The Buffalo Bills took a chance on Doug Marrone two years ago and got burned. True, Marrone led the Bills to their first winning season since 2004, but he also left the franchise high and dry and pocketed an extra $4 million along the way.
Enter Rex Ryan, who became the Bills’ 18th coach in franchise history last week. A defensive genius, Ryan led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons in New York before falling off the proverbial cliff. The Jets have gone 26-38 over the last four seasons.
What exactly was the Buffalo brass thinking with this hire?
“It’s a great question,” Sirius XM and Westwood One Sports NFL analyst Ross Tucker said on Tiki and Tierney. “I wondered how much this is about the Bills ownership and do they want a coach with some name recognition (and) some pizazz? The Bills don’t get a lot of love. They don’t get a lot of national attention. I’m curious as to whether this is our first glimpse of the Pegulas wanting to be a franchise that’s talked about, wanting to be a franchise that’s relevant. I have no problem with the hire. I’m just curious if that’s part of the decision.
“I think Rex is a better coach than Doug Marrone,” Tucker continued. “I think Rex is a terrific football coach and a good hire for the Buffalo Bills. I would take Rex and what he’s done over what Doug Marrone had accomplished in his couple years.”
On the flipside, what was Ryan’s thought process for going to Buffalo?
“I guess from Rex’s standpoint, this must be a situation where he didn’t have any other jobs,” Tucker said. “I can’t imagine he would have wanted to go somewhere where once again they didn’t really have an established quarterback. It sounds like he really wanted to go to Atlanta, but Atlanta wouldn’t tell him that he would be the guy. And Buffalo offered him $25 million over five years. And there’s certainly not a lot of gigs, certainly not in media, (that offer that kind of money).”
While Bills are obviously hoping for a Super Bowl, Ryan would be worth his weight in gold just by making Buffalo relevant again. Certain teams and divisions have a national cache; the Bills do not.
And in a sport where there’s so much money to be made, that’s a bad, bad thing.
“(The fans in Buffalo) want a winner; they want to make the playoffs and all that,” Tucker said. “But they love when people are just acknowledging them and talking about them.”
When the Bills signed a past-his-prime Terrell Owens in 2009, “people in Buffalo were ecstatic.” Why? Because people were talking about the Bills. It was the same phenomenon at the draft last year, when Buffalo traded up to get Sammy Watkins (even though the Bills could have stayed where they were – or traded down – and gotten Odell Beckham Jr.)
Hindsight is 20/20, but still.
“People loved it in Buffalo because it was their team making the big, bold move that everybody on draft night was talking about,” Tucker said. “It was their team that went and got the supposed No. 1 guy.”
In many ways, this attention-seeking should come as no surprise. The Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999 and haven’t won a playoff game since 1993.
That’s a long time.
“I think organizations that have fan bases that are hungry for relevance really need to be careful not to kind of kowtow just trying to feed them some attention,” Tucker said, “which, I think, is what some of them want.”