Cash in the Bills: Rex Ryan is off to Buffalo
By PAT RALPH
College Contributor Network
Rex Ryan has been a head coach in New York for the last six seasons. Well, technically East Rutherford, New Jersey but you get my point. In his six seasons as head coach of the New York Jets, Ryan posted a 46-50 overall record with two playoff appearances which resulted in back-to-back AFC Championship losses in his first two seasons.
However, after four straight seasons without a playoff appearance and a disappointing 4-12 record this past season, the Jets needed a change in culture and relieved Ryan of his duties. Ryan definitely deserved some of the blame for the Jets' struggles, but a lack of quality talent on the roster is the real reason for the Jets' disappointments. But as the old adage goes, you can fire a coach not a whole team. Luckily for the Jets and their fans, Ryan will not be leaving the state of New York. Heck, he won't even be leaving the AFC East!
This past weekend, Ryan and the Buffalo Bills agreed to a five-year deal worth a little over $5 million annually to replace Doug Marrone as head coach after Marrone opted out of his contract. The move by Marrone to opt out was seen as a surprise, as the Bills finished in second place in the AFC East at 9-7 and missed the playoffs by a single game. Well, the Bills were the last job to open up and the first opening to go off the market with several head coaching jobs still open. On the surface, Ryan is a good hire to help the Bills "circle the wagons" once again.
It was believed by many that Ryan would take the Atlanta Falcons' head coaching job, but a lack of commitment on the Falcons part pushed Ryan away from the warm weather and high-octane offense of Atlanta to the cold weather of Buffalo.
There could be several reasons as to why Ryan chose the Bills, along with the fact that Buffalo had an early interest in hiring him. First and foremost, the Bills already have one of the best defenses in the NFL led by Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams and his 14.5 sacks which ranked in the top five in the league this past season. Ryan is a defensive coach by nature and will only strengthen Buffalo's stout pass and rush defense. Secondly, Ryan has coached against the Bills 12 times and knows their identity. Having succeeded in the AFC East, the goal for Ryan in Buffalo is the same one he had when he began in to New York -- to make it to the postseason. Not to mention, it wouldn't be the least surprising if Ryan took the Buffalo job to get back at the Jets just a little bit.
However, the job will not be all sunshine and rainbows for Ryan. The Bills have one the weakest offenses in the NFL, not to mention an unclear solution at the quarterback position. Furthermore, the Bills were one of the most penalized teams in the league this past season. Ryan's Jets' teams were never an offensive powerhouse and, most notably, faced quarterback controversies for the better part of his time as head coach. Whether it was Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Michael Vick, or Tim Tebow, there was plenty of drama at MetLife Stadium with the Jets' quarterback situation during Ryan's tenure.
Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel, who was drafted with the 16th pick of the 2013 NFL Draft by Buffalo, was replaced by veteran Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback after four games this season. Orton recently announced his retirement, which leaves the Bills with an extremely important decision over its future quarterback.
Fortunately for Ryan, former San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator Greg Roman plans to join Ryan's staff in the same position. Roman had a lot of success in San Francisco, helping transform quarterback Colin Kaepernick into a starting quarterback and lead the 49ers to three straight NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl XLVII appearance. With Roman running the offense, the Bills should be able to improve offensively in 2015 by establishing a strong run game first and foremost.
The primary job for Ryan and his coaching staff on day one will be to determine if Manuel is the man for the starting quarterback position. If not, finding a franchise quarterback should be the Bills' primary goal in free agency or this May's draft. Having a solid, dependable starting quarterback will be key if the Bills wish to contend in both the division and the conference.
A well-liked head coach in New York, Ryan will get to face the Jets twice a year now. He will also still get to face off against Bill Belichick and the AFC East-alpha dog New England Patriots, a team he despises more than anyone else. If you thought Rex Ryan was done, think again. Rex is going nowhere folks. As Jets' players and fans can attest to, Buffalo will come to like Rex too. Hopefully for the Bills, Ryan will bring back the glory days of the early 1990's when, under head coach Marv Levy, Buffalo went to four straight Super Bowls. Without question, Ryan could make the Bills one of the most intriguing teams in the NFL.
Pat Ralph is a junior at Villanova University. He has a passion for Philadelphia sports, especially the Phillies and Eagles, as well as Villanova Basketball and the New York Knicks. Follow him on Twitter @Pat_Ralph