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Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills are a credible short-term marriage

The Buffalo Bills, fresh off of a 9-7 season, have a legitimate shot to capitalize on their short-term window and do some credible winning with Rex Ryan at the helm.

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Building for the long haul is, for the most part, an illusion in the NFL. Unless your team already has an above-average quarterback, or the resources and good fortune to pick one up (hello, Ryan Grigson), your regime probably isn't going to last very long.

Just ask the San Francisco 49ers. They recently parted ways with a head coach, Jim Harbaugh, that went 44-19-1 in four seasons at the helm, with three playoff berths, three conference championship game appearances, and a shot at a Super Bowl win. That divorce happened, in large part, because they cycled through two quarterbacks, the second of which didn't emerge as the elite thrower that they'd hoped he'd be. One 8-8 season (and, yes, Harbaugh's grating personality) was all it took to make a switch despite, by nearly every measure, overwhelming success on the field.

Rex Ryan is, in a sense, a poor man's Jim Harbaugh - at least when it comes to on-field accomplishments. He's the guy that took the New York Jets to two conference championship game appearances with the same formula that Harbaugh employed in San Francisco - play great defense, be competent in the other two phases, and profit. Ryan didn't have half of the talent in New York that Harbaugh had in San Francisco, particularly in his final four seasons there, but he also enters his next job with a much better reputation regarding management of players than the ex-49ers chief.

The Buffalo Bills do not have even an average quarterback on their roster. Nor do they have the resources to acquire a quarterback that's much more than average this offseason; in fact, being average there come May would be a bit of a coup. As such, the Bills can't really build for the long haul yet - especially since they're throwing together a coaching staff with an incumbent front office still in place, neglecting the top-down restructure that the organization needs.

The Bills may not be a perfect fit for Ryan - you'll read elsewhere that Buffalo wasn't his first choice for a job, if you haven't already - but Ryan is a perfect fit for the Bills as they exist today.

Even without a quarterback, the Bills have a window of opportunity open in front of them. Their defense, especially in the second half of the 2014 season, emerged as an elite unit. Whether incumbent defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz stays with the Bills or not, Ryan's presence all but guarantees that the Bills will remain one of the league's best defenses for the next year or two, minimum. If they can just achieve competency in the other two phases - they're already at that level on special teams - then Ryan is the type of coach that can galvanize a roster, mask warts, and make a serious postseason run (and then a run in the postseason).

Have one elite unit. Check. Build an identity for the other. That'll happen, too, with Ryan's preferred ground-and-pound mentality on offense meshing well with the strengths of his chosen offensive coordinator, Greg Roman. That formula worked for Roman and Harbaugh in San Francisco, and for a time, it worked for Ryan in New York. It will be Buffalo's best shot at ending their 15-season playoff streak, as well.

For the Bills, Ryan is the ultimate Band-Aid following a two-week period in which Kyle Orton retired, Doug Marrone quit, and Bill Polian pulled out of a front office job to stay at ESPN. He's a hire that almost makes all of that irrelevant, and restores sanity to a football team that just produced its first winning season in a decade. More importantly, he's a coach that has proven that he can build on that type of success, establish a brand of play, and make the team more competitive in its critical rivalries.

Ryan now has the organizational support that he so utterly lacked in New Jersey, and Buffalo's fairly talented roster has a great shot at getting the coaching support that it ultimately lacked with Doug Marrone in charge. There may not be a long-term yet in Buffalo, but Rex Ryan's Bills are more than capable of winning a healthy amount of football games in the short-term. At the very least, it's going to be one hell of an interesting ride.