12 January 2015

Rex Ryan is the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills

(AP)
The Buffalo Bills have found their new head coach following the stunning departure of Doug Marrone and it is a bit of a familiar face: Rex Ryan. Ryan, who was fired on Black Monday by the New York Jets following a disappointing 4-12 campaign (the team's fourth straight out of the playoffs), becomes the first newly hired head coach in the NFL this year.

After pulling the relatively rare move of changing teams within the same division, can Ryan be the first coach to lead the Bills back to the playoffs since Wade Phillips in 1999 and end the longest current playoff drought in the league? Here's my take.

There is no doubt that Ryan can coach, even as the Jets were mired in mediocrity these past four seasons. While he does deserve some of the blame for the team's struggles since starting off his tenure with back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game, it would be unfair to place all of the blame towards him. His players always play hard for him, he is one of the best defensive minds in the league and he provides a brash confidence in his teams unlike many of his colleagues.

And one can see why the Bills would want to bring him up the Thruway to Buffalo. He already has a strong working knowledge of the AFC East and pairing his defensive mind with one of the top defenses in football seems like a match made in heaven. Not to mention that his defenses have found some success against Tom Brady and the Patriots over the years, including when the Jets came very close to upsetting the Patriots a month ago.

That said, one can question how exactly Ryan will make the Bills better. Buffalo's defense is tremendous as is and likely will get better with the return of Kiko Alonso after he missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL. Ryan could be able to turn this into the finest defense in the league but would that lead to a significant improvement in the win total.

And Buffalo is plagued by issues at the quarterback position the likes of which helped to bring down Ryan in Florham Park. E.J. Manuel statistically is better than Geno Smith but not by that much and Marrone gave him a quick hook this past season for Kyle Orton (much quicker of a hook than Ryan ever gave to Mark Sanchez or Smith). Now with Orton retired and no first round pick to play with, plus a less than stellar crop of free agent quarterbacks, Ryan may be in just as precarious of a quarterback situation as the one he just left (hence why I think he should have waited for the Falcons job instead of panicking and taking the Bills' job). Therefore Ryan is going to need a better offensive coordinator than the ones he had with the Jets but while I do like Greg Roman, it is clear that Colin Kaepernick's development stagnated this season.

I do think this is a good hire as I do like Ryan, and he will certainly bring some swagger to the Bills but I do not see as a hire that has the potential to greatly improve the team from where they currently are.

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