As Week 17 nears, so does one of the oldest traditions in the NFL: Black Monday. It’s the day the team personnel who have failed to make the playoffs clean their lockers and their desks, sometimes for good. The Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets will both be in that situation as their Week 17 tilt is as useful to the playoff picture as another running back would be to the Bills. But that doesn’t mean fans don’t have something to watch for.
With rumors of all kinds swirling, it’s safe to say that both Chan Gailey and Rex Ryan are looking over their shoulders heading into the offseason. Should they both lose their job, the Bills could be presented with a great opportunity. As much as Bills fans have come to loathe the sight of Rex Ryan and all his bluster, he’d be a great head coach for this team.
This is of course getting ahead of itself. The Bills would have to fire Chan Gailey first, but let’s just say fans wouldn’t be distraught in the least if that happened. At this point, Gailey has been too inconsistent in his playcalling and too afraid at times to make a bold call to try and win a game as opposed to avoiding a loss. He’s a smart offensive mind and frankly I think Gailey at offensive coordinator would not be the worst choice for this team. But he’s not a head coach. Not in the NFL. The game just seems too fast for him. So if the Bills fire Chan, why do I think Rex Ryan would be a great fit? Let’s list the reasons:
1) His attitude is the perfect wake-up call for a franchise that has accepted losing for far too long. I’m tired of coaches who don’t have any answers, who claim that winning in the NFL is hard, who punt from the opponent’s 35. I’m tired of losing being something that the whole team collectively shrugs about and says they’re “disappointed about.” I don’t care if they’re disappointed. I’m irritated. They get paid to play. I pay to watch them play. I pay to hope that they win. They don’t. They need someone who cares more about winning. Rex Ryan fits that bill. Yes, he went too far when he continuously guaranteed Super Bowl victories, etc. in New York but deep down isn’t that what we want for the Bills? Don’t we want someone who walks in and expects to win from Day One? Don’t talk to me about being three years away. Don’t talk to me about everything being a part of the process. Tell me what you’re doing to win the next meaningful game on your schedule. Everything else is just white noise at this point. The Bills are out of excuses and fans are done with anything that doesn’t get direct results. That message needs to be loud and clear this offseason and Rex Ryan is the perfect voice for that message.
2) The Bills will be a top defense with Ryan coaching it. The talent is there, especially if the Bills can rope a strong linebacker or two into the fold. Now it’s time for this defense to get over the hump and at least get into the top half of the league for a change. Rex Ryan, for all his faults, is unquestionably a fantastic defensive coach. He gets how to stop other teams. Stephon Gilmore won’t be Darrell Revis for him, but he would be a great #1 CB for Ryan’s scheme. It’s great to fantasize about a franchise QB, and trust me, I want one as bad as you do. But without a defense that can at least make timely stops, the Bills will be going 14 years without the playoffs in no time. Ryan changes that.
3) He really didn’t have much of a chance this year in New York. Did you see that offense? How many teams would have to be in your fantasy league for you to start a single New York Jet? 30? 50? More? Mark Sanchez is a flop. You can’t blame Ryan for sticking with him as long as he did, but that doesn’t change the fact that this offense was dismal under the tutelage of Tony Sparano. But a closer look at this team shows that their faults started in the front office when they decided to keep rolling out Sanchez and nothing else on offense. The defense had a down year as well, but that down year still saw the team finish 7th in yards against per game headed into Week 17. The Jets are awful and that mostly lies on management and ownership, not Rex.
4) There’s an emotional incentive for him to win. You think this past four years in New York has made him love that place? Ryan has been beaten down to a pulp by the New York media. Some rumors claim he practically wants to be fired. Whether or not that’s true, it sure seems like the wind has gone out of his sails in the last year. What better place to re-establish his career than in Buffalo where he can whoop on the Jets twice a year? Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that he hates the Patriots as much as we do, AND he’s beaten them in a big game.
5) Buffalo is a great fit for him. For all the negativity Bills fans have rightfully felt about the team, I maintain that Western New York is a land of optimists. The community treats its players and coaches well, even when they lose. Bills fans are eons more positive than Jets fans. You give them a shred of life, a small sliver of hope, and they’ll pounce on it without biting your hand.
Rex Ryan will give that hope and the fans will embrace him. No longer will he have every move of his end up on the front page of the tabloids. No longer will every word of his be plastered on Sportscenter for a half hour straight. He can restart his career in relative anonymity with a roster that’s closer to playoff-caliber than people realize. I think we can all agree the Bills offense is a quarterback and maybe a wide receiver away from being a big time offense, but let’s look at the defense again. The Bills have a line that can get to the quarterback with the right scheme in mind and they have playmakers in the secondary who can hawk the ball. Those two are at the center of Ryan’s defensive philosophy. As I said earlier, give him a year or two with some good draft picks and the Bills will be back on that side of the ball.
It’s easy to let emotions cloud the decision making process. Rex Ryan hasn’t been the most likeable guy over the years and the Jets haven’t done enough for anyone to say for a certainty that Ryan would absolutely turn the Bills around. But Chan Gailey isn’t that guy. If you agree, then you have to look for alternatives. Rex Ryan would be a great start. He has a compelling record as a defensive coach, he won’t back down from the challenge, and he just might take this team to a level they haven’t seen in over a decade. Even if he’s not your top choice, it’s worth wondering what Rex Ryan might look like on the Buffalo sideline in 2013.