TODAY'S PAPER
54° Good Evening
54° Good Evening
SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Former Jets coach Rex Ryan knows his shot with Bills will probably be last in NFL

Rex Ryan addresses the media at an NFL

Rex Ryan addresses the media at an NFL news conference after he was introduced as the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Jan. 14, 2015, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Brett Carlsen

There was the usual assortment of bluster that we have come to expect any time Rex Ryan stands near a microphone, the kind of can't-miss quotes that reporters have had a field day with since Ryan first took the Jets' head coaching job in 2009 and fired off the first of many Super Bowl guarantees.

Ryan stopped short of promising a Super Bowl for the Bills after being introduced Wednesday as the team's head coach. But he did a good amount of gum flapping, complete with a declaration that the Bills would soon be playing in January, a time of year that mostly has been reserved for naming new coaches instead of playing playoff games.

"It's been 15 years since the Bills made the playoffs. Well, get ready, we're going," Ryan said, flashing his trademark smile that lights up a room and fills reporters' notebooks.

But there was also a serious moment for Ryan, a comment that actually spoke more to the reality the coach now faces once you get past the yucks and the bulletin-board material he became so famous for with the Jets. Someone asked Ryan whether staying in the AFC East, where he still gets to chase his personal white whale, Bill Belichick, was a factor in his decision to take the Buffalo job.

"It was really no factor at all," Ryan said. "It was just an opportunity, or my last shot, as I look at it. It had to be right and I see this as a great opportunity. It wouldn't have mattered if we were in the NFC, the AFC or whatever. Is it a little sweeter because we're in the AFC East? Yes, probably so."

Say this much for Ryan: Through all the jokes, the man understands exactly where he's at in his career as an NFL head coach. This really is his last shot.

Ryan enjoyed a terrific start to his Jets coaching career with back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances. But he comes off four straight non-winning seasons and his weakness in handling his offense has proven to be his Achilles heel. Ryan had a blind spot when it came to quarterbacks, whether it was overinflating Mark Sanchez's ability when he came out of USC in 2009, or going through three offensive coordinators in a four-year span, or not taking Geno Smith out sooner after he started bottoming out early last season.

Former Bills coach Doug Marrone, who walked away from his contract three days after the season and gave Ryan the opening he eventually took, did give his young quarterback a quick hook just a month into the season. And journeyman Kyle Orton proved a capable game manager in place of EJ Manuel, leading the Bills to their first winning season since 2004. The day after the season ended, Orton walked off into his NFL retirement, leaving the Bills with Manuel and little else at the most important position with Ryan's new team.

So Rex is faced with almost the identical set of circumstances he confronted with the Jets. He has a very good defensive unit that features a ferocious front seven, but he has a quarterback whose future is very much in doubt after two unproductive seasons.

Ryan's lovable personality proved to be a great deodorant with the Jets, who were certainly entertaining despite a mostly miserable record over the coach's last four seasons. But being quick with a joke in a news conference is no solution to addressing the myriad concerns of his football team, and in the end, Ryan's time was up in New York. The Jets had to make a change, had to change the culture, and had to go in a different direction.

Ryan still has a chance to get it right in Buffalo, and he's hopeful that newly hired offensive coordinator Greg Roman can get the best out of Manuel. But if there just isn't the kind of talent and wherewithal for the young quarterback, then no amount of coaching can get more out of him.

Which is why there's so much speculation now that Ryan might turn to his former No. 1 quarterback in New York for help. The dots are being connected to Sanchez, who spent a year under Chip Kelly in Philadelphia trying to resurrect his career. He did well initially, but the interceptions and fumbles eventually returned, and the Eagles went from 9-3 and in control of their playoff fate to 10-6 and out of the tournament by season's end.

So good luck to Ryan trying to re-write his own script. He hopes to join other coaches who succeeded on their second NFL head coaching job -- see: Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin and Jon Gruden -- but he knows this will, in all likelihood, be his last, best chance to do it.

All joking aside, this is now serious business for Rex. If he can't get it right this time, he most likely won't get another opportunity.

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

New York Sports