The Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints both had rough seasons on defense in 2015. Rex Ryan's Bills were 19th in yards allowed, 15th in points allowed, and 23rd in yards allowed per play, all down sharply from the 2014 season. Rob Ryan's Saints were 31st, 32nd, and 32nd in those same categories and he was fired. Now the two are convinced that joining forces is going to help the Bills conquer the AFC East and beyond.
"Well, we never lost a fight in our life. Ever. And we ain’t losing this one," Rex told The MMQB in an expansive interview this week. "And that’s a true statement. Not just because we are badasses—because we are, individually—but collectively, it’s a lot different. To this day, no man is going to whip me. Why? Because I’ve got my brother with me. And I’ve got my brother, Dennis Thurman, with me. Ed Reed is here for a reason."
To his point, Rex Ryan isn't just using "all in" as a slogan on t-shirts during practices this offseason. he is surrounding himself with like-minded individuals loyal to him. He says it's not just for power in the meeting rooms, but to set an example to the others about pulling in the same direction.
"These players are going to be like that, too," continued Rex. "We want to fight like brothers. I don’t know if we have 100 percent buy-in from even the entire building. I don’t know yet. But the people directly with me, my coaching staff and the players, that’s where it starts. I don’t know all the business people yet; they should be 'all in,' but I don’t know. There’s times when the doubt part, that can be driven through the media. But I’m going to surround myself with the very best, and I’m going to win."
When specifically asked about the changes made to the defensive roster this offseason, Rex acknowledged that the salary cap played a major role in the loss of Nigel Bradham, Leodis McKelvin, and especially Mario Williams but also blasted Williams for not being on board mentally and adjusting his attitude.
"With some of the comments [Mario made], do I wish him well? Not really," said Rex. "But, he’s on Miami. If he would have gone somewhere else, maybe. He’s a good kid, but I am used to some mean motherf---ers that play out there. The Terrell Suggs, Jarrett Johnsons of the world. I screwed them, too; I had them drop [into coverage], too. Not one of them bitched. Von Miller [dropped into coverage] in the Super Bowl. Why? Because that’s what’s asked of him; that’s what his job is. Your job is to play. Coaches spend a hell of a lot more time studying tape and everything else. They are trying to put the team in the best position to be successful, not an individual."
In his first year with the Bills, Ryan initially tried to keep Williams and other defensive stars happy after a successful 2014 season. He tried hybrid schemes and going outside of his comfort zone at the beginning of the season with disastrous results. He acknowledge as much in the interview.
"That was a mistake that I made," Rex said of not running his own defense. "Nobody told me to do this. I screwed up, and that’s totally on me. So if people lost a little faith in it, or whatever, I can understand. I should be doubted, because I made a mistake in judgment. But just go back and look at the history. You are going to get the real deal this year, and we’ll see how it goes. I know how it has gone my whole career."
If you thought down seasons for either of the Ryan brothers would make them introspective and change their ways, you'd be sorely mistaken. Rex asks you to look at 15 years of defenses instead of one. On the strength of that reputation, the brothers are going whole-hog into their own defensive philosophy and demanding the rest of the team does, as well. The pair especially liked the top draft picks the team added.
"We are going to see things one way, and we are going to do it our way," said Rex. "That’s what it takes to win. There is a certain style of defense that wins, a certain style of play that wins in this league, and nobody understands that more than we do. Our family has been to six Super Bowls as coaches, and we know it takes a physical brand of football and it takes physical players. I said I was going to build a bully, it wasn’t the appropriate word, but I want to be physical. I think we are getting it right. We brought in Richie Incognito, all he does is go to the Pro Bowl. Doug Whaley and company did a great job in the draft. Shaq Lawson is a physical player. Reggie Ragland is the most physical linebacker in the draft. That was a Ryan defensive player, a linebacker, going back to the days of when our dad was coaching the Bears, and even before that."
Rob, who chimed in on his time with the Saints a lot more than we will cover here, did have one great quote to share on his decision to come to the Bills when other opportunities may have presented themselves:
"Now I’m going to move my whole family over here to Buffalo for a reason: to go kick everybody’s ass, including theirs," said Rob, referring to the Saints team who fired him.