Well...that didn’t take long. As he is wont to do, Rex Ryan was candid, outlandish, and somewhat truthful in an expansive interview with Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News this week. Ryan gave his opinion on a litany of topics, including his lack of good fortune as coach of the Buffalo Bills and his feelings on his dismissal from the team earlier this month.
Ryan said that he “set the expectations too high” in Buffalo, a clear reference to his now-infamous invitation to Bills’ fans to prepare for a playoff berth in 2015. He continued by explaining that remark.
“In a way, I felt, why not us?” said Ryan. “I stepped in where the head coach had quit, the defensive coordinator quit and the quarterback quit on them. So, I thought that it was important at the time to say, 'You know what? Shoot, I believe in you. And I'm proud to be the coach here.' Every bit of that was true. I put that truck (with the Bills logo) around town. I was all-in. Even though those other three had quit, I wasn't a quitter. I was ready. And I wanted to be there. And I wanted to win. And I thought I could win."
There are two very important notes in that paragraph. First, the incorrect assertion that the defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, had quit on the team. Schwartz was passed over for the open head coaching vacancy in favor of Ryan, and Ryan fired him when it became clear that a melding of their defensive systems would not be productive. This was something that showed on the field in 2015, as Ryan supposedly tried to keep some of Schwartz’s concepts in them playbook. This led to another infamous Ryanism in 2016, when he claimed that the defense was “fully pregnant” after he purged the playbook of Schwartz’s leftover elements.
Second, just note the instances of first-person singular pronouns in that statement. Thirteen times in a singular statement, Ryan discussed the team’s victory as a first-person enterprise. Thirteen times he mentioned that it was he who could come in and win, come in and “save” the franchise. There may be no “I” in team, as the saying goes, but Ryan certainly took his time to mention the “M” and the “E.”
Ryan also mentioned that he stripped his truck of the Buffalo Bills’ logo “the day [he] was fired,” adding, “F—k you guys” for good measure. Why did he put a Clemson logo on his truck? “Dude, national champions. I’m supporting a winner,” which is another not-so-subtle jab at his former employer. Ryan’s son, Seth, is a member of the Clemson football program.
While Ryan had positive things to say about the city of Buffalo itself, he noted that he did not wish any good luck to the Bills’ organization in the future. “I'll be honest: I don't wish them good luck,” he said. “I don't wish them bad luck. I just don't wish them luck.”
He added: “I wish the Jets luck."
Mehta’s commentary runs the gamut of truth (“The Bills are not the gold standard of NFL organizations”) to just uninformed (“[Ryan] never had a fair chance to do much of anything with the Bills despite the hope surrounding his arrival”). He and Ryan both made points to note some instances of misfortune surrounding the team, including Sammy Watkins’s broken foot and the team’s first two draft picks in 2016 missing significant time (first-rounder Shaq Lawson second-rounder Reggie Ragland).
Some of the same recycled reports about front office discombobulation appeared in this piece, as well. Mehta notes a “clear lack of communication, trust, and respect within the organization that obviously did in Ryan,” which leaves out the most obvious reason for Ryan’s demise: a defense that ranked fourth prior to his arrival and dropped as quickly as his coaching star had once risen.
While Ryan and Mehta try to portray the Bills in as negative a light as possible, while concurrently painting Ryan in a more positive manner, it is clear that some things never change. Rex Ryan is still more style than substance, more bombast than results, and entirely unwilling to face up to an ever-clearer reality. He is a below-.500 coach who has been fired from two jobs in three years, whose defensive system has not produced a top-ten defense in points allowed since 2010 (although, to be fair, they were 6th in yardage allowed during his final season with the Jets in 2014). While Buffalo may not have handled Ryan’s firing in the most graceful of manners, it seems fairly obvious to most that a change was necessary, regardless of the “ludicrous” (Mehta’s word) nature of being fired after two mediocre seasons.
It’s time to let bygones be bygones. Good luck on TV, Rex.