Bills Go For The Hype As They Hire Big-Mouth Rex To Turn Things Around

Rex Ryan

Rex Ryan can certainly fulfill the role of the ringmaster, and he has already started that part of his job as new head coach of the Buffalo Bills.

“Ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages. Today, we are going to venture into the competitive world of the AFC East, take on Bill Belichick and punch him in the mouth.”

If Ryan has proven one thing in his 21-year run around the NFL – including the last six as head coach of the New York Jets – it’s that he can bluster, make pronouncements and fill up reporters’ notebooks.

OK, that’s not really fair. Ryan has proven that he can coach all aspects of defense, and that he knows how to pressure quarterbacks and stop the run. It’s a talent that clearly runs in his family. Ryan’s father Buddy was the architect of the Chicago Bears’ famous 46 defense, and that unit keyed the team’s momentous Super Bowl run in 1985.

That team is often recognized as the most powerful of the NFL’s one-time Super Bowl winners. Many believe that if Ryan had remained the Bears’ defensive coordinator instead of taking a job as the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach, the Bears would have won multiple Super Bowls and joined the likes of the Steelers, 49ers and Cowboys as one of the NFL’s greatest teams.

Rex’s brother Rob has also made his mark as an NFL defensive coordinator, but he has not been bitten by the head-coaching bug to this point.

The Bills welcomed Ryan back into the head-coaching fraternity by hiring him Wednesday, and it’s a move that the team is ultimately going to regret. Rex may be a beast when it comes to putting together defense, but his track record on the other side of the ball is a sad one. He spent most of his time in New York with Matt Sanchez as his quarterback, and the kindest thing that can be said about the Ryan-Sanchez partnership is that it floundered.

At it’s worst, Sanchez coined the term butt-fumble when he ran into his own offensive lineman. At it’s best, the Jets made it to two AFC Championship games because Sanchez was able to hand the ball off and complete a few short passes while the defense dominated.

The Bills had one of the best defenses in the league last year as they finished fourth in the league in fewest yards allowed, first in sacks with 54 and saw three of its defensive linemen go to the Pro Bowl.

On the other hand, the Bills were 26th in offense, and it seems likely that things will get worse in that area before they get better. Quarterback Kyle Orton has said that he’s calling it a career, and that means that the Bills will have to turn back third-year quarterback EJ Manuel. If they want to avoid that alternative, the Bills make a big move in free agency, make a trade or draft a new quarterbck.

So, just what will Ryan do for this team? Perhaps he can fine tune the defense and make it even better, as he said at his opening news conference in Western New York. He wants his team to become “bullies,” who can impose their will on the rest of the division.

Oh, OK.

Ryan’s Jets were hammered by the Bills in two meetings, losing both games by a combined score of 81-26. That indicates that the Bills knew more than enough about playing defense the last couple of season than Rex and his Jets did.

Ryan’s offensive teams got worse through his six years, so you have to wonder what new Buffalo owner Terry Pegula and his advisors were thinking.

Rex certainly can talk, and he loves to go on about how he’s not afraid of Belichick and the Patriots. “Tell them they can bring back John Hannah and Russ Francis,” Ryan said. Hannah was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman and is often recognized as the best guard in pro football history, while Francis was an athletic tight end who had a few explosive games, but doesn’t compare to current tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Those are just the words of a pompous braggart. The biggest indictment of his coaching ability is that his Jets teams got worse during his six-year run. He likes to paint himself as a players’ coach who can get the most out of his team, but his track record is filled with red flags.

He finished his head coaching career in New York with a 50-52 record. He’s promising that the Bills will make it to the playoffs after 15 years of failure.

How can he believe his own words? His offensive know-how is non-existent, and that’s a huge problem.

The Bills hired a coach who can play to the cameras and make headlines, but he’s much better at delivering promises than he is at delivering victories.

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Steve Silverman
Steve Silverman is a longtime sportswriter who spent 10 years as senior editor at Pro Football Weekly and he has also written for the Wall Street Journal, ESPN Magazine, MSNBC, and Silverman currently covers all sports – including the NFL – for CBS New York and Bleacher Report.