I recently took the time to read over some articles I had written elsewhere several years ago as I prepared to get back into the writing game and share my thoughts with fellow fans. It was in that review that I came across some words on previous searches for a new head coach of the Buffalo Bills. As I read what I had written about potential names such as Brian Schottenheimer and Chan Gailey, and even recalled my thoughts on Doug Marrone when his name came to the forefront not so long ago, I couldn’t help but think of how radically different things are now. To be sure, the Bills made a bold move in their hiring of Rex Ryan, but just how bold is becoming more and more clear with each passing day.
Those previous words I had written certainly contained no excitement at the possibilities which seemed realistic (with the exception of the fleeting flirtations with Bill Cowher), but were more of a “what’s the least damaging option” type of scenario. I simply couldn’t bring myself to get excited over their credentials, much less the personalities behind them. This is where Rex is so very different. Now, to be clear, I’m not sold on him as being an outstanding coach quite honestly.
Certainly he’s attained levels of success that surpass previous contenders and eventual hires, but his résumé is not exactly out of this world either. I’m not going to dive into the numbers and stats behind this, it’s not my forte, and several other writers on this website excel at that sort of thing. The personality though… That he has in spades. It’s the personality that creates the excitement.
Given the track record the organization has had as it relates to head coaches since Marv Levy, actually getting Rex wasn’t really even on the radar for me once Marrone opted out. But it seems the Pegula family and the wallet that comes with them at the helm makes a marked difference. I think it’s safe to say most of us were shocked when the rumblings of Ryan becoming our coach became very legitimate. My initial thought was that this hire is a serious game changer. Even if this experiment blows up and fails completely, I can say that I was happy that the Buffalo Bills went out and made the biggest splash possible.
The term “culture change” gets tossed around a great deal these days, but I can’t think of a more fitting description of what has occurred in Orchard Park in the past few months. The Bills have long been a forgotten entity to most outside of this fan base and an almost complete afterthought amongst mainstream media outlets.
Enter Rex Ryan, and the Rex Effect. Since mid-January, the Bills are being mentioned left and right across several networks. The club is extremely relevant all of the sudden and non fans are discussing them too. My wife likes to laugh at me because being a Bills fan in North Carolina, who frequently wears the associated gear, I often get complete strangers commiserating with my pain. All the sudden, these strangers are coming up to me and talking about how excited I must be.
Rex brought relevancy back to Buffalo. HBO’s Hard Knocks immediately came calling and we somehow wrangled a trade for the best running back in the league over the last 5 years or so. Pundits and talking heads across mainstream media are talking about the team again, and it’s not just to mention that they haven’t seen the postseason since I was a senior in high school (they’re STILL mentioning that too, but at least it leads to a discussion of that streak perhaps being over soon). It would be hard to deny that the excitement level both amongst the fans as well as the outsiders is higher than it has been since the early 1990s. Have I mentioned the team hasn’t played a single game under Ryan yet?
The Rex Effect is very real. How else can you explain this collective known as the BillsMafia turning around overnight to laud a man who was almost universally despised previously? Granted, the results will be the ultimate deciding factor, but it feels genuinely nice to be this excited before the season once again. It feels nice that the rest of the league knows we exist once again. It feels nice to be able to tune into SportsCenter and look at that column on the left with a real possibility of seeing the words “Buffalo Bills” somewhere in the upcoming topics once again. As we await the season to become a reality, we can rejoice in what Rex Ryan has already given us, and let our minds collectively open to the possibilities of what is yet to come.