With the Browns at 1-10 and having lost six straight as they get ready for Sunday's game against the red-hot San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns Stadium, the rumors are swirling as to what will happen to this first-year coaching staff in the offseason.
But outspoken Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan isn't afraid for his job at all, and thinks that if owner Randy Lerner and the powers-to-be in the organization clean house and start over for the second straight year, it would be "a mistake."
"You have the leader you need in Eric (Mangini, head coach), and the coordinator you need in me," he said on Friday, meaning every word of it, during his weekly availability with the media. "You would have to hire two (darn) good coaches to find better guys than us."
Asked if he felt the pressure of the losing and was coaching scared, trying to do something dramatic in order to catch the attention of the decision-makers, he laughed.
"Scared, on a football field?" he said rhetorically. "Not on a football field. Maybe at home. My wife, Kristin, she's the boss and she gets me straightened around. But on the football field? No.
"There aren't any coaches out there who are going to do a better job than me. Well, maybe one, but he's retired (his father, former longtime coach Buddy Ryan).
"Maybe when I was a young, I would have been scared in a situation like this, but not now. I know I'm a great coach, and if I get fired here, then I'll go somewhere else and be a great coach. I know I can coach anywhere. But I want it to be here, with the Cleveland Browns.
"I don't feel any tension or pressure. We're all frustrated. We're sick of losing. We want to win. We're going to play well these last five games and then carry it over into next year.
"You guys, the beat writers, you know we'll do that. But for the guys on the outside looking in who don't know what they're doing, maybe they don't think so."
If Ryan can make this defense play well down the stretch, then indeed he ought not just be retained, but canonized. The defense was having its issues beforehand, but with the injury situation, it's made things much, much worse, potentially.
"I've been coaching in the NFL for 12 years, and I've never seen anything like this," Ryan said. "I've seen this many injuries before on s team, but never all on one side of the ball like it is here. From opening day to now, yup, we've had a few changes."
On Monday, the Browns put their best defensive player, nose tackle Shaun Rogers, onto the Injured Reserve List with an unspecified lower-leg problem. Safety Brodney Pool, who has four of the team's six interceptions, joined Rogers on Wednesday on IR with concussion problems.
Earlier this year, the Browns IR'd their tackle leaders at the time, inside linebackers D'Qwell Jackson and Eric Barton.
"We have some empty seats in the defensive meeting room, but our guys have a lot of heart and love to play," Ryan said. "This is the time of year when you have to get your roster ready to go, and we will be ready to go with who we've got. We'll be ready to do a great job against a great team."
It won't be easy. Led by their offense, the Chargers have won six straight and are 8-3.
"With all of these injuries, it would be tough enough if we were playing just a static offense, but we're playing (head coach) Norv Turner's offense," Ryan said. "We call it the circus because he likes to move so many people around."
Part of that offense is, of course, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who, though maybe near the end of his career, still can cause nightmares for a defense.
"The best player I've ever seen on a football field is L.T.," Ryan said. "He'll be a sure-fire Hall of Famer someday, and no one has done more than me in helping him get there (Ryan served the previous five seasons as defensive coordinator of the Chargers' AFC West rivals, the Oakland Raiders, who played San Diego 10 times).
"He's phenomenal. He still looks great."
Last Sunday in a 16-7 win, the Cincinnati Bengals rushed for 210 yards against the Browns.
"I know they ran the ball all over us, but I'd rather dwell on the fact that they got only 90 yards (actually 96) passing," Ryan said. "You've got to pick your poison sometimes. You design your game plan for who you're playing, and for us last Sunday, four-yard runs weren't a bad thing."
Throughout his press conference on Friday, as he does every week when he meets with the media, and as he does on the sideline when he's coaching during the games, the sizeable Ryan stepped back and hitched up his pants. As such, he seemed to be digging in his heels as if to say, "Go ahead, fire me, I dare you, but if you do, I won't go down without a fight. I won't make it an easy decision for you."
We'll see who blinks first, Rob Ryan or the Browns' deep thinkers.