Ed Reed was at the end of the line of an NFL playing career at safety that was already destined to be recognized with his entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Rex Ryan knew that, but still wanted Reed on the New York Jets’ roster in 2013. More than anything, he wanted Reed’s leadership in a secondary that included a struggling rookie cornerback, Dee Millner, the Jets' first-round draft pick that year.
“He wasn’t the player he once was,” Ryan said of Reed Friday when discussing his addition to the Buffalo Bills’ coaching staff as an assistant defensive backs coach. “He was still a darn good player, but it was all the other things he brought to the table, all the intangibles. I saw the way those players reacted to having Ed Reed in the building.
“And from Day One he walked in, he was trying to make players better. And they knew it and they followed him. I mean, it was the Pied Piper. They just followed him. He took them to film after (practice). His thing was about the preparation after you leave the practice field. We played a lot better. He did a tremendous job.”
Ryan pointed out that Millner wound up becoming the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Month “his last month playing alongside Ed Reed.”
Reed’s emphasis on preparation, Ryan said, ranks at the top of the qualities that made hiring him for his first coaching job an easy decision.
“I saw it first-hand,” Ryan said. “I saw it in Baltimore for all of those years I had Ed (while Ryan was on the Ravens’ coaching staff). You talk about a leader. He was such a leader, it was phenomenal.
“And that combination of Ed Reed and (returning Bills defensive backs coach) Tim McDonald working together, I think, will be really good for this football team. That’s why I hired Ed Reed. Ed obviously knows the system inside and out. He’s played in this system for two different teams, so that’s a big help. But I really think it’s what he’s going to add to our players in taking their preparation to a different level.”