Bills fire Rex Ryan after two seasons

The Buffalo Bills have fired Rex Ryan after two seasons as head coach, the team announced on Tuesday.
Ryan had a 15–16 overall record with the team after being hired before the 2015 season. He went 8–8 in his first season and started 2016 7–8.

The team also fired his brother, Rob Ryan, who was brought on as assistant head coach before the 2016 season.

Ryan was hired by Buffalo after his six seasons with the New York Jets, compiling a 46–50 mark before getting fired following a 4–12 record in 2014.

His teams also failed to make the playoffs in any of his last six seasons with the Jets and Bills.

Known as a defensive-minded coach, Ryan's Buffalo teams finished 19th in total defense in 2015 and is 19th so far this season. The offense has led the NFL the last two seasons in yards, touchdowns, and yards per rushing attempt.

Rex Ryan wasn’t terrible in Buffalo, but it was time for him to go

© Brandon Wade/AP Photo
The inevitable — and long-speculated — ouster of Rex Ryan as coach of the Buffalo Bills became reality Tuesday. The team announced the dismissal of Ryan and his twin brother, defensive assistant Rob Ryan, with one game remaining in yet another non-playoff season.

Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn will serve as the interim coach for Sunday’s regular season finale against the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.

It’s too soon, of course, to know what the next steps for Rex Ryan and the Bills will be. Ryan didn’t do a terrible job in Buffalo. The Bills went 8-8 last season, and they can finish at 8-8 again this season if they beat the downtrodden Jets.

But Ryan never made good on his pledge to make the team an on-field bully, and the Bills remain without a playoff appearance since the 1999 season. It didn’t help that Ryan opted to punt on fourth and two late in overtime in Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, then the Bills had only 10 defensive players on the field for the key long run by Miami tailback Jay Ajayi. But Ryan’s coaching fate in Buffalo probably was sealed by then.

Ryan stepped almost immediately into the head coaching job in Buffalo after being fired by the Jets as their head coach following the 2014 season. It’s doubtful that he’ll get another NFL head coaching opportunity so soon this time: He now has had six straight nonwinning seasons as an NFL head coach since taking the Jets to the AFC title game in each of his first two.

He likely will have to prove himself again at the coordinator level to get his next head coaching chance, if there is to be a next chance at all. But Ryan is a respected defensive mind, and players truly do like playing for him. He should be in demand as a defensive coach once the head coaching chairs are filled leaguewide.

The Bills, for their part, probably will next seek an offensive-minded head coach. That is the direction that the entire league has taken, and it would represent the counterpoint to the hiring of the defensive-minded Ryan the last time around. NFL teams tend to operate that way.

Lynn should receive consideration for the job. He is on the list of head coaching candidates submitted to the league by the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the diversity group that works closely with the NFL on its hiring practices. He was promoted to offensive coordinator two games into this season when the Bills fired Greg Roman, and the team played better from there.

But if Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula want a clean break with the Ryan regime, Lynn would not represent one. There are plenty of other prominent offensive coordinators leaguewide who will be coveted head coaching candidates in the coming weeks, a list that includes the New England Patriots’ Josh McDaniels and the Atlanta Falcons’ Kyle Shanahan.

Would such candidates prefer the Bills’ vacancy, though, to those of the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars? That remains to be seen. The Rams have the lure of the L.A. market and the top overall selection in this year’s NFL draft, Jared Goff, at quarterback. The Jaguars have young talent on defense and a reclamation project at quarterback in the talented but flawed Blake Bortles. The Bills will have to decide whether to remain committed to Tyrod Taylor as their own future under center.

“Kim and I and our entire Bills organization share in the same disappointment and frustration as our fans, but we remain committed to our goal of bringing a championship to Western New York,” Terry Pegula said in a written statement released by the team.

Ryan could not get the Bills back to the playoffs. The search for the coach who can do that begins now.

Rex Ryan's failed promises sealed his fate with Bills

The Buffalo Bills hired Rex Ryan to make the team a contender and true rival to the New England Patriots in the AFC East.

But after nearly two full seasons, it became clear that vision wouldn't be fulfilled. After another year out of the playoffs (that’s 17 straight seasons without a postseason appearance), Ryan’s fate was sealed.

With an undisciplined defense and major questions at quarterback moving into next year, the Bills are no closer to competing in the AFC East than they were when Ryan was hired. And Saturday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins, who clinched a playoff berth in Adam Gase's first year as coach, showed the Bills were indeed a team trending downward.

When Ryan took over, the Bills ranked No. 4 in total defense. The unit fell to 19th in his first season, and it stands in that same slot this year upon his firing.

Two seasons may seem like a short lifespan for a head coach, but Ryan was a proven entity when he arrived in Orchard Park. The Bills knew they were getting a coach with a plus-size personality and a reputation for crafting a complicated and nasty defense. He promised playoffs and memorable battles with Bill Belichick’s Patriots and was unable to deliver.

The Bills’ run defense (133.5 yards allowed per game) is the fifth-worst in the NFL, in part because of poor tackling. Those struggles were evident in the loss to the Dolphins, as running back Jay Ajayi had his second 200-yard rushing day against the Bills this season.

On a 57-yard run by Ajayi in overtime, the Bills' defense had just 10 men on the field. Ryan accepted responsibility for the error, calling it "the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen."

When the Bills’ offense struggled earlier this year, Ryan fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman just two weeks into the season. The offense rebounded under new coordinator Anthony Lynn, who on Tuesday was named interim head coach, but the defense continued to flounder. That was a sign that Ryan and his twin brother Rob, who helped run the defense, were on the hot seat.

The Bills also went 1-3 against the Patriots during Ryan’s tenure in Orchard Park. The lone win came earlier this season while Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended.

It will be interesting now to see the market for Ryan, 54, after two failed stints as a head coach. His personality makes him popular, but will another owner take a chance on a coach who has never won a division title? Or will Ryan be interested in taking a defensive coordinator job?

In September 2015, Ryan told USA TODAY Sports that Buffalo would be his last coaching job, though he surely thought he would last more than two seasons with the Bills at the time. “When my days are up, I’ll turn it over to the younger generation. I’m not going anywhere else,” Ryan said.

Ryan might now be best suited for television, and the networks should engage in a bidding war for his services.

The Bills, meanwhile, once again are starting over.

The new head coach will inherit a roster in flux, with more than 20 players set to hit free agency in March, including cornerback Stephon Gilmore, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and wide receiver Robert Woods.

But the biggest question is at quarterback. Will the new head coach want to move forward with Tyrod Taylor, who received a six-year, $90 million extension in August? The structure of Taylor’s contract essentially made it a one-year deal, with a team option after this season.

Regardless of who the Bills choose to hire, and whom that coach picks as quarterback, the Bills must find stability at those two key spots.

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