Rex Ryan

Latest On 2018 Spring League

The 2018 Spring League is scheduled to get underway next week, with practices starting next Wednesday and games beginning on April 7. Former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel is the most high-profile former NFL player involved in the endeavor, but other NFL notables are also participating, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

Running backs Ben Tate and Lorenzo Taliaferro, receiver Stephen Hill, defensive lineman Alameda Ta’amu, and defensive back Al Louis-Jean are among the ex-NFLers who will take part in the Spring League, per Florio. Meanwhile, former NFL defensive backs coach/Rex Ryan disciple Donnie Henderson will lead the league’s East team.

The Spring League is a developmental effort comprised of four teams which involves four games in April. The league began in 2017, and notable ex-NFLers such as Greg HardyKellen Winslow, and Ahmad Bradshaw were among the participants.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Notes: Watson, Wilkerson, Sanchez

Did the Jets make a franchise-altering mistake by not taking quarterback Deshaun Watson? Some within the organization believe that’s the case, particularly those who lobbied hard for him during the draft, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes. Mehta hears that some Jets officials were willing to trade a 2018 first-round pick plus Muhammad Wilkerson to move back into the first round to select Watson.

One can’t help but wonder whether the inclusion of Wilkerson in a trade offer would have helped the Jets’ chances. Wilkerson was once one of the league’s best values on the defensive line, but that went out of the window when he signed a five-year, $86MM extension before the start of last season and regressed sharply in 2016. Jets fans can dream about a scenario in which a future first-round pick, Wilkerson, and perhaps other draft considerations would have been enough to sway the Browns or Saints, but it’s hard to totally buy into that idea.

Here’s more on Gang Green:

  • After the Bills managed to unload Marcell Dareus, Rich Cimini of wonders aloud if the Jets could move Wilkerson before Tuesday’s trade deadline. He rightly concludes that a trade is highly unlikely. Aside from his onerous contract, Wilkerson’s production has still not returned to 2015 levels and he is dealing with multiple nagging injuries.
  • Recently, former Jets coach Rex Ryan said that he never saw Mark Sanchez as a “franchise quarterback,” but felt that he was good enough to “win with.” Those comments stand in stark contrast with what he wrote in his 2011 book, as Mike Florio of PFT notes. Ryan wrote that Sanchez was going to be “extraordinary in the NFL” and explained the thought process behind trading up to the No. 5 pick in the draft to get him. Ryan, it seems, is looking to rewrite history a little bit. This all may be part of an effort to to work his way back towards becoming an NFL head coach, but that seems unlikely at the moment.

AFC East Notes: Bills, Ryan, Jets, McCown

The Bills parted ways with Rex Ryan last December in part because of the coach’s declaration that the season was over when the playoffs were still in reach, Albert Breer of The MMQB writes. Ryan was believed to be on the hot seat in Buffalo, but that incident apparently sealed his fate. Months later, the Bills have a new head coach in Sean McDermott and Ryan has a new job as an analyst for ESPN.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • New Jets quarterback Josh McCown said his understanding is “it’s full competition between the three” QBs currently on the roster, meaning that he’ll duke it out with Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty for the main gig (Twitter link via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY). McCown, 38 in July, has $6MM fully guaranteed on his Jets deal. The Cowboys also wanted him, but they didn’t offer nearly as much.
  • Jets owner Woody Johnson says he will judge his team based on development this season rather than wins and losses, as USA Today’s Andy Vasquez writes. “Really, the way I want to be judged, hopefully from the fans’ standpoint, is just watch how we improve during the year,” Johnson said Tuesday on ESPN Radio. “Look at each individual on the team and if they’re getting better, that’s a mark of progress. That’s what we’re looking for.” That could be good news for coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan since the Jets’ roster is among the worst in the league.
  • Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler didn’t get the long-term deal that he wanted, but he reported to the team’s voluntary workouts this week.
  • Dolphins running back Damien Williams wants a raise, but he doesn’t have much leverage.

Fallout From Bills’ Front Office Shakeup

The Bills deciding to trade out of their No. 10 slot, when the Chiefs surrendered their 2018 first-rounder to headline a package that netted them Patrick Mahomes, indicated Doug Whaley was not going to be around much longer, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. Buffalo moving down 17 spots — a move the Bills were believed to be pushing for prior to the draft — signaled a long-term plan more than one designed to help an embattled GM’s team win now. (However, Chiefs GM John Dorsey told B.J. Kissel of — Twitter link — Whaley was involved in talks that originated early this week.)

