Before those pesky Harbaughs stole their thunder, Rex and Rob Ryan were the most recognizable set of coaching brothers in the National Football League.
Rex is entering his fourth season as head coach of the New York Jets, while this is Rob's second year coordinating the Dallas Cowboys' defense. The Jets and Cowboys both failed to earn a playoff berth last season and Buddy Ryan's sons will be facing an incredible amount of pressure to help their respective teams avoid that same fate in 2012.
One interesting subplot: Rob Ryan has never led a defense that has bested his twin's unit over the past eights seasons, as the table on the right shows.
I reached out to 15 different NFL executives or scouts to get their opinion on which brother would be orchestrating the better defense in 2012. Here is what each of them had to say:
3. NFC Executive:"Rex is a better coach than his brother. The Jets play in a division without an explosive offense. Even New England isn't explosive. They use a short, intermediate-style passing game. The Jets' ball-control offense will shorten games and limit the amount of points and yards their defense allows." Pick: Jets
Rapoport: Fixing Dallas' defense
12. NFC Scout: "Dallas has more defensive players that scare you as an opponent. Their linebackers are much better." Pick: Cowboys
•Rob Ryan's Dallas defense: 12 votes.
I didn't expect such a landslide result in favor of Rob Ryan and the Cowboys' defense. The offseason additions of cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Claiborne have convinced the overwhelming majority of these executives and scouts that the Cowboys' defense will be greatly improved in 2012. The Jets supporters are basing their decision more on coaching and divisional opponents than the actual personnel on the field.
In my opinion, I believe these are both top-10 defenses in 2012. The Cowboys have the better defensive line and linebacker unit, but I give the Jets' cornerback duo the edge over the Cowboys' new additions. The safety position is a major concern for both teams. I would give the slight overall edge to the Cowboys because of their ability to get after the quarterback. As I wrote the other day, rushing the passer has become the key element in championship defense.
This might be the season Rob finally earns bragging rights over his brother.