The Buffalo Bills have been here before.
Since Marv Levy retired from coaching after the 1997 season, the Bills have employed eight head coaches. None have coached more than 3 1/2 seasons — Dick Jauron was fired midway through his fourth season — and only Wade Phillips, the first post-Levy head coach, has produced an overall winning record.
Two of the eight head coaches left of their own volition – Mike Mularkey and Doug Marrone – and interestingly, those departures came after that rare Bills winning season.
What is stunning is the Bills’ philosophy, through multiple upper-level management teams, of continued dipping into the shallow well of retread coaches with a middling to mediocre track record.
Bill Belichick is one of the few NFL head coaching examples of a guy who got it right — really right — the second time around. Belichick had a nothing-special run as head coach with the Cleveland Browns.
His tenure with the Patriots, well, let’s just say his Hall of Fame bust will be ready to go when he steps away from the game.
Marrone was indeed a chic pick as the Bills’ head coach two years ago. He was that hot commodity coveted by multiple suitors, and the Bills won that mini-lottery when he signed on in 2013. The Bills were a team on the rise after last season until Marrone abruptly opted out of his contract.
Hiring Marrone was a step out of character for the Bills, but they returned to form when Rex Ryan was signed in the offseason. Yes, the same Rex Ryan who brought the New York Jets to irrelevance in 2014.
This past offseason, the Jets – unlike the Bills – went the route of the hot commodity hiring Todd Bowles. Six weeks into Bowles’ tenure, the Jets are among the top teams in the AFC, while the Bills’ projected promise is devolving into abject disappointment.
Think about this: Rex Ryan is the fourth Bills coach over the past 17 years who was fired from his previous head coaching gig. Unlike Belichick, who spent some time rebuilding his value in the offensive coordinator ranks, Ryan jumped head first back into a head coaching position.
And Ryan was hired by the same team that crushed his Jets a year ago – twice in fact – by a combined 81 to 26. The latter of those contests, a 38-3 Buffalo romp in early November, was a complete embarrassment for Jets fans.
On that day, the Jets were disorganized, ill-prepared, and largely incompetent by NFL standards. The players performed poorly, but were also poorly coached.
Clearly, Bills management ignored that 20-foot-tall red flag when it conducted its coaching search.
What is also troubling is Ryan’s reaction to Bills defensive players questioning the scheme. The stout Bills defense that was among the top five in the NFL a year ago is floundering in the bottom half of the league standings through seven weeks.
The sack-happy front of Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes, and Marcel Dareus, who helped the Bills to a league-high 54 sacks a year ago, have barely touched the quarterback this year.
In reply to the Bills’ complaints, Ryan said, “When you’re not successful, you always go back and think, ‘Maybe I should have done whatever.’ But we will play our defense.”
Translated: We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.
At almost every competitive level of football, the head coach tailors his scheme to the individual talent, not force-feed an arbitrary scheme on said talent.
That’s Coaching Adjustments 101.
Guess Rex Ryan needs to go back and retake that class.