It may not be what Rex Ryan had originally envisioned, but joining the Buffalo Bills this offseason immediately puts the head coach in position for success. Along with the free agent acquisitions and oozing talent already on the roster, One Bills Drive has everything a defensive-minded coach could ask for.
A committed owner who expects to win right away, a gun-slinging general manager that continues to transform the team and arguably the most important cog in the wheel, an innovative offensive coordinator with proven results: these are the three pyramids of success for a guy like Rex.
Understandably there’s negative press and people doubting his move to Buffalo sans an established quarterback. Even with the starter yet to be named this off-season’s overhaul of the coaching staff and personnel department makes it clear that Rex now has his best opportunity to win in years, if not ever.
On the offensive side of the ball where Ryan-coached teams have traditionally taken their lumps, Buffalo brought in established offensive coordinator Greg Roman to boost this unit. Beyond the monster playbook, one of his greatest strengths is the ability to build the offensive attack around the skill sets of his players, effectively putting them in optimal positions to succeed. Even though he was criticized for the San Francisco 49ers underwhelming performance in 2014, history shows Roman has found success wherever he goes.
After lighting up NCAA football with the likes of Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart at Stanford, Roman followed Jim Harbaugh to San Fran in 2011 and churned out the 15th ranked offense in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) grades. He followed that with the top overall PFF ranking for an offense in 2012, and finished up with a couple 10th-place grades in 2013-14. In comparison, the last time New York received a top-10 PFF grade on offense was in 2009 (6th) and 2010 (3rd) when Brian Schottenheimer was calling the plays. They haven’t cracked the top-19 since and coincidentally, those are the two years the Jets went to back-to-back AFC Championship games with Mark Sanchez under center.
Look at the other weapons those NY teams had in comparison to Buffalo’s current arsenal as well. Rex relied on Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Ladanian Tomnlinson, Jerrico Cotchery, Brad Smith and Thomas Jones to put up points on the board. If Roman can’t at least get the same production from Buffalo’s skill positions that include Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay and Robert Woods, it would be a major surprise/disappointment. Rex knows what he’s getting with this offensive coordinator and said as much when he told Greg “I should have brought you with me the first time” in reference to almost being hired by the Jets in 2009.
Another key to success that Buffalo’s new head coach was lacking at his last job is a consistently productive general manager. Agree with every move or not, Doug Whaley isn’t afraid to make a splash and has built depth and competition all over the roster since arriving as the team’s head Pro Scout in 2010.
With few blemishes on his resume and more than a handful of great value picks, Whaley has built a team that was recently ranked as the 2nd most talented roster in the NFL. Obviously the quarterback position is still the biggest concern, but with a shortage of talent in this year’s free agency pool and draft class, signing Tyrod Taylor and trading for Matt Cassel is about the best you could have asked for.
In contrast, Rex’s tenure started off well with incumbent GM Mike Tannenbaum in New York although that situation dissipated quickly. Calling the shots from 2006 to 2012, Mike hit in the draft in ’06 and ‘07 on tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, C Nick Mangold and CB Darrelle Revis. After that the former GM missed on several first-round picks and only drafted two players from ’08-10 that are still on the Jets roster. Free agency wasn’t much better either with the LT signing arguably having the biggest impact.
After parting ways with Tannenbaum, New York tapped John Izdik to be GM in 2013. Izdik was admirable in cleaning up the team’s salary cap situation in the two years spent at the position, but that’s about all he did. After missing on the Geno Smith pick in 2013, he essentially sat on his hands during 2014’s free agency period (more on that later) and didn’t really provide the Jets roster with much help. Rex definitely deserves to shoulder some of the blame for the questionable decision-making during his tenure, but like we heard about Doug Marrone storming out of the war room when Sammy Watkins was drafted, head coaches don’t always get the final word.
Last but certainly not least, Rex should benefit a great deal from the Buffalo Bills owners’ Terry and Kim Pegula. As their takeover has reenergizing a region that’s long worried about its beloved football team leaving, the Pegula’s have planted their feet in the ground, determined to bring success to Buffalo.
Everything from One Buffalo to “Pegulaville” to the Harbor Center has the city buzzing. Finally, fans have a feeling of stability and a future that people can actually envision and look forward to instead of the ugly hypothetical cloud that hung over the franchise for years (not that Ralph Wilson was ever going to let the team leave Buffalo anyways).
Great organizations usually have a clear vision from top to bottom, and it’s apparent the Pegula’s are trying to instill that. They’re already showing a fearlessness to make moves if they think it will better the team regardless of whether or not members of the public or media are on board. And that’s what they should do, give Rex the best hand possible and see what he does with it.That kind of trust and desire to win, albeit early in the ownership is essential and something Ryan could get used to.
While I’m not a great judge of New York Jets’ owner Woody Johnson given that I don’t really follow his team, the 2014 free agency period was not a good look. In major need of some offensive upgrades among other positions, the front office didn’t bring in much help and basically just bought their time until they could fire the coaching staff after the season.
Woody: “Maybe we should have spent more. We probably should have.”
— dom cosentino (@domcosentino) December 29, 2014
We know Rex felt somewhat betrayed at the end of his time in New York by the front office and management. Throw in the fact that Johnson’s publicly stated that his political interests take precedent over football and that he was named the worst owner in the NFL in 2012 and I’ll take a businessman that’s built his own wealth anyday.
Currently without a starting quarterback or a playoff appearance in fifteen years the Buffalo Bills make for an easy target. You better get your jabs in now however because with committed ownership, a locked-in general manager, and an offensive “genius” paired with one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, success is just around the corner for Rex Ryan and his new team.