Rex Ryan, fired Tuesday by the Buffalo Bills, is as entertaining a personality as anyone we’ve ever seen in pro sports. He can charm you with his wit, engage you with his smile and enthrall you with his quotes. Oh, those quotes.
Like one of the first he delivered upon being introduced as the Jets’ head coach at a Jan. 19, 2009, news conference, when he essentially guaranteed a trip to visit Barack Obama at the White House after a Super Bowl victory.
“With all the cameras, I was looking for our new president back there. I think we’ll get to meet him in the next couple of years, anyway.”
Or the repeated challenges he issued to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
“I didn’t come here to kiss his rings,” he said late in the 2010 season. “I came here to kick his [butt]”
His outsized personality was made for the back page, and he never disappointed whenever it came to promoting his team or himself. Even after his act wore thin with the Jets and he was fired along with general manager John Idzik after the 2014 season, it didn’t take long for Ryan to whip up the fan base in Western New York.
Ryan promised a return to the days when the Bills were an AFC playoff powerhouse, and fans bought into his act — both figuratively and literally. For the first time in years, season tickets were sold out amid the kind of expectations only Ryan could create.
With the Bills, again he talked a much bigger game than he coached, and his inattention to detail and permissive attitude in both places led to his undoing.
Ryan did get the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championships, and there’s no taking that away from him. He brought a swagger that was on a par with Bill Parcells, and his ground-and-pound approach to offense and a smothering defense brought the Jets to within a game of the Super Bowl his first two years. But once his roster was weakened by attrition and some poor personnel decisions — including the 2012 Tim Tebow fiasco — Ryan’s weaknesses as a coach and disciplinarian were unmasked, and he didn’t have a winning season in his final four years with the Jets.
Jets owner Woody Johnson was as patient as he could be with Ryan, and the good will between the two men may have bought Ryan his final two years with the Jets. But by the time the Jets unraveled in 2014’s 4-12 season, it was over.
The cycle was remarkably similar in Buffalo, just a lot faster. It took team owner Terry Pegula less than two years to tire of Ryan’s act, and Ryan needed nothing short of a playoff berth to continue his tenure in 2017. But his team came unglued in a make-or-break game on Sunday against the Dolphins, as a lack of defense and some questionable decision-making led to an overtime loss at home.
Ryan called it one of the most difficult losses of his career. It turned out to be his last as coach of the Bills.
Longtime assistant Anthony Lynn, who has done a terrific job as the Bills offensive coordinator, will take over on an interim basis and could be a strong consideration to become the full-time head coach.
Ryan, meanwhile, may not get the chance to be a head coach again. It is highly unusual for a coach to be fired twice and then get a third job, and Ryan isn’t likely to get another look. His track record is too predictable for another owner to buy into his act. Perhaps he is better suited for a career in the media.
The act was entertaining and the jokes were funny, but after two failed runs as head coach, Rex is likely out of chances.