Albert Breer of notes the Bills’ chaotic front office situation goes back to 2014, when Terry and Kim Pegula took over and were surprised when Doug Marrone exercised an opt-out option that garnered him $4MM and left the Bills without a coach despite having completed a rare over-.500 season in 2014. The current Jaguars HC’s 9-7 campaign, aided the Patriots resting starters in Week 17 of that season, represents the most the Bills wins since 2004.

La Canfora notes Whaley has not gotten along especially well with any of his coaches, describing less-than-ideal relationships with both Marrone and Rex Ryan, and the one with Sean McDermott did not take off. Bill Polian declined to join the Bills in January of 2015, and La Canfora notes that decision kept Whaley in charge and helped lead to Marrone bolting on his contract.

Now running the show in Buffalo, McDermott was not happy the Patriots plucked Stephon Gilmore in free agency, La Canfora writes. The RFA decisions on Chris Hogan and Mike Gillislee did not help, either. The CBS-based reporter notes some of Pegula’s confidants advised him to fire Whaley years ago. The Bills signed Whaley to an extension last year, however.

A source categorized the Bills’ draft room this weekend as “one of the weirdest three days,” per Breer, due to the fact a leadership component wasn’t entirely present. McDermott, though, was the one who was providing the final say, Breer reports. The first-year HC was given autonomy to remove prospects from the draft board as well. Pegula said today Whaley put together the draft and the organization decided to fire him after the three-day event, Mike Rodak of relays.

Scouts were upset with Ryan’s program last year, Breer notes, adding that Bills coaches felt some of Whaley’s draft decisions — be it the trade-up for Sammy Watkins or selection of injury-risk Shaq Lawson — didn’t fit the schemes they were using. As for Watkins, it’s possible the Bills made his injury situation worse. Breer reports that the wideout’s foot injury was too severe for him to complete walkthroughs, but no one put a stop to his comeback attempt, and the pain worsened as he pushed through it to lead to a two-month shutdown. Watkins returned for the final six games but only cleared 80 receiving yards twice, albeit on a run-centric team. Already rumored to be set to decline Watkins’ fifth-year option, the Bills are probably more likely to go in that direction now that Whaley is gone, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap tweets.

Further complicating things with McDermott: Anthony Lynn was Whaley’s first HC choice, according to Breer, and ownership went with the former Panthers DC — with whom Whaley did not have much of a relationship — while letting Lynn proceed to the Chargers’ job. Tyrod Taylor‘s return on an adjusted deal also went against Whaley’s wishes and was more in line with new OC Rick Dennison‘s. The latter was the Broncos’ OC when the team pursued Taylor in 2015.

As far as the selection of the next GM, the Pegulas might not lean on team president Russ Brandon too much, with Terry Pegula saying today the owners would ask Brandon questions if they believed they need to (Twitter link via Breer). Former Eagles president and Browns CEO Joe Banner understandably expects the new GM to be someone with close ties to McDermott, the longtime exec told Sirius XM Radio (Twitter link). Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane could well become a candidate.

Rex Ryan Signs Deal With ESPN

Rex Ryan says he still has interest in coaching, but he won’t be on the sidelines in 2017. The former Jets and Bills head coach has signed a multi-year deal to be on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Rex Ryan (vertical)

Ryan first auditioned for the gig when he served as a guest analyst on Super Bowl Sunday. As one of the most colorful personalities in the game, he was a natural fit for the job. In January, even as Ryan said that he still had an itch to coach, he admitted that he had interest in a broadcasting career.

The one thing about (being on TV) is that you don’t lose,” Ryan said. “You’ll remember every damn loss. But the wins? You don’t necessarily remember. So, it takes a lot out of you. I’m tired of getting f—ked. Unless it’s a real situation, there’s no sense of getting into it again.

In that January interview, Ryan said he is interested “at all” in a defensive coordinator job “at this time.” Of course, after washing out in Buffalo, he wasn’t a viable candidate for any NFL head coaching position. Interestingly, he did not rule out returning to the Jets someday in some capacity.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rex Ryan Remains Interested In Coaching

When Rex Ryan was hired as the coach of the Bills, he said that Buffalo would be his final stop as a head coach. Two years later, he’s out of a job, but he’s not necessarily ruling out a return to a head coaching gig if he gets the right opportunity, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes. Rex Ryan (vertical)

The one thing about (being on TV) is that you don’t lose,” Ryan said. “You’ll remember every damn loss. But the wins? You don’t necessarily remember. So, it takes a lot out of you. I’m tired of getting f—ked. Unless it’s a real situation, there’s no sense of getting into it again.

