ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Rob Ryan apparently will keep his job as the Oakland Raiders' defensive coordinator despite recent reports that he would be fired following a disappointing season.
Back to being bad
!**Rob Ryan was a hot assistant after Oakland's defense finished third in 2006. That may have been the exception, however, as the Raiders have struggled in his three other seasons:
Coach Lane Kiffin said Monday he would evaluate Ryan's status quickly. There were reports that Ryan would be fired, but team spokesman Mike Taylor said Friday that Ryan would return for a fifth season with the team.
"The recent conjecture regarding the removal of Rob Ryan is incorrect and the constant barrage of rumors is irresponsible," Taylor said. "The Raiders organization stated that the speculation that Rob Ryan will be relieved of his duties should stop."
Defense was expected to be a strength for Oakland this season. The Raiders (4-12) returned all 11 starters as well as some key reserves from the defense in 2006 that allowed the fewest yards passing and third fewest total yards in the league.
But the defense struggled and played a big part in the team's fifth straight double-digit loss season. Oakland allowed 36 points in a season-opening loss to Detroit, one of five times the Raiders were unable to hold onto a fourth quarter lead.
The problems were most evident against the run, where the Raiders allowed a league-worst 4.8 yards per carry and finished second-to-last by allowing 145.9 yards per game.
"My defensive coaches have done a great job," linebacker Kirk Morrison said. "My three years under three head coaches, they have been the mainstay of this football team. They kept us together."
The Raiders won just 15 games in Ryan's first four seasons here and were ranked in the top 20 in total defense just once in that time. Oakland allowed the fifth-most total yards in the NFL during Ryan's tenure.
Ryan interviewed for the Raiders' head coaching job after Art Shell was fired following last season. Kiffin got the job instead and kept Ryan on, giving him control of the defense.
Ryan is the son of famed defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. Ryan's twin brother, Rex, was Baltimore's defensive coordinator this past season.
Ryan is well-liked by his players and did a good job developing some of the young stars on Oakland's defense, such as Morrison, linebacker Thomas Howard and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
There will be changes this offseason with defensive personnel. Defensive tackle Warren Sapp announced his retirement Thursday, strong safety Michael Huff could shift to free safety, and Asomugha and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly are eligible to be unrestricted free agents.
Kiffin said Asomugha will be back, whether it's with a long-term contract or with the franchise tag.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press