New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton believes his defensive co-ordinator Rob Ryan has all the qualities required to become a head coach in his own right.
Payton returned to the Saints at the start of the season and one of his first moves was to install Ryan onto his coaching staff.
The move paid dividends immediately, with the Saints defense establishing themselves as the 4th best in the league during the regular season in terms of yards conceded-per-game. The previous year, the Saints had the 32nd best defence in the league.
While the Saints defense was able to largely frustrate the Seattle Seahawks in their divisional round showdown last Saturday, their efforts ultimately proved to be in vain as the Seahawks ground out a 23-15 win to end their opponents Superbowl dreams.
Now rumours are speculating that Ryan could be about to strike out on his own - and Payton believes that he wouldn't be out of his depth if he makes that decision.
“Obviously he’s a coach that I think is going to be a head coach,” he said after Saturday's loss.
“Obviously we made great improvements from a year ago. He brings an enthusiasm with him, a personality that is contagious. You know, he’s a great staff person as well, gets along with the coaches. ...
“Shoot, the first year, it was a very important hire for us, an important piece of what we’re trying to do. And he’s extremely passionate about the game.”
Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins echoed his head coach's thoughts.
When asked if Ryan could make it as a head coach, he responded: “I think so. Why not? I think what he has done with our defense is obviously monumental and is obviously big on his resume,” Jenkins said.
“He’s obviously a motivator of men, and that’s the first thing you need. But I’m not hiring, so that’s up to somebody else.”