As far as I can remember never has there been an assistant coach that was as beloved by both his players and fans as Rex Ryan. In a sport where many coaches are more like drill sergeants than coaches Rex was a breath of fresh air. He preached that his players have fun not only during the game but on the practice field. Rex was a coach that not only listened to his players input but he demanded it. While Rex was a fun guy who enjoyed himself on the sidelines and behind the microphone, his defensive schemes were the exact opposite. Rex implemented an attacking style of defense that was constantly bringing heat from anywhere on the field. His exotic defensive alignments gave opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks nightmares as neither never knew where the blitz was coming from.
With Rex’s well deserved promotion to head coach of the New York Jets in the off-season, the Ravens were left wondering who would take the reigns from such a dearly loved coordinator. After announcing they would be promoting from within the Ravens named Greg Mattison the franchises fourth defensive coordinator on January 26th. Mattison joins an elite list as the Ravens three previous defensive coordinators all left the team to take head coaching positions; Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati), Mike Nolan (San Francisco), and Rex Ryan (N.Y. Jets).
Mattison was the Ravens linebackers coach in 2008 his first season as an NFL coach. At 59 years old Mattison has 37 seasons of coaching experience on the college level.
Mattison was known for his fast, attacking defense as defensive coordinator of the Florida Gators from 2005-2007. At Florida his teams were aggressive regularly leading the SEC in sacks and turnovers; something fans in Baltimore have come to expect from their defense. While his Florida teams excelled in these flashy areas; Mattison’s calling card at Florida was their run defense. Under his tutelage Florida’s run defense never finished lower then tenth national.
Mattison was also the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame from 1997-2004. During his eight seasons at South Bend the Fighting Irish were regularly in the top ten in the nation on defense.
Mattison came to Baltimore with strong ties to Head Coach John Harbaugh. Mattison was the defensive coordinator at Western Michigan coaching under John’s dad Jack Harbaugh from 1981-1986. Mattison also coached with John when he was a graduate assistant and assistant coach at Western Michigan.
Mattison’s credentials and experience as a defensive coach are undeniable; I just wonder how players will adapt to his coaching style. Many players fought for Rex Ryan to become Head Coach after the firing of Brian Billick, showing the love and admiration they had for Rex. I am also interested to see how Mattison deals with big personalities such as Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs.
I think in the end Rex Ryan was a wonderful defensive mind who really brought a lot of inventiveness to the Ravens; but the core players are still in the purple and black. And if Mattison can gain the respect of the locker room he should be able to maximize the amazing amount of talent he has to work with.