Buffalo Bills: Didn’t you use to be Rex Ryan?


The Ryan family is known for defense like the Earnhardt family is known for racing, the Rhodes family is known for Wrestling and the Griffin family is known for terrorizing Quahog.

Buddy Ryan, the patriarch of the family, was credited with masterminded the 46 Defense behind those dominant Bears teams of the 80’s, along with the Eagles teams he coached just a few short years later.

ALSO ON SPIN ZONE: NFL Predictions for Week 7

Rob and Rex Ryan did not fall far behind their father’s footsteps as the Ryan brothers have been known for their defensive prowess at every stop.

After a brief stint as defensive backs coach with his dad’s Cardinals from 1994-96, Rob Ryan took the defensive coordinator position at Oklahoma State, where the Cowboys defense continually ranked among the best in the nation. Ryan was named Coordinator of the Year by The Sporting News in 1997.

Rob came back to the NFL with the Patriots, and was the linebackers coach there from 2000-2003. His 2001 squad set a New England record allowing just 17 points per game. He has since gone on to be the defensive coordinator of the Raiders, Browns, Cowboys and Saints, improving the defense at each stop.

But it is Rex Ryan who is the better known of the two. Rex was the defensive line coach of the Baltimore Ravens record setting defense in 2000, and took over defensive coordinator position for the 2005 season. His success there is what landed him the head coaching job of the New York Jets for the 2009 season.

All Rex did in the Big Apple was lead a Jets team that nobody thought too highly of, to back-to-back AFC Title Games in his first two years there.

Oct 18, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bengals beat the Bills 34 to 21. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The next three years in New York did not live up to the success of his first two seasons, but that had more to do with a lackluster offense than major defensive issues.

Courtesy of The New York Times Magazine writer Nicholas Davidoff roughly five years ago, Ryan’s teams are highly regarded for their defensive capabilities which often feature “relentlessness [and] unpredictable mayhem founded on [Ryan’s] premise that ‘whatever you do best, we’re going to take away from you'”

This brings us to Rex Ryan in 2015 leading the Buffalo Bills. His hiring was supposed to take a group on defense that was already relentless and turn them into one of the more dominant units in the NFL. Through six games, that has not happened. Now many are questioning what Ryan is doing with this team, as his usual M.O. of putting major pressure on opposing quarterbacks seems to have been replace with more of an almost passive approach.

In the second game of the season against the Patriots, Ryan decided not the blitz Tom Brady at all, instead thinking his front four could put all the pressure on that was needed. Of course, that approach failed miserably and Brady tore apart the defense to the tune of 466 yards passing and three scores.

After the game Ryan admitted it may have been a mistake not to blitz Brady more to try and get some pressure on him and said,”It’s on my shoulders. Belichick outcoached me. No question about it.” Not the words Bills fans wanted to hear for Ryan’s first battle with the hated Patriots.

It hasn’t gotten much better for the Bills since then, with home losses to the Giants and Bengals. The loss against Cincinnati was especially troubling, not because they lost to a good team, but because of the scheme the defense played. One that Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and even Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly complained about.

According to Williams though, this week in London against the Jaguars will be different. Via Ryan Talbot of Scout.com, Williams told Bills fans that “Blake Bortles should be warned, the Bills pass rush is coming on Sunday”.

Does that mean the real Rex Ryan has come back into the fold? The one who believes his defenses thrive on pressure? Maybe a trip across the pond  will prove to be all it took to find the missing Rex. Bills fans can only hope so.

Next: Catching Up With a Super Bowl Champion

More from NFL Spin Zone