Rex Ryan hasn’t won a single game as the Bills’ head coach, but it really doesn’t matter. The decision to hire him was a stroke of brilliance. You can’t take your eyes off Sexy Rexy. He was what Buffalo needed to repair its collective psyche and rally the fan base after a tumultuous start to the offseason.
Ryan has been cruising around town in a pickup truck that’s pimped up in classic Bills Fan Club fashion, complete with the charging buffalo. He redecorated his infamous tattoo, updating with current team colors. He has been hanging out at our neighborhood watering hole, the Big Tree Inn.
In a few short months, he has charmed the masses. He’s become a man of the people, a guy who violates the confidence-arrogance line without apology, someone who wakes up flashing half of a peace sign to anyone daring to doubt him, a Buffalo guy whose tough exterior disguises a warm heart.
That’s Rex Ryan, right?
It’s no wonder why season-tickets sales have soared since he was introduced to Western New York. Who in town doesn’t appreciate a pickup-truck driving, beer-swilling, Jim Kelly-, Thurman Thomas-, NHL-loving football coach who embraces the snow and takes on all comers?
He’s part showman, but not since Kelly retired have the Bills had someone with the audacity to shoot first and ask questions later the way Ryan does. Ryan popped off in Sports Illustrated last week about his time with the Jets and made a point to call out tight end Jace Amaro for saying Ryan didn’t hold people accountable.
“I think the kid’s got some talent I am just going to leave it at that,” Ryan told SI. “I just know one thing: He totally misspoke and you talk about accountable? He’s gonna be accountable when we go to play him.”
Yes, that’s Rex Ryan.
The real genius in Rex, however, is that he’s single-handedly removing the pressure from the rest of the organization and placing it on himself. He insists that you watch him because it means peeling your eyes away from the three-headed elephant in the room known as the quarterback position.
Doug Whaley and his top scouts held their annual pre-draft luncheon Monday in the ADRPO Sports Training Facility. The Bills traded away their first-round pick to grab Sammy Watkins last year. It’s nearly impossible to predict who they would take in the second round. In truth, they had little to offer Monday.
Sex sells in television and advertising, but Rex sells football. And that’s exactly what he has been doing since he arrived. He has been selling his idea that the Bills can end their 15-year playoff drought despite their shortcomings at the most important position on the field. He’s selling ground and pound.
In honor of the Big Tree, here are your two favorite words: I’m buying.
The Bills deserve credit for their offseason strategy. No longer are they trying to convince people that have a franchise QB. Ryan has made it clear that former first-round pick EJ Manuel needs to compete for the job. Every move they made since last season is acknowledgement of their biggest flaw.
Rather than continue to bang their heads against the wall, they reached for sledgehammers that can help knock it down. They put faith in their defense, which means faith in Rex, and decided to take an alternate route that can reach the same destination. It makes sense.
Look around the league. There aren’t many elite quarterbacks out there. The Bills stood little chance of getting one. They examined the market. The best they could find was Matt Cassel, a veteran who had enjoyed marginal success in the NFL and is known more for being a great teammate than a great player.
The NFL has become a passing league with rules geared toward giving quarterbacks and receivers more time and space. But they can use that to their advantage. Most teams are building defenses designed to stop the passing game. It stands to reason they’re more vulnerable to old-school rushing attacks.
Whaley made the trade for LeSean McCoy, a premier running back who they believe will give them the production they didn’t get from C.J. Spiller. They added guard Richie Incognito with the idea he would stop bullying his teammates and unleash the same oppression on defensive tackles.
Charles Clay gives them a complete tight end. He can catch short passes from quarterbacks like Manuel or Cassel, guys who haven’t proven they can effectively throw down the field, and block in the running game. Percy Harvin gives the Bills another dimension, which should relieve pressure from the quarterback.
The Bills still have two good young receivers in Watkins and Robert Woods, both of whom will draw attention to them and away from the running game. Both showed they could get open last season, when Kyle Orton was sold as a quarterback. They won nine games last year without an offensive identity.
If the formula for winning is playing sound defense and establishing a running game behind and offensive line that should be improved, the Bills appear to be in good shape. It certainly beats trying to force-feed a passing game in a passing league without having an elite passer. If that’s what Rex is selling, yes, I’m buying.
The rest is just Rex being Rex.
In Buffalo, that works, too.