Rex Ryan’s First Quarter as Buffalo Bills Head Coach Provides Valuable Lessons

We’ve made it through the first quarter of the NFL regular season. Amongst all the hype, coaching changes, free agent signings, and record setting (or lack thereof) fanfare, the Buffalo Bills sit in the same spot they did last year with a 2-2 record.

(Photo Courtesy: USA Today Sports)
(Photo Courtesy: USA Today Sports)

Frankly, I’m not entirely surprised, but the way we have arrived at this checkpoint of the season is a bit different than I expected. The Bills have shown great promise, led by boisterous head coach Rex Ryan. In that same breath you can say the Buffalo Bills are far from a finished product. The Bills have lost games by being over-emotional with reactions that lead to unnecessary penalties and questionable decisions by both players and coaches. There have been more personal foul penalties than I can remember. The inability to score 1st and goal by outthinking the situation and going against the very thing the Bills set out to be as a team (dominating the line of scrimmage and pounding the football) are two examples that come to mind quickly.

When coach Ryan was hired, he brought along with him baggage filled with many positive traits: desire, passion, and football intellect that isn’t easily matched on the defensive side of the football. That baggage also carried negative traits including lack of discipline and game clock management (things he vowed to correct). Fans might be in for a rollercoaster ride they desperately wanted but were not prepared for.

Rex Ryan likes to talk, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Being a head coach in the NFL, that will bring you attention that sometimes can lead to negative reactions from media and fans if the words spoken don’t come to fruition. Ryan is charismatic and leads you want to believe the things he says. Sometimes Ryan is unable to put those words into actions. This will grow old if it is not corrected sooner than later. When you talk a big game, you better come through and match those words. Fans are fickle and the Buffalo fan base is salivating for success. Through four games, I am convinced we have a better shot at the playoffs than any time since the start of the Bills 15-year playoff drought.

Sometimes it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. In a press conference Rex is quoted as saying, “We have to clean up the unsportsmanlike penalties. We will sit a guy if emotions are getting the better of him.” Ryan also added, “We need to be the bigger men and walk away from things.” Could this be Ryan sick of talk and wanting to see it become reality? It would be beneficial for the team to be held accountable for things that negatively impact them on the field.

Photo Courtesy: Michael J. Thomas)
Photo Courtesy: Michael J. Thomas)

Tyrod Taylor has been everything and more that you could ask from a first time starter at the quarterback position. Taylor’s 71.7% completion percentage has been a pleasant surprise. If you read some of the advanced stats displayed by fellow writer Rob Quinn, you will see that Taylor is progressing as a passer, not just a mobile quarterback that can provide a mismatch with his legs.

Rex likes to talk, but he has backed it up before. He took a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez and a much less talented offense than the Bills have to two straight AFC championship games. Rex has flaws, but every coach does. I believe it will take time to find his happy medium of passion and emotion and having a level head to make the best decisions. Once he gets a “W” in the win column versus the Patriots I think he’ll rest easier. Every person has flaws. I think Rex has identified his and will eventually realize that what his heart wants will match what his brain knows. It might take time, but again we are only four games into his tenure as Bills head coach.

Sometimes emotions can lead you to do things you know you shouldn’t. A win in primetime might help ease the obsession he has with defeating his self described arch rival. Also, don’t let the talk fool you. Rex is a calculated man when it comes to words. If his words can take any pressure off of his players, he is happy to embrace that pressure if it will somehow take it away from his players and therefore result into an easier time for his players to go out and do their jobs. Here is to hoping that his calculated talk turns into the most important thing for the Bills: more wins. Don’t be fooled by what media agenda either. Ryan is an easy way to get clicks to their stories. Fans across the world love to see Rex Ryan quotes. It brings the relevance to the Bills, which is somethings fans have clamoured for in a head coach. We have it now.

I do have concerns with the offensive line. Eric Wood has shown inconsistency that needs to be corrected, and quickly. Kraig Urbik filling in for rookie John Miller also showed a major concern along the interior of the offensive line– an area the team looked to improve drastically during the offseason. John MIller’s return to the lineup will help bolster the interior of the line. Our offensive tackle play has been average. Going back and rewatching some plays leads me to believe we might not be “building the bully” with the current personnel on the offensive line.

Among the negatives we must remember that the Bills have played two of the best quarterbacks on the planet in Andrew Luck and Tom Brady (Eli Manning isn’t too shabby either despite what many might think). The Bills were able to contain and dominate Luck in that opening game which isn’t an easy task. Luck has struggled early this season, but the Buffalo Bills made it look easy versus the talented QB.

The offense is further along than I believed they would be to this point. Buffalo is ranked 6th in the league in points scored this season. If I told you in July that we have the potential to have a potent offense that can put up points with the best of them you might have asked for whatever I was kool-aid I was drinking. Although yesterday was disappointing, the Bills were missing THREE key starters on offense. That isn’t an easy thing to overcome even if “next man up” motto is employed.

2-2 is our record. Accept it. It’s not changing even if you think bad penalties were called, or phantom touchdowns were scored. Simply put, our record says who we are to this point of the season. That’s the same point we were last year. Hang your hat on the fact that this is the best chance we have to make the playoffs in the past fifteen years. This team is loaded with talent. The players, coaches, management, and owners all seem to have the same agenda as we as fans do: MAKE THE PLAYOFFS! So I ask you after a tough loss to do one thing, strap in and just enjoy this roller coaster ride.