Rob Ryan The pain of a 28-18 season-ending loss and a very average 8-8 season still a fresh wound, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said three days after the disappointment in Washington that things were going to get "very uncomfortable" at Valley Ranch over the next few weeks.

The news Monday of the firing of running backs coach Skip Peete stunned nobody and hardly registered on the "uncomfortable" Richter scale.

Tuesday's sudden firing of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan on the other hand?

It's a start. 

And a good move. For all of Ryan's chest-puffing and camera time, he failed to live up to expectations during his two years in Dallas. 

"I've been an assistant coach of the year in pro football and in college football, so apparently I'm pretty good," Ryan told The New York Times in 2001 days before the Cowboys season opener that year against Rob's twin brother Rex and the New York Jets. "No one else believes it, but they will after this game."

"This game" ended with a 27-24 loss that most remember for another fourth quarter blunder by quarterback Tony Romo, who tossed a pick to Darrelle Revis with the score tied in the final minutes. But Rob Ryan's defense also surrendered 335 yards passing and two touchdowns to Mark Sanchez.

Yes, Mark Sanchez. Soon-to-be-former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

The 2011 defense ranked in the middle of the NFL pack in most defensive categories; its weakness being the secondary, which ranked 23rd in passing yards given up and 26th in first downs given up by passing. 

Hardly "pretty good."

The Cowboys addressed the secondary needs big in 2012 with the free agent signing of cornerback Brandon Carr and by moving up in the Draft to take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne sixth overall. 

The secondary improved statistically, but Ryan's defense took a step back in 2012, ranking 24th in points allowed, 19th in total yards allowed and 25th in net yards allowed per pass attempt. It also ranked dead last in the league in interceptions (7) and 22nd in rushing yards allowed.

Certainly, injuries were a factor. Dallas lost two potential All-Pros in Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. He lost Pro Bowler Jay Ratliff at nose tackle and had to go three-deep when Josh Brent's season ended with a car accident that killed practice team linebacker Jerry Brown. Barry Church and Orlando Scandrick. Kenyon Coleman.

Ryan made due with used car salesmen and guys looking for a job in the final weeks, and two bombs against the Redskins on Thanksgiving day and Saints before Christmas aside, did a commendable job.

And Ryan's two-year track record in Dallas might have been enough to earn a third year if Dallas wasn't entering 2013 with "change" in mind.

Jerry Jones (the GM) isn't going anywhere. Head coach Jason Garrett isn't going anywhere (he deserves a third year). You're not going to toss Tony Romo aside for a rookie or free agent. Aside from Doug Free, Ratliff and perhaps Miles Austin and Anthony Spencer, all the big names are expected to and should return to the Cowboys in 2013.

Dallas won't break from this 8-8 rut with all the same pieces in place. Bring in a Lovie Smith to re-implement the 4-3, or look Romeo Crennel's way if you want to stick with the 3-4. Or go to the college level and grab Alabama's Kevin Steele or LSU's John Chavis (you seen this guy?). 

The talent's there on defense. A little change can only help this underachieving bunch.