James Lofton: ‘Not A Slam Dunk With Rex Ryan’

The Buffalo Bills hired their 18th coach in franchise history Monday, signing Rex Ryan to a five-year contract. Ryan, who will earn $5.5 million annually, was one of a dozen candidates interviewed by the Bills after Doug Marrone opted out of his contract Dec. 31.

Needless to say, things are about to get mighty interesting in Buffalo, which has been more or less irrelevant since last century.

“He is one of those coaches that moves the needle of the fan,” NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver and Westwood One Sports analyst James Lofton said of Ryan on Tiki and Tierney. “There’s some coaches you go, ‘Well, he’s their coach. That was a bad call he made on game day.’ But with Rex, it’s seven days a week.”

But forget about moving the needle. What about wins? Is Ryan, who went 50-52 with the Jets, including 4-2 in the playoffs, the right man for the job?

“Well, it’s funny because now it’s a little too late to ask that question,” Lofton said. “Obviously Frank Reich, who’s the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers, (is) in his first year being a coordinator (and) interviewed for the job. And if you’re a sentimental guy, that’s who you’re thinking (should be hired).”

Reich, 53, played for the Bills from 1985 to 1994.

“(He was there for) the glory years,” said Lofton, who was Reich’s teammate from 1989 to 1992. “He was there with Bill Polian, was there with Jim Kelly, all the other Hall of Famers. He’s now coaching. He’s been coaching for seven or eight years. He’s young, he’s energetic. Maybe that’s our guy. But obviously during the interview process, he didn’t come off as the guy.”

Ryan, meanwhile, led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons in New York but struggled mightily thereafter. The Jets went 4-12 this year and finished last in the AFC East.

“It’s not a slam dunk (with Ryan),” Lofton said. “The ball’s been lobbed toward the rim, but can Rex elevate? He can elevate a little better than he could a couple years ago.”

In other NFL news, it was a close-but-no-cigar performance for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The Cowboys lost, 26-21, to the Packers in Green Bay, this after a 31-yard catch by Dez Bryant – which would have given Dallas first-and-goal at the 1 – was overturned. Dallas turned the ball over on downs and never recovered.

Monday’s million-dollar question, then, should come as no surprise: Was it a catch?

“No, no – and all I’m doing is going by the rules,” said Lofton, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003. “It’s funny. Tiki fumbled once or twice early in his career, but some of those fumbles would have been reviewed (and overturned). And some of them that came out late might have been fumbled. So the high-definition replay that we’re under, as soon as the ball bobbled, I said, ‘That’s not a catch.’ And obviously I had my Green Bay hat on during that time.”

Lofton played for the Packers from 1978 to 1986 and went to seven Pro Bowls in the process.

“But I looked at it and I said, ‘That’s not a catch,’” Lofton said. “I think there are a lot of Dallas Cowboys sympathizers on the NFL Network – Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin. And so they’re watching and thinking, ‘We want to sit next to Jerry at the Super Bowl,’ and they’re going, ‘It’s a catch! It’s a catch!’ No, it wasn’t a catch by the rules – and you do play by the rules. Dez Bryant’s athletic and he tried to reach out, but he did not complete the catch like you’re supposed to going to the ground. And it would have been the same if it were a third-and-8 play. He did not complete the catch.”

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