The inevitable – and the long-speculated – ouster of Rex Ryan as coach of the Buffalo Bills became reality Tuesday. The team announced the dismissal of Ryan and his brother, defensive assistant Rob Ryan, with one game remaining in yet another non-playoff season.
Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn will serve as the interim coach for Sunday’s regular season finale against the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.
It’s too soon, of course, to know what the next steps for Rex Ryan and the Bills will be. Ryan didn’t do a terrible job in Buffalo. The Bills went 8-8 last season. They can finish at 8-8 again this season if they beat the downtrodden Jets.
But Ryan never made good on his pledge to make the team an on-field bully and the Bills remain without a playoff appearance since the 1999 season. It didn’t help that Ryan opted to punt on fourth and two late in overtime in Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, then the Bills had only 10 defensive players on the field for the key long run by Miami tailback Jay Ajayi. But Ryan’s coaching fate in Buffalo probably was sealed by then.
Ryan stepped almost immediately into the head coaching job in Buffalo after being fired by the Jets as their head coach following the 2014 season. It’s doubtful that he’ll get another NFL head coaching opportunity so soon this time. He has had six straight nonwinning seasons as an NFL head coach since taking the Jets to the AFC title game in each of his first two seasons.
He likely will have to prove himself again at the coordinator level to get his next head coaching chance, if there is to be a next chance at all. But Ryan is a respected defensive mind and players truly do like playing for him. He should be in demand as a defensive coach once the head coaching chairs are filled leaguewide.
The Bills probably will next seek an offensive-minded head coach. That is the direction that the entire league has taken, and it would represent the counterpoint to the hiring of the defensive-minded Ryan the last time around. NFL teams tend to operate that way.
Lynn should receive consideration for the job. He is on the list of head coaching candidates submitted to the league by the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the diversity group that works closely with the NFL on its hiring practices. He was promoted to offensive coordinator two games into this season when the Bills fired Greg Roman, and the team played better from there.
But if Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula want a clean break with the Ryan regime, Lynn would not represent that. There are plenty of other prominent offensive coordinators leaguewide who will be coveted head coaching candidates in the coming weeks. That list includes the New England Patriots’ Josh McDaniels and the Atlanta Falcons’ Kyle Shanahan.
Would such candidates prefer the Bills’ vacancy, though, to those of the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars? That remains to be seen. The Rams have the lure of the L.A. market and the top overall selection in this year’s NFL draft, Jared Goff, at quarterback. The Jaguars have young talent on defense and a reclamation project at quarterback in the talented but flawed Blake Bortles. The Bills will have to decide whether to remain committed to Tyrod Taylor as their future at quarterback.
“Kim and I and our entire Bills organization share in the same disappointment and frustration as our fans, but we remain committed to our goal of bringing a championship to Western New York,” Terry Pegula said in a written statement released by the team.
Ryan could not get the Bills back to the playoffs. The search for the coach who can do that begins now.