After the New York Jets fired Rex Ryan following a 4-12 2014 season, Ryan was discussed as a hot coaching prospect for multiple opportunities despite his teams not making the playoffs since 2010. He was hired by the Buffalo Bills, though, who just fired him Tuesday following a 8-8 2015 and a 7-8 mark to date this year, records that definitely did not live up to his introductory press conference promises. Ryan’s firing provides an excellent excuse to look back at many of the prominent media figures who thought he’d be a great fit for numerous jobs in the 2014-15 offseason. Let’s start with a couple of “Falcons or 49ers” takes:
— Matt Barbato (@RealMattBarbato) December 31, 2014
I thought Rex Ryan would've been a great fit in Atlanta or San Francisco where he already has a QB. But a nasty D in Buffalo at least
— Adnan Virk, ESPN (@adnanESPN) January 11, 2015
Virk’s take there is particularly notable, as it made sense at the time. In San Francisco, Colin Kaepernick was coming off three reasonably impressive seasons, while Buffalo’s quarterback picture was uncertain, but they had conceded the fourth-fewest points that year (18.8 per game). This was also before the massive offseason attrition the 49ers experienced in 2015. It seems less true now, though; the Bills’ defense regressed under Ryan, to 15th in points allowed in both 2015 and 2016 so far, while quarterback Tyrod Taylor has outperformed Kaepernick in both of those seasons and put up impressive numbers. Ultimately, it wasn’t the quarterback that doomed Ryan.
There were plenty of others who thought the 49ers were a great fit for Ryan, such as NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest, who said “Rex Ryan going to the San Francisco 49ers, who have one of the best defenses in the league? Let me tell you, Rex, do everything in your position to land this football. They have a good offense, in every position. You go up and down the roster, there’s players throughout. But they’ve got a dominant defense and a dominant run game. If I recall, when you went to the AFC championship, you had both.”
What about the Falcons? Well, there were a whole lot of people who loved the idea of Ryan going there (and they did unquestionably have a good quarterback in Matt Ryan). One was former Jets’ linebacker Bart Scott, who told Yahoo’s Kristian Dyer Atlanta seemed like a great fit for Ryan thanks to their quarterback:
“I think it depends where he goes. If he goes where there is a quarterback, he has a very great chance of winning. He showed what he can do with a decent quarterback and a below-average quarterback in terms of performance,” Scott told Shutdown Corner. “You send him to a place where there is a leader in terms of a quarterback, who commands respect not just from other teams but from the skill position players in that building, it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous.
“It is dangerous to give that man a lead. Last time I played in that system when we had a lead, we put up 60 sacks and teams were afraid to play us. Downright afraid of us.”
Plenty of media types on Twitter also thought Ryan and his vaunted defensive skills would be a good fit in Atlanta:
Panthers 17, Falcons 3, zero chance Mike Smith survives a home loss with the playoffs on the line.
Rex Ryan would be a great fit there
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) December 28, 2014
— Charles Curtis (@bycharlescurtis) January 11, 2015
Rex would be a great fit in ATL. Can match Sean Payton in terms of schemes and instill aggression on O and D. Pretty easy to work with too.
— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) January 6, 2015
— Kimberley A. Martin (@KMart_LI) December 30, 2014
Somewhere else that drew buzz for Ryan was the other side of the Bay Area, with many suggesting him for the Oakland job:
Rex Ryan seems like great fit for Raiders on multiple fronts. Could also be next Madden on TV. Will be interesting to see where he ends up.
— Jeff Weiner (@jeffweiner) December 29, 2014
I understand how Harbaugh & Raiders are a great match. But why no chatter about Rex Ryan to Raiders? He'd be great fit.
— Jason Fielder (@JasonFielderTV) December 26, 2014
And what about the Chicago Bears? The New York Post threw that one out there even before either Ryan or Bears’ coach Marc Trestman was fired:
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) November 10, 2014
It got some later support as well:
— Matt Barbato (@RealMattBarbato) December 29, 2014
Of course, none of those takes are necessarily wrong. Maybe Ryan would have found more success in those other spots; we don’t know. It’s worth noting that his defensive mastery may have been a bit overplayed, though, especially considering how the league started adapting to his blitz-heavy systems; Ryan’s Jets’ defenses were great in 2009 (first in points allowed) and 2010 (fifth), but then quickly went downhill, ranking 19th, 20th, 20th and 24th in points allowed over his final four seasons. Keep in mind that people figured he’d do well with the Bills, too, and that’s one take that was proven wrong:
Rex Ryan to the Bills is perfect. Great fit for the community, & gives the team a presence it hasn't had in forever. Jets-Bills will be fun.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 11, 2015
Given that Buffalo’s defense also regressed under him, the idea of Ryan’s defense solving everything seems a bit much. Maybe people will have a little more restraint about how great a fit he is this next time around…