Rex Ryan is keeping it in the family in an effort to fix the Buffalo Bills’ defense.
Ryan, the Bills’ coach, added his twin brother, Rob, to the team’s coaching staff Sunday night with the title of assistant head coach/defense.
“I’m excited to have Rob join our staff and I think he will be a great asset for our defense. He has a tremendous working knowledge of our schemes and I look forward to his input,” Rex Ryan said in a statement released by the Bills. “On a personal note, it’s been a number of years since we have worked together and so we are both really looking forward to this opportunity.”
Rob Ryan most recently served as defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints. He was fired after an embarrassing, 47-14 loss to Washington in Week 10. At the time, the Saints ranked last in the NFL in both yards and points against. Following Ryan’s dismissal, the Saints remained last in points per game allowed and improved to only 31st in yards against by the end of the 2015 season.
Rob Ryan visited with the Bills in early December, prior to a Week 14 game against Philadelphia. Rex Ryan was asked at that time whether he’d consider hiring his twin brother. The Ryan brothers last coached together under their father, Buddy, with the Arizona Cardinals in 1994-95.
“I’ll never say never, that’s for sure,” Rex Ryan said in early December. “We’ve kind of purposely set a path going to different teams. He’s his own man, I’m my own man and we’ve purposely set that path. With that being said, I’m not going to lie to you, I think it’d be pretty fun. If it could help, obviously we’d consider it but he’d have to consider it as well. We’ve got great coaches already. But we’ll see.”
Rob Ryan has served as defensive coordinator for four different teams: the Saints (2013-15), Raiders (2004-08), Browns (2009-10) and Cowboys (2011-12). The Raiders had the worst defense in the NFL in 2005, but rebounded to finish No. 3 overall the following year. The Saints had the worse defense in NFL history in 2012, but under Ryan’s leadership improved to fourth in 2013. Ultimately, however, Ryan was fired from each job.
During the Bills’ season-ending news conference, the final question posed to Rex Ryan was whether he thought his brother would have any objections to having him as a boss.
“He probably would,” Rex Ryan said with a laugh. “No, I have no idea. I know it was great. I will say this: He was around for several days and you know he really, really liked the players that we have ... and sees what we’re building. He’s been around a lot of teams and things like that. So I think he was impressed with this organization.”
Under Rex Ryan and coordinator Dennis Thurman, the Bills’ defense dropped from fourth overall in 2014 to 19th in 2015. Ryan was asked at the season-ending news conference if Thurman’s job was safe, but stopped far short of giving his coordinator a vote of confidence.
“I don’t wanna say anything, you know, until we talk to our coaches,” he said. “Some coaches may want to be here, may not want to be here – whatever it is.”
At the time, former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine had just been fired as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Given that Pettine served as Rex Ryan’s defensive coordinator with the New York Jets for four seasons, the Bills’ current coach was asked if a reunion was a possibility.
“I’ll say this – because you can put my brother in that – there’s gonna be a lot of really good coaches out there,” Rex Ryan said last week. “Unfortunately that’s the nature of the business. ... Mike Pettine, my brother – they’re great coaches. But you know, we’re just now going through the process of talking and evaluating our coaches and how we move forward. So I don’t think it’s fair to comment on other coaches.”