So, Rex Ryan is apparently the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
Not my first choice, really; but then, I didn’t really have a first choice. I don’t hate the hire, but I’ve never been a big fan of Ryan’s. He strikes me as a media-savvy guy who uses a “larger-than-life” outward persona as a way of creating more of a sense of being a great coach than is really warranted by his record (which, after exiting the New York Jets after six years with playoff appearances in his first two, is still a losing one). Somehow Ryan is a “big name” despite a relatively unimpressive roster of actual accomplishment, so we’ll see how he does in Buffalo, where the media spotlight won’t be nearly as intense, and where he’ll mainly have a single group of annoying sportwriters to irritate when things aren’t going all that well.
I don’t have too many thoughts on how he’ll perform as head coach, really. He’s a “defensive mind”, but that doesn’t really mean much. Bill Belichick is a defensive mind, but his success in New England has been mainly by virtue of his offense. Likewise, Brian Bilick was regarded as an offensive genius when he took over the Baltimore Ravens way back when, and proceeded to win the Super Bowl with one of the NFL’s greatest defenses ever. If Ryan can bring in offensive coaches who can make head-or-tails of a currently crappy (but potentially talented) offensive line, and somehow figure out the going-on-two-decades-of-crappy quarterback situation, then great.
I am mildly biased against Ryan because I never liked his father Buddy, but that’s obviously unfair, isn’t it? Mainly I never really got why everyone was so impressed with him in New York, especially as the afterglow of those first two playoff seasons receded into memory (with the first of those appearances coming simply by virtue of the Colts simply playing dead on the last day of the season, with the top seed already locked up). I do think that Ryan is a likely upgrade over the freshly-departed Doug Marrone, who appeared less and less into things as time went on here.
Ryan inherits a team with a very good defense, most of which should return intact (as well as getting back a very good linebacker in Kiko Alonso), as well as an offense which, while crappy this year, isn’t totally without talent (part of the line, and the receivers). Quarterback is a big issue, but maybe the jury really is still out on EJ Manuel, and they can always bring in a veteran backup or challenger to the starting job. Despite local handwringing by Buffalo News sportswriters, the trade in last year’s draft for Sammy Watkins, which left the Bills with no 1st-round pick in the upcoming 2015 draft, was hardly the equivalent of the infamous Herschel Walker or RGIII deals that left their respective receiving teams with no 1st-rounders for multiple years. The Bills should be able to get back to the quarterback drawing board sooner rather than later, if they determine that’s needed.
In any event, it seems to me that with the roster he’s inheriting, coming off a 9-7 record that should have been even better, it’s not unreasonable to expect Ryan to get the Bills into the playoffs within two years (assuming that they don’t end up 11-5 in one of those weird years where an 11-5 team is left in the cold, which does happen now and again).
So let’s see what you got, Rex. Impress us. It’s not like the bar for being impressive is all that high around here, after fifteen consecutive non-playoff seasons and only two winning records since 1999….