseason. I see a fertile plot of land, and Ryan, with Payton's blessing, is sewing the seeds of all-out disruption this coming season.
With that in mind, here are snippets from Ryan's first Q&A. Like Williams, Ryan, son of Buddy and brother of Rex, is loquacious, highly quotable, very engaging, extremely complimentary of supervisors, coaching associates and players, a veritable quote machine.
Q: How is it working with Sean Payton?
Ryan: "It's awesome. I got lucky. I'm fortunate enough to be with a great program like the Saints led by Sean Payton. I haven't felt this way since I was in New England with Bill Belichick, so I'm working with the best and hope to be a small part of our success.''
Q: Can you explain how you haven't felt this way since you were with Belichick?
Ryan: "I just feel like there is a sense of urgency. I can't wait to give everything I have to this organization. I know everybody is on the same path. The big sign that used to be up there saying 'Do Your Job,' I have heard those words before and I plan on doing it. I have two Super Bowl rings; won one of them here in sweet (...) New Orleans. This is a great organization and this is where I want to be.''
Q: As far as the schematic change, how challenging is it for these guys to be playing for their third defensive coordinator in the last three years?
Ryan: "I'm not worried about the other ones (Williams in 2011, Spagnuolo in 2012), I'm just worried about me. Obviously, the biggest thing first of all is (in) coming to the Saints, we got a great head coach and an incredible general manager in Mickey Loomis. But the big thing for me is I have the best assistant coach in football already here this side of Dick LeBeau in Joe Vitt. ... I'm very fortunate to be in this situation. These players have been well coached, they are smart, they are just ready to win. I think we all have a chip on our shoulder from last season. You know I don't like getting fired ... I know I got my feelings hurt and so did our players, so we're looking to do something about it.''
Say what you will about Ryan, he is refreshingly candid which is why I sense he will be spoon fed to reporters, one small, closely monitored dose at a time. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's simply deja vu all over again.
Loose lips, indeed, sink ships, and Williams ended up walking the plank into the NFL's deep, blue sea.
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