PITTSFORD, N.Y. — There were no back-page quotes or outrageous moments from Rex Ryan, certainly nothing like the day we visited at around this time last year. That’s when Ryan was in his first season as the Bills’ coach and had captivated the imagination of western New York with the charisma and charm that previously won over Jets fans.
Nope, just a few straightforward answers about injuries, some impressions of players trying to make the Bills’ roster and a few other mundane training camp issues. No daily update of a three-man competition at quarterback, something Ryan looks back on and shakes his head at.
“Let me make a note,” Ryan said with a laugh as we chatted Monday afternoon. “That’s not a good thing.”
Oh, and no eating dog biscuits this day, either.
Last August, Ryan ate them in front of the cameras in response to a challenge from a local television reporter to support the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“Oh, that’s terrific,” he said. “I’m going to get one more. That’s outstanding . . . a little dry.”
There was no floor show this time. Just more of a businesslike approach that Ryan has adopted after failing to deliver on his promise of a playoff berth last year.
“It’s definitely more business than last year,” he said. “Last year, you’re trying to put in two brand-new systems. That’s a little different. And we had a three-quarterback competition. So it was crazy, no question. We get it. We know what our record was.”
The record was 8-8, and about the best he could offer was a pair of victories over his former team — the first at MetLife Stadium, where Ryan was greeted with a ferociously negative reaction from Jets fans and didn’t even make his way onto the field until just before the game.
“I really wanted it to be about others and not me, but it was almost impossible,” Ryan said. “I never realized until I got to the stadium how crazy it was. I’m like, it’s just a football game. I’m gonna wait to coach in a football game. I felt it was a different buzz, and that’s why I stayed in [the locker room].”
Ryan’s other win over the Jets in Week 17 was a death blow to their playoff chances, as the Bills intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick three times in a 22-17 game. The Jets finished 10-6.
“It’s tough to win, and sometimes it’s tough to come right in and win,” Ryan said. “You look at the Jets’ situation. They were able to win a lot of games, more than we did, and that’s positive. But at the end of the day, nobody won. Right now, we’re all shooting for the same thing. We want to win, there’s no question about that, and we expect to.”
Ryan takes comfort in a settled quarterback situation. Tyrod Taylor won the job outright last year and was rewarded last week with a five-year contract that could be worth as much as $92 million. Running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Sammy Watkins lead a solid group of skill players, and Ryan’s defense, a disappointment through much of last season, appears on the same page now that disgruntled end Mario Williams was shown the door in the offseason.
Ryan also brought in his twin, Rob, the former Saints, Raiders and Browns defensive coordinator, to be a defensive assistant.
“He’s a hell of a football coach,” Rex said.
Can two of the most outspoken coaches avoid controversy? Most likely not, but Rex isn’t worried.
“Sometimes if you say the truth, it bothers people,” he said. “We don’t lie. That’s something that we never have done, so we’re brutally honest. That’s just the way it is. Some people don’t like it. I’ve learned through the years that no matter what you say, there’s going to be people that don’t care what you say and will twist any way they want to twist it and look at it in a negative way.”
Besides, the bottom line remains the won-loss record.
“I’ve learned that all people care about is this football team, and whatever happens,” he said.
It has been suggested that Ryan needs to make the playoffs to be assured of returning next season, although Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula never have publicly declared a win-or-you’re-out scenario. Ryan isn’t worried.
“No, I know there’s not,” he said. “I say I know there’s not, and you know who I am. It’s never been about me. I don’t look at it that way. I just look at it like we have a great opportunity in front of us. We feel good about the talent we have, and we gotta stay healthy, there’s no question about that. But we’re excited about our team. I feel really good about us.”