After being discarded by Buffalo, Ryan appears to be a better defensive coordinator candidate than a head coaching possibility. Despite that, Ryan says he is not interested “at all” in a DC job “at this time.”

Interestingly, Ryan says that he would not close the door on someday returning to the Jets in some capacity. Coach Todd Bowles has been retained for a third season, but as Mehta notes, there’s no telling what Woody Johnson could do in 2017 if things do not go according to plan.

In the meantime, Ryan says he’ll do some television work. His next assignment will have him serving as a panelist on ESPN for Super Bowl weekend.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Browns, Bills, Shanahan, Rex

The Browns’ firing of defensive coordinator Ray Horton is not yet official, but the team is leaning toward making a change, Ian Rapoport of was among those to report (Twitter link). Should Horton get the ax, Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams would be in prime position to succeed him in Cleveland. The Browns have given Williams until Monday to accept the job, according to Sporting News’ Alex Marvez (Twitter link).

More coaching-related info:

  • The Bills have requested an interview with Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard, per Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. Panthers D-coordinator Sean McDermott‘s Wednesday meeting with the Bills went very well, notes Garafolo (Twitter links).
  • Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan‘s head coaching interviews with the Jaguars and 49ers took place Friday, tweets Jason Cole of Bleacher Report. Shanahan will meet Saturday with the Broncos, relays Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post (Twitter link). The 37-year-old reportedly prefers the Broncos’ job to the other openings around the league.
  • The Redskins, in search of a defensive coordinator, have received the Panthers’ permission to interview assistant head coach/defensive backs coach Steve Wilks, writes Mike Jones of the Washington Post. Rapoport connected Wilks to the Redskins on Thursday, noting the coach’s relationship with ex-Panthers and now-Redskins cornerback Josh Norman.
  • Unsurprisingly, Rex Ryan won’t work anywhere as an assistant next season, reports Chick Hernandez of CSN Washington (Twitter link). The two-time head coach will wait for a third opportunity to come along in 2018; in the meantime, he’s likely to take a job as a television analyst.
  • Check out PFR’s Head Coaching Search Tracker to keep up with all the latest interviews.

Bills Rumors: Woods, Whaley, Ryan, Watkins

While speaking to reporters, Bills wide receiver Robert Woods heavily indicated that he will be testing the open market this spring, Joe Buscaglia of WKBW tweets. Woods has been a solid WR2 for Buffalo and he has had some monster games in instances where Sammy Watkins was unable to go or was playing at half strength. Coming off of a career-high 67.1% catch percentage, Woods should draw plenty of attention in March. It also helps that the USC product does not turn 25 until April.

Here’s more out of Buffalo:

  • During Monday’s disastrous press conference, Bills GM Doug Whaley says he is “open to anything” regarding the team’s coaching search, including giving up control of the 53-man roster, Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News tweets. That contradicts reports from the last week which have indicated that Whaley is not interested in hiring any coach who would want to have authority over roster construction. Whaley also said that he was “not privy to the conversation” in which Rex Ryan‘s fate was decided. If Whaley is to be believed, that means he was not involved in dismissing the last coach, yet he is in charge of hiring the next coach. All in all, the presser from yesterday left many questioning the power structure and chain of command in Buffalo.
  • Watkins will have another foot surgery this week, Tim Graham of The Buffalo News tweets. We don’t have much in the way of details, but there is no indication that the surgery will cost Watkins time in 2017.
  • Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander says his agent has had preliminary discussions with the Bills about a new deal, Sal Capaccio of MSG tweets. Alexander joined Buffalo last year on a one-year deal worth $885K with just $75K guaranteed. Initially viewed as a special teams signing, Alexander had a career year in 2016, totaling 64 tackles and 12.5 sacks.

Extra Points: Revis, Jets, Bills, Vikes, Panthers

Cornerback Darrelle Revis wants to retire a Jet, he told Brian Costello of the New York Post, but it’s possible the team will release the declining defender in the offseason. Regarding that notion, the 10th-year man offered, “My thing would be this: Do the New York Jets want to treat my situation with class or no class? With me being one of the best players in the history of this franchise, do they want me to retire here or not retire here?”

Revis sees himself as “one of the best cornerbacks to ever play this game,” but he realizes he’s “losing a step.” Thus, the soon-to-be 32-year-old is seemingly open to taking a pay cut to remain with the Jets. “You have to understand what the next step is, what the next chapter is for you, and I understand that,” he said. “You feel where you’re at in your career, you talk to the guys upstairs and see what’s going to best help me and best help the team moving forward.”

