NFL Handicapping: Rex Ryan to Coach the Buffalo Bills
by Trevor Whenham - 1/12/2015
The coaching carousel in the NFL has been an odd one. It seemed for a while like the Bills would be the last ones to hire a new coach. With a new owner they seemed content to sit back and learn as much as they could about their team and their needs before they made a decision. It also seemed like it could be a tough sell to bring in a coach given the chaos of the Marrone departure, the lack of a QB, and the fact that the team still plays in Buffalo.
Yet, here we are - the Bills are not only the first team to fill their coaching vacancy, but they do it by nabbing an in-demand guy who seemed destined for elsewhere - likely Atlanta. It's going to be odd to see Rex Ryan on the sideline in Buffalo, but it's somehow fitting that he will still be in the AFC East.
So, what can we expect from this first coaching change - and certainly not the least surprising move we will see this winter in the NFL coaching ranks? Here are six factors to consider when looking at what to expect from Buffalo going forward - and perhaps when deciding how to bet them on the futures market for next season and beyond:
Needed a change of scenery badly: I have been very down on Ryan and the Jets for at least the last two years. That isn't a reflection on Ryan and his coaching ability, though - the guy can flat out coach. There is a time limit for guys in a lot of markets, though, and that goes double for one as visible and volatile as New York can be. He had reached his expiration date in New York - just as John Fox apparently did in Denver as I write this. In fact, Ryan reached that point a year or two ago, but his ego and the team's stubbornness meant that that wasn't recognized - or acted on at least - soon enough. When judging Ryan as a coach it would be inaccurate to look at what happened this year. Look back a few years and judge him on that - like when he took the team to the AFC Championship Game in 2009 and 2010, for example.
He knows the division: Ryan has been coaching in the AFC East since 2008. It's not really the toughest division to know - the Patriots are consistently excellent, and the rest consistently aren't - but Ryan knows it from a coaching perspective as well as anyone not named Belichick. The impact of familiarity might not be huge, but with two of four teams in the division staying the course from last year, it matters.
Buffalo is going to love him: I honestly didn't think that there was any chance that Ryan would end up in Buffalo, but it's a good fit in terms of personality. Buffalo fans are loyal and passionate, and they are really going to get along well with Ryan - at least initially. After the countless disappointments the team has faced in recent years, and the ridiculous drama of this offseason, the twin joys of stable ownership and a flamboyant and competent coach should have crowd enthusiasm at a real high heading into the season.
Has a lot to work with on defense: This is a defensively sound team - good pieces to work with and good production. They have been well coached by Jim Schwartz, and indications are that Schwartz could be staying in the job under Ryan. That would be a very good move - though it might not yet happen because Schwartz interviewed for the head job, and his ego might not let him stick around. As long as Ryan doesn't decide he wants to coach with his twin brother then you can count the defense as a big asset next year for the coach - and Ryan has a track record of defensive success.
QB is a major issue: There is no way to sugar-coat this one - the quarterback situation is bleak for this team. Kyle Orton has retired. E.J. Manuel isn't good at football. The draft is far from deep in good solutions - and the team doesn't have a first-round pick anyway. Free agency isn't inspiring this year. Ryan is not going to, barring a miracle, head into this season with even a remotely good situation at the most important position on the field. Over the last couple of years he has shown us that he is not one of those coaches who can rise above QB issues and find ways to succeed anyway. This is a major cause for concern.
Greg Roman is a major asset: Ryan wasted no time securing his new offensive coordinator - Greg Roman will be coming over from the 49ers. The two worked together for a couple of years in Baltimore, so there is some familiarity here. Roman got some criticism in San Francisco for his play calling, but his love of the run will mesh well with Ryan's preferences. He also got a lot out of Colin Kaepernick - especially early in their relationship - so he could find something to salvage in Manuel or someone else. It's easier to feel positive about Ryan early on when he has made such a solid hire in a key position.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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