by John Furgele
It’s only been one year. Rex Ryan came to town full of swagger and bluster. He said that the Buffalo Bills would be bullies. He said that the Bills would make the playoffs and he said that the Buffalo Bills would challenge for a Super Bowl. Of course, he said the same things when he became the head coach of the New York Jets. During his five years in New York, the Jets made the playoffs in his first two years, reaching the AFC Championship Game both times. After that, they team went downhill and Ryan was relieved of his duties.
Ryan is not a terrible coach, but the one thing we have seen this year is that the team seemingly cannot make adjustments. They have been undisciplined all year, leading the league in penalty yardage. They can’t seem to correct themselves. Once the penalties start, they cannot stop. In one word, puzzling.
Ryan came to Buffalo known for his defensive prowess. He inherited an excellent defensive unit, led by Mario Williams, Marcel Dareus and Jerry Hughes. With any new coach there was bound to be changes and with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz gone, everybody knew that there would be some tweaks with the defense. In the end, there were too many which led to grumblings by some and more importantly, an inability to get enough stops to win enough games. The Bills allowed Kirk Cousins to have a career day in a 35-25 Washington victory and also yielded 30 points to conservative Kansas City in another loss.
This team could finish 6-10, and even if they end up 8-8, they will be deemed a colossal disappointment. When Ryan became coach, he turned on the natives of Buffalo, Rochester, Batavia, Syracuse and Southern Ontario. Season tickets were purchased at record levels, nearly 60,000, more than the Super Bowl years and the salad days of 1988-1996.
The Bills never got it going this year. It was a season of fits and starts. Win one, lose one, win another, and lose two more. They never had more than a two-game win streak and for the third consecutive year, the Kansas City Chiefs essentially knocked Buffalo out of playoff contention despite being outplayed in each game.
The Bills have been a true study in mediocrity and have been for most of the last 16 seasons. Since 1999, not only have the Bills missed the playoffs every year, their best seasons were a pair of 9-7 campaigns ten years apart in 2004 and 2014. Simply, they have been a bad football team.
Under Ryan, the Bills have regressed. Mario Williams was a beast in 2014; now, he will likely be jettisoned from the roster. Jerry Hughes has fallen off and Marcel Dareus; he of the 6-year $90 million contract extension is doing nothing more than absorbing blockers in a 3-4 scheme. Ryan insisted that his system was best, despite the fact that the Bills with a 4-3 defense in 2014 were dominant, finishing fourth in the league in total defense.
Ryan has four years and $22 million left on his contract. That is a lot of money, but if I’m Terry Pegula, I’d fire him. I understand the odds of this happening are more than long and if he brings Rex Ryan back, I can’t criticize him for it. But, deep down, Pegula knows that the Buffalo Bills will not win and go deep into the playoffs under Ryan’s direction. If you know that, perhaps money might not be a hindrance.
Pegula saved football in Buffalo and Western New York. He paid over $1 billion for the Bills, but in 2010, he sold some land and assets for $4.7 billion and in 2014, partly to help with the Bills’ purchase, sold more land and assets for $1.75 billion. That’s $6.45 billion and while nobody likes giving away $22 million for someone to do nothing, it wouldn’t be a huge hit on Pegula’s financial portfolio.
How bad does Pegula want to win? Already revered, we know that he can be revered to the ultimate degree if he can bring home a Super Bowl and/or Stanley Cup. He is the only one that can do it. He owns both teams and he doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. A title or two would result in statues of the man for all to see for the rest of time.
How much patience does he have? I’m sure he has more than the fans do and because of that, Ryan likely comes back for one, if not two more seasons. But, if Pegula is really studying what he has seen, he can’t be happy. I really believe that he is contemplating a move to dismiss Ryan. He has not come out in support of Ryan at all this season and in fairness, has not said anything negative either, but what does that really mean?
Pegula will hold the season-ender presser very soon. In it, he could say that he will do everything possible to help the Bills and Ryan win a Super Bowl, or he could say that the time to win is now and because so, I am relieving Ryan of his duties.
I would like to see the former, but I do expect that latter. That’s the safe call, but the Buffalo Bills have been in the NFL since 1970. That’s 46 seasons with no championships. None. And, except for a nice little run from 1988-1996, the Bills have never really threatened the NFL bluebloods.
How much longer does Terry Pegula want to wait?