With so many NFL head-coaching vacancies – and with so many candidates from which to choose – the Buffalo Bills could have gone in any number of directions following Doug Marrone’s abrupt departure in December.
The Bills could have gone with a young, up-and-coming coordinator such as Adam Gase; they could have gone with a seasoned veteran with a winning pedigree such as Mike Shanahan. Instead, they went with Rex Ryan, one of the most recognizable coaches in sports.
So, what makes Ryan, 52, such a great fit in Western New York?
“Buffalo is an unusual place,” former Patriot and Jet and current NESN analyst Matt Chatham said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They have a rabid fan base, they really support their team well, it’s kind of a cool place to go play – but it has sort of a collegiate feel. I think because Rex Ryan has had such a high profile for so long and he’s been so good at – maybe not necessarily the head-coaching part – but definitely providing attention for his team, playing great defense, really being proficient in at least one part of it. He brings a lot of credibility to Buffalo, which is not the highest profile place in the NFL. So I think from a recruiting standpoint as far as free agency, I think as far as just sort of reinvigorating the program – (he was their guy).”
Buffalo is a unique franchise – one that has been reeling, more or less, ever since losing four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s. The Bills haven’t won a playoff game since 1995, haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999 – the longest drought in the league – and have just one winning season since 2004.
That season came this year, when the Bills went 9-7.
“Doug Marrone did a great job, but that is a relatively obscure guy in NFL circles,” Chatham said. “He’s a great worker (and) smart coach, but it looks like this (move to bring in Ryan) is aiming for different things.”
Yes, Ryan brings a certain cache that many coaches do not. He’s a loud, outspoken coach who doesn’t shy away from attention. In fact, he seeks it out. That’s the way it seems, anyway.
Ryan, who signed a five-year contract that will pay him $5.5 million annually, was one of a dozen candidates the Bills interviewed. His time with the Jets was a bit of a mixed bag; he led the franchise to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons but struggled thereafter. His ended his six-year tenure with a 50-52 record, including 4-2 in the playoffs.
Still, the Bills believe Ryan’s defense-first, ground-and-pound philosophy will play well in cold-weather Buffalo. They also believe Ryan will give the franchise a face and an identity – things it hasn’t really had this century.
“You really brought in the high-profile guy, a guy who’s going to bring some juice to the situation and a guy that has had some success – although not a ton, but no one does – competing against Bill Belichick in this division,” Chatham said. “I think there was a lot of levels in which Rex was appealing.”