The Bills have officially made Rex Ryan their new head coach, the team announced today in a press release. Ryan, who was expected to be a finalist for the Falcons’ head coaching position and who was rumored to have serious interest in the 49ers’ job as well, will remain in the AFC East, having coached the Jets from 2009 to his firing at the end of the 2014 campaign.
“Following an extensive search, we are pleased today to announce that Rex Ryan is our new head coach. Rex brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the position that we feel will be a tremendous benefit to our players and the entire Bills organization,” Bills owner Terry Pegula said in a statement. “He was very impressive during the interview process, as were many of the candidates to which we spoke, and we feel Rex is the best fit for our team. We look forward to his leadership and expertise in directing our team to the playoffs and bringing a championship to Buffalo for our fans.”
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweets that Ryan’s contract with Buffalo will be a five-year pact worth $27.5MM. Mehta adds (Twitter links) that Ryan’s top choice was the Atlanta position, but the Falcons never scheduled a second interview with him, and Ryan never felt that GM Thomas Dimitroff was “in his corner.” The Bills, meanwhile, made Ryan “feel wanted,” according to another tweet from Mehta.
According to Metha (via Twitter), Ryan wants to bring the majority of his Jets defensive staff with him, including defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. That list also includes defensive line coach Karl Dunbar and defensive backs coach Tim McDonald, tweets Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com. However, Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News tweets that the Bills have “every intention” of retaining last year’s defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, and ESPN’s Adam Caplan tweets that Ryan has already asked Schwartz to stay on as defensive coordinator.
Ryan, always praised as a master defensive mind, will have a number of talented defensive players to work with in Buffalo, (although, as John Kryk of The Toronto Sun tweets, 2015 will mark the fifth straight year in which the Bills have alternated between a base 4-3 and a base 3-4 defense, assuming Ryan deploys his favored 3-4 scheme, and it has been a while since Schwartz last coached a 3-4 unit). The offensive side of the ball, on the other hand, was frequently the bane of Ryan’s existence in New York, and the Jets’ general lack of offensive success under Ryan played a significant role in his firing. Ryan plans to bring Jets quarterbacks coach David Lee with him to Buffalo, according to a tweet from Mehta, and Schefter tweets that 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman is the most likely candidate to fill the same position with the Bills.
Struggles at the quarterback position, which persisted throughout Ryan’s tenure with the Jets, were ultimately too much to overcome. Although Ryan’s club advanced to the AFC Championship game in each of his first two seasons in New York, former first-round selection Mark Sanchez never blossomed into the franchise quarterback that the Jets had hoped, and 2013 second-round pick Geno Smith fared no better, as the Jets failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight year in 2014 and Ryan concluded his Jets career with a 50-52 overall record.. It seems, therefore, that Ryan will be facing many of the same challenges in his new job as he did in his last one, even with the potential addition of Roman to his coaching staff: a strong defense but a major question mark under center, where E.J. Manuel has done little to prove that he is worthy of the 16th-overall pick that the Bills used on him in 2013.
Nonetheless, Ryan does bring a reputation as a player’s coach who can consistently generate maximum effort from his personnel. Although everyone on the Jets knew that Ryan was going to be fired shortly after the team’s final contest of the 2014 season, the team played perhaps its best game of the year in Week 17, beating division rival Miami 37-24 and giving Ryan a Gatorade shower when the victory was secured.
In addition to an attitude and bravado that the Bills have rarely seen on their sidelines, Ryan also brings an obvious familiarity with the AFC East. Before his first season in New York, Ryan famously stated that he was not brought in to kiss Patriots head coach Bill Belichick‘s rings, and now he will have another opportunity to best Belichick several times a season. If he can overcome the quarterback hurdle that plagued him with the Jets – a big “if” to be sure – he might just be able to do it.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported (via Twitter) that Ryan and the Bills were finalizing an agreement.