I’ve written this blog before. Rex Ashley Ryan (RAR, an acronym for Really Awful Record) is not the answer to Bills fans woes. I am a lifetime member of a dedicated, yet maligned brethren of Buffalo Bills supporters still waxing for the glory days of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, and Andre Reed.
Oh yeah, we lost four Super Bowls in a row. It’s an NFL record that may never be duplicated. Don’t remind me, I know we are the all-time best at losing the “big game.” In every other way, though, we were winners. Hall-of-Fame coach Marv Levy led the Bills to the playoffs eight times in his 11 full seasons as head coach.
No, we weren’t on level of Bill Belichick and the Patriots, who have ruled the AFC East for 15 years, but we were damn close.
Since 1999, when “we” lost to Tennessee in the Music City Miracle game, “we” have had exactly two winning seasons. Mike Mularkey led us to a 9-7 record in the mid-2000s, and he subsequently left the job. Two years ago, Doug Marrone guided “us” to a 9-7 record.
Marrone left, too.
Now we have Rex Ryan, who is still making a living as a head coach off his first two seasons leading the Jets to the playoffs. Full disclosure, Ryan did have one of the best defenses in the leagues, but he also had Mark Sanchez as his starting quarterback. Yes, the Mark Sanchez who is football’s version of Rasputin.
Sanchez does dastardly things on the football field, yet still lands on his feet. Sanchez, he of the ignominious “butt fumble,” steered Ryan’s ship to 20 regular season wins in two playoff seasons.
Got to give credit where it’s due. Making the playoffs with Sanchez as your quarterback is a pretty nifty accomplishment.
Since that time, though, Ryan has alternated .500 seasons with losing seasons. Guess which one is next? Yes, according to the Ryan coaching schedule, the Bills are due for a 5- or 6-win season.
And that’s a shame. There is talent on both sides of the ball, and after a couple of defensive stars return from injury – and suspension – we could again see the dominant defense that was fourth in the NFL in 2014 – the year before Ryan arrived.
What is most disappointing was today’s impotent offensive performance against a Baltimore Ravens team that had one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2015. Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy, and Sammy Watkins are among the most dynamic athletes in the NFL. Other than a Taylor scramble-and-pass to Charles Clay in the first half, we saw a “diet vanilla” offense that played its cards against the vest.
Would you ever see a Patriots team coached by Bill Belichick make such anemic play calls on offense? How about the Steelers? The Seahawks? More often than not, aggressive, smart play-calling pays big dividends.
Rex Ryan stepped into the job known as the guy who preached defense, and his clubs regularly finished among the top 10 in total defense. For the Bills, last year was z near historic regression on the defensive side of the ball. The Bills went from a league-leading 54 sacks in ’14 to just 21 in ’15, and dropped to 19th in total defense.
Sure, there were some injuries, but nearly all of the same components that made Buffalo such a dominant defense were on the field a year later when the Bills’ defense often resembled a sieve.
It remains to be seen whether the Bills will make strides on defense this season. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco lit up the Buffalo secondary in the 2016 season-opener, but the defense did play better in the second half.
What wasn’t better was the lack of discipline as numerous penalties again conspired against the Bills’ victory hopes. Buffalo led the league in penalty yards a season ago, and it is picking up where it left off.
So the product that was on display Sunday, Sept. 11 was an average defense, a subpar offense, and a club that is more apt to hurt than help itself.
That’s business as usual for Rex Ryan clubs, and unfortunately for Bills fans, history will likely repeat itself for the 17th straight season.