Revis is set to rake in a $13MM salary and count upward of $15.333MM against the cap next season, and the Jets surely view those as unpalatable figures. If the two sides do renegotiate Revis’ contract prior to next season, he’ll represent himself.

More from around the NFL:

  • Even if Teddy Bridgewater recovers from his disastrous knee injury by next season, the Vikings will begin 2017 with Sam Bradford as their starting quarterback, report Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter of ESPN. Not only has Bradford fared well this year, but he’ll account for a $17MM cap hit against Bridgewater’s relatively meager $2.18MM charge next season. Both signal-callers are scheduled to become free agents in March 2018.
  • Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins opined Thursday that the team needs to “change the culture” in the wake of Rex Ryan‘s firing. Another high-profile Bill, running back LeSean McCoy, shared a similar sentiment Friday. “I think the discipline has been an issue,” McCoy told reporters, including Mike Rodak of “Players just [need to take] accountability for their own actions. … I just think as players, as professionals, we need to step up and play accountable. That’s the biggest issue.” McCoy added that “the coaches have to be hard on us” and “yell at us,” and revealed that players often had difficulty understanding their on-field assignments under Ryan. Similarly, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said Tuesday that Ryan’s scheme may have been too complicated. It’s worth noting, of course, that Watkins, McCoy and Dareus are likely the Bills’ three best players.
  • Panthers offensive lineman Trai Turner expressed confidence Thursday that left tackle Michael Oher would return next season. That will indeed be the case, per ESPN’s David Newton, who writes that Oher is out of the concussion protocol and preparing for the 2017 campaign. The 30-year-old missed all but three games this season as a result of the concussion he suffered in Week 2.
  • To recap a day filled with pass rusher-related news, the Seahawks extended Michael Bennett; the Colts’ Robert Mathis, who’s 18th on the all-time sack list, is retiring after Sunday; and the NFL won’t reinstate suspended Raider Aldon Smith this season.

AFC Notes: Bills, Browns, Jags, Bengals, Colts

Rex Ryan was a beloved players’ coach with the Jets from 2009-14, but it doesn’t seem that was fully the case during his nearly two-year run in Buffalo. Reacting to the Bills’ Tuesday decision to fire Ryan, one defensive player informed Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne, “That was music to my ears.” Similarly, some other Bills never bought into Ryan and felt he tore down the elite defense he inherited in 2015, according to Dunne (Twitter links). On the other side of the ball, wide receiver Sammy Watkins told the team’s official website that a “culture change” will be in order with Ryan’s successor. “Change the culture, change the mindset and get players on board,” he said. “If they’re not listening, cut them, kick them out, whatever. Sit them on the bench. I think that will help us move forward.”

More from the AFC:

  • Browns executive vice president Sashi Brown and vice president Andrew Berry were in attendance at Wednesday’s Houston Bowl to scout Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, tweets ESPN’s Adam Schefter. This isn’t the first connection between Cleveland and Garrett, who could go No. 1 overall in next spring’s draft. The 1-14 Browns will lock up that selection with a loss to the Steelers on Sunday.
  • Impending free agent cornerback Prince Amukamara would like to re-sign with the Jaguars on a multiyear deal, but he admitted Thursday that the team has bigger issues on its plate at the moment. “Right now the front office priority is probably finding a head coach and stuff like that, but I would hope to be a priority to them [after the hire],” he told Mike DiRocco of Amukamara, who inked a one-year deal with the Jags last March, has appeared in 13 games and made 11 starts – his highest totals in those categories since 2012. Despite being in danger of posting his first interception-less season, the 27-year-old ranks a respectable 51st among 119 corners at Pro Football Focus. “I think it was huge to just be able to show that I am durable and I can play this game if I’m healthy,” added the former Giant.
  • Like Amukamara, Bengals corner Dre Kirkpatrick doesn’t want to leave his current setting. “I love this organization,” the soon-to-be free agent told Katherine Terrell of Kirkpatrick, a 2012 first-round pick who’s currently in his fifth-year option season, is second among Bengals corners in snaps (906). He has also picked off exactly three passes for the third time in his career and is set for his second straight year with at least 14 starts. PFF isn’t overly bullish, however, as it ranks Kirkpatrick as this season’s 74th-best corner.
  • The Colts worked out linebacker Dezman Moses and safety L.J. McCray on Thursday, per ESPN’s Adam Caplan (Twitter links). Moses is easily the more experienced of the pair, having appeared in 46 games to McCray’s 22, and has been available since the Chiefs cut him Oct. 7. McCray hasn’t caught on anywhere since the 49ers waived him Sept. 5.

Zach Links contributed to this post.