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Ryan Hiring Not a Slam Dunk

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ryan 2Rex Ryan is being brought in as the 18th head coach Buffalo Bills franchise history. A big name in a coaching field lacking them, the brash and aggressive Ryan is already bringing excitement to the Bills fanbase.

The move isn’t as much of a slam dunk as you’d think.

Earlier in the month, I posted my rankings of the 14 head coach candidates for the Bills. Ryan was 14th out of 14. Now it’s time for me to dive deeper into why I have a bad feeling about this…

Yes, Ryan did take the New York Jets to a pair of AFC Championship appearances in 2009 and 2010. However, there is a disturbing trend to his record after that. Ryan would never see a winning record in the following 4 years of his tenure in New York. I will forgive the fact that 2014 was laughable, as Ryan was hung out to dry by a horrible front office that was terrible in their ability to gather talent.
But that doesn’t let him off for his work from 2011-2013. Ryan was 24-26 in those 3 years and never got over .500 again. The “defensive guru” has a fair amount of accolades, but then his defense started giving up more points. After having the top and sixth scoring defense in the NFL in 2009 and 2010, respectively, the Jets defensive ranking would be no higher than 19th in points allowed. Note to Ryan: I’d retain Jim Schwartz if I was you.

While we’re on that subject, let’s talk scheme. Last year, the Bills were playing well (almost historically well) under a 4-3 scheme called the Wide 9. In the Wide 9, the defensive ends would line up as the outside contain and be able to use their athleticism to attack the QB. It was a great success for Bills DEs Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams, the latter of whom was a first team All-Pro. With Ryan, you take those two and throw them at OLB. Wait, WHAT? That’s right, Hughes and Williams will be asked to cover more as OLBs rather than pin their ears back with their hand in the dirt.
Who plays nose tackle here in Ryan’s 3-4? The logical answer is Kyle Williams, who played nose tackle before in Buffalo. However, Kyle Williams, as awesome as he is, is not getting any younger and has been prone to not playing an entire season.
Kiko Alonso will return from injury to be stuffed back into the middle, likely with Preston Brown. Alonso was good in the middle, but he’s meant for the outside. With Mario Williams and Hughes out there, Alonso goes back to where his talents cannot be used to their strength. Ultimately, Ryan’s arrival will change the defense, a unit that was not broken. That could cause the Bills to take a step back.
But if they find a solid nose tackle, it would resemble the unit of 2013 under Mike Pettine, where the Bills set a franchise record for sacks.

On to the offense, where Ryan has had a bit of trouble finding an offensive coordinator to competently run an offense for him. Under Ryan, the Jets never really put points on the board. In 6 years, Ryan’s offenses ranked no higher than 13th, and that one was in 2010, Ryan’s second year. Otherwise, they were a middling group that sometimes resorted to the Wildcat, a fad that died almost as fast as it came onto the scene in 2008. And here’s a scary stat. Over the last two years, the offenses under conservative Doug Marrone scored 72 more points than Ryan’s Jets. That could be an issue.

It’s rumored that Ryan is bringing in former 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. I hope you fans like not seeing WR Sammy Watkins get the football, because that is EXACTLY what will happen here. Under Roman, the 49ers never established a downfield attack, no higher than 23rd (2012) in passing yards. Roman’s arrival does bode well for RBs Fred Jackson (if he’s still around) and C.J. Spiller. Under Roman, the 49ers were always a top 10 rushing unit.

With Ryan, the Jets were often a media circus. Many times there were players bashing each other in the media and internal strife. Ryan had better be able to nip that in the bud in his second gig as the head man. Ryan also would bring guarantees and trash talk, while that’s gold for the media, it puts an unfair pressure on the players to perform at times.

There are some positives about Ryan. He is aggressive, likable and doesn’t back down from anything. Of all of the AFC East coaches that have squared off with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Ryan is easily the most successful. Ryan is also well respected, so expect the Bills to be more able to lure in free agents. Ryan also has been around the game for his entire life. His father, Buddy, was a technician of one of the best defenses of all time, the 1985 Bears. And Rex is clearly the better Ryan than his brother, Rob, an overrated defensive coordinator.

Overall, this move makes me rather nervous. Ryan is not the worst head coach, but if he tinkers with the defense, this could spell trouble. Ultimately, like in New York, Ryan’s fate (and Buffalo’s) will fall into the hands of the G.M., Doug Whaley. Whaley’s fate will now be tied to Ryan after Marrone quit on the team. They better bring it, or this talented roster will be wasted. And that would be a bigger crime than the 15 year playoff drought. 

Derek Kramer ~ @DerekKramer49

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