There is an inordinately optimistic number of Bills fans. Some might call them naive while others might select the word moronic, but for reasons I do not understand there are tons of the-glass-is-half-full persuasion on message boards like Two Bills Drive. Here are search results relating to EJ Manuel in April 2013. Comparisons to Warren Moon. To a better version of Daunte Culpepper. To a "grown-ass man." The headliner from the best first day of a draft since John Butler. Anyone who watched college football knew Manuel was ... limited. Despite our comments here at G:TB, Bills fans were positive.
And it turns out they were wrong.
I think this bodes well for the Bills' future because unlike drafting EJ, I am relatively enthused about Rex Ryan while folks on Bills message boards seem displeased. Many in the tri-state area also panned the hire including Mike Francesa who concluded that Ryan is a bad coach because he isn't as good as "Paaaahcells." Here's why I'm all in.
1. The Bills didn't put themselves in this position.
As you may recall, the Bills didn't fire their previous coach, he resigned. Perhaps the Billsiest thing that could possibly happen, their head coach literally quit on the team to become the O-line coach for the 4-12 Jaguars. So it's not like the Bills put themselves in the position of needing to hire a new coach, their old coach did it to them suddenly and unexpectedly. They needed to make lemonade out of lemons and I think they did.
FYI, here's what a google image search for buffalo lemonade dredges up:
I think I got chlamydia just from looking at that picture.
2. There wasn't anyone out there clearly better.
I ask everyone who shat upon this hiring to suggest someone better. When making such a list the natural starting point would be available coaches with rings ("CWR"). There are a fair number of CWR out there but none would fit. Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson have multiple rings but they are old and have no reason to stand on a frozen Buffalo sideline at this point in their lives. Ditto Dick Vermeil, Joe Gibbs, and George Seifert.
Gruden, Cowher, Dungy, and Billick have cushy TV gigs that they aren't giving up.
CWR Mike Shanahan is available but after what he did in Washington I don't think he's a legitimate option anymore. I have no idea where Holmgren and Switzer are, but I think they're equally illegitimate now too.
All the other CWR I can think of already have coaching jobs with better teams.
The next place to look would be recently fired head coaches. That would be Rex, Mike Smith, Dennis Allen, Tony Sparano, and Marc Trestman. Not exactly a stocked vineyard. John Fox wasn't fired yet when the Bills hired Rex and I'm not particularly enamored with him anyway. I think there was never a doubt that Jim Harbaugh was going to Michigan so he doesn't count either.
That leaves all the popular coordinators and I don't buy into any of them. Adam Gase would be a bad hire. Denver ran the same offense that Peyton Manning had in Indy so it's not like Gase came up with the system. Instead, he has one of the best QBs of all time directing the system he used for 17 years and probably is just as much the OC as Gase. If anything, Peyton should be in line for a HC job somewhere.
Dan Quinn runs a high school system in Seattle. They're successful because Seattle has an insanely talented defense. Quinn was born in Morristown NJ and he coached at William & Mary so I ought to like him, but sitting here today I can't tell if he's a good coach or if he just lucked into a remarkably talented team at the right time.
People were excited about Darrel Bevell but then he did this:
Todd Bowles got some love in the media but clearly he's nuts. He hired Chan Gailey to be his offensive coordinator. Terrible.
Now if Buffalo got a guy like Urban Meyer or Gus Malzahn or some other genius from the college ranks I might be more excited. But of course for every Pete Carroll or Jimmy Johnson you have a Chan Gailey or a Doug Marrone. College coaches are by no means a sure bet.
In light of the foregoing, Rex is the least of multiple evils.
3. An offensive coach won't solve this team's problems.
I've heard myriad people say that the Bills should've hired an offensive coach. Not that Rex isn't offensive--he is from a behavioral perspective--but an offensive coach can't solve this team's problems.
This was the first winning season for the Bills since 2004. From 2004 to 2014 the Bills had four head coaches and one interim head coach. Three of those four were offensively minded. Here's how they did:
Two above average years with respect to points but otherwise all of these offenses stunk. Probably because the offensive players stunk. Much like Buffalo's current stinky QB situation. Simply put, no one can make this team into a scoring machine with the current personnel.
To illustrate my point, here are the various rankings of Brian Billick's teams. (Click on the image to make it bigger.)
Completely devoid of context, you would think that Billick was an offensive genius from 1994 to 1998, at which point he hit his head and became offensively inept but simultaneously transformed into a defensive mastermind. But you know that isn't the case--he had one of the best offenses of all time in Minnesota and one of the best defenses of all time in Baltimore. The players make the coach. Even the great Bill Belichick is 47-49 without Tom Brady (including his 11-5 season with Matt Cassel).
A really good offensive game-planner like Bruce "Kangol Kid" Arians might be able to eke an extra win or two out of this offense, but he already has a job.
4. Rex can make Buffalo's defense historically good.
Buffalo's defense was really really good last year. I think Rex can make it historically good in at least two ways.
First, he's one of if not the best defensive minds in the game. With the talent on the roster, including former defensive ROY Kiko Alonso who missed all of last year dude to injury, Rexy should be able to scheme up some nasty shit.
Second, I think he'll be very good at recruiting players. For example, Darrelle Revis is a free agent and I wouldn't be surprised if he would like to reunite with Rex. It's hard to get people to come to Buffalo. A guy like Rex provides a reason.
Sure, the offense will probably suck largely due to the QB situation, but Ryan went to the AFC Championship Game with Mark Sanchez ... twice!
The Bills were handed a bit of a shit sandwich when their coach spontaneously walked away from the team. Facing an unexpected coaching vacancy in a market with sexier options for head coaching opportunities, they hired someone with previous head coaching experience and success in the playoffs who is also considered to be a defensive genius who could make the most of the team's outstanding defensive personnel. If Rex is worth one or two more wins than Marrone, which I think is probably the case, then Buffalo might actually get a playoff game for the first time since the Clinton administration.
I like to complain ... a lot, about everything including the Bills. But I can't complain about this outcome.