No, Rex Ryan Shouldn't Be Fired

Even with a win Sunday against his former team, the New York Jets, Rex Ryan, Buffalo’s polarizing head coach is still looking at a mediocre, 8-8 season.

There is no denying that this season has been a disappointment. The defense has regressed, the offense has been inconsistent and special teams has seemingly drawn a flag every play they are on the field. It’s a bad mix of three individual, problem-filled phases that equate to exactly what this team has shown to be: mediocre.

But, the blame should not be placed so easily on Ryan’s shoulders. He certainly deserves some of the blame. And as the head coach it ultimately, and maybe unfairly, falls on his shoulders alone. But, there is a systematic misunderstanding of the situation the Buffalo Bills were in entering this season that has opened up Ryan and the Bills as a whole to somewhat unfair criticism. 

Normally when a football team hires a new head coach, it is because they fired its old coach. The team typically is underperforming and needs new leadership from the top to create a trickling culture change down to the players.

That wasn’t the case for the Bills. We didn’t fire our head coach. Our head coach, Doug Marrone, left (to become the offensive line coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, which isn’t necessarily important but hysterical nonetheless). Our team was on the rise and didn’t really need change. Honestly, they just needed to stay on the upward trend they were showing. So when Marrone left the Bills were in a unique position.

Enter: Rex Ryan. The hype around the hire was unprecedented for Buffalo. Ryan is a high profile coach coming to a small market, most of the time miserable team. We figured, and maybe rightfully so, that Ryan could just slot in with our already talented team and continue that trend. Ryan wasn’t awarded the normal growing pains that a new head coach typically is.

Normally, a first year head coach has low expectations. He’s inheriting a bad team and is in a situation to succeed, or at least not disappoint. Ryan inherited a talented team that was playoff poised. He never was allowed the time to make the team his own.

Now, after one year as head coach people are calling for Ryan to be fired. That is an extremely unique situation. Even if a typical first year head coach ends the season with a poor record, fans are almost always willing to give a second season and understand that a transition takes time. Instead Ryan has been met with calls for the team to be what it was last year and calls for his job.

It’s not easy to forget that Ryan did inherit a talented team that should make the playoffs. But it apparently is very easy to forget that transitions take time. Respect takes time to be earned. Leadership takes time to be established. Systems take time to be learned.

Ryan should be held accountable for many of the problems on this team. The ‘first year head coach’ title isn’t a get out of jail free card. He’s the head coach and ultimately every problem that is the team’s is also his. Ryan deserves much of the criticism he is receiving. But, he also deserves a chance to correct those changes.