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Jerry Sullivan: Rex in trouble, and we're back to square one

Not to be contrary or anything, but I was dismayed by reports that the Bills might fire Rex Ryan as head coach as early as Monday if his team lost to the Steelers. Let's be clear, I'm totally opposed to such a rash, untimely move.

You know me, I always root for a good story. What could be better than Rex coaching for his job at home next week against a winless Browns team? Imagine the ugly scene if Ryan's team laid an egg at New Era Field against the sorriest NFL franchise.

That's why I could see owners Terry and Kim Pegula making such a move. Whacking Ryan and ushering in a new era could minimize the impact of the Cleveland game. It would give an interim head coach – Anthony Lynn, perhaps – an easy first game. And if he loses, they can blame it on Lynn's inexperience and the aftershocks of a major transition.

Recent history gives me pause, however. This makes three straight years under the Pegulas that rumors of a major franchise upheaval have hit in December. Two years ago, it was about Bill Polian or some other "czar" coming on to straighten out the operation.

Nothing happened, aside from Doug Marrone walking away as head coach two years ago. Suddenly, Doug Whaley and Russ Brandon, whose jobs would have been imperiled if Polian had taken over, were leading the Pegulas to Ryan as the savior.

Last year, after telling Ryan and Whaley that they'd better win this year or else, Terry Pegula threw his support behind them and rewarded Whaley with a contract extension. So I've learned never to predict what the Pegulas might have in store.

But this time, they're not crying wolf (Ron Wolf?).  For one thing, Tyrod Taylor is almost certainly done as the quarterback. Taylor sat motionless at his locker for 15 minutes after the game, like a kid who had just been told there's no Santa Claus. He knows it's over for him. It won't surprise me if Cardale Jones plays the final three games.

Ryan looks like a dead man walking, too. You don't need some football czar to conclude that his model of football is outdated, and that his defense has been a miserable failure for much of his two seasons as the Bills' head man.

If the Pegulas have decided to pull the plug, good for them. It's refreshing to know that they're actually paying attention and aren't wedded to Ryan for the full five years. Evidently, they're no longer being mesmerized by his tired shtick and don't believe he's the guy to turn around the franchise.

They might not realize that, after Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Steelers, Ryan is on the verge of becoming only the fourth man since the NFL-AFL merger to be a head coach for six consecutive calendar years and not make the playoffs.

Bringing him back would open them up to further embarrassment, and that's one thing Terry Pegula cannot stomach. The idea of sending Ryan away with the remaining $16.5 million of his contract as a parting gift would not deter a man who once said he would drill an oil well if he wanted more resources for his sports teams.

Anyway, if Ryan was coaching for his job against the Steelers, he didn't do himself any favors. The final score doesn't come close to reflecting how outmatched and unready the Bills were with their playoff hopes on the line.

They came out flat and unfocused. Taylor and the offense were horrendous. The defense was a discombobulated mess. They missed tackles and played soft. Ryan would tell you they never quit. But it looked to me as if his defense quit while walking off the team bus.

The Bills have allowed an average of 31 points in their seven losses this season. They have not beaten an opposing quarterback who was rated in the top half of the league (16th or better) since he arrived in Buffalo. But he doesn't believe his defense has failed him.

"No, I wouldn't say that," Ryan said. "But I get it, we had a bad day today. The kid did have a 37 quarterback rating. We would have signed up for that before the game. We wouldn't have signed up for 236 yards rushing."

The Steelers led at halftime, 14-7, and could have been up by 20 if "the kid," Ben Roethlisberger, hadn't passed on two of every three plays and thrown two to Bills defenders. They got serious after halftime and turned tailback Le'Veon Bell loose. The Bills had no chance.

Bell ran through them for 159 of his 236 yards in the second half. The 236 yards were a record against the Bills. In fact, two of the three top opposing rushing games in franchise history have come in the last two months. Miami's Jay Ajayi went for 214 against them in Week Seven.

Oh, Bell had 298 yards from scrimmage, becoming the first player in the NFL this season to outgain an opponent by himself. Not a good look for the defensive genius, or the cronies on Rex's defensive staff. Sure, they missed tackle Kyle Williams, but there's no excuse.

The Pegulas can't be impressed to know that Ryan's defense has had too many or too few players on the field in five straight games. There was a play in the first half when you could see linebacker Bryson Albright rushing on the field just in time for the snap.

That bespeaks a lack of organization and detail among the coaches. That's long been a criticism of Ryan, that he lacks the sense of detail required for an NFL head coach. Lack of communication and confusion on substitutions have been a problem during Ryan's two years in Buffalo.

Last week, Ryan claimed to be unaware that his highly paid tight end, Charles Clay, would miss the Oakland game to be with his wife for the birth of their child. You can only imagine what other amateurish blunders have taken place.

Evidently, the Pegulas have noticed. I suspect that Whaley and his personnel people are engaging in a power play against Ryan. One of the national reports on Sunday had an unnamed Bills source saying that Ryan had been given "superior personnel" and not done enough with it.

That sounds like a transparent attempt to direct blame at Ryan in a crisis. It's true that Ryan hasn't gotten enough out of his team, but Whaley is also culpable for some dubious moves – such as trading up for Sammy Watkins; doubling down on EJ Manuel; whiffing on key draft picks; and drafting Shaq Lawson when he was hurt and lying about it on draft night.

So while the Pegulas are right about Ryan, they seem to be falling into a familiar trap – putting too much trust in Whaley and Brandon, who continues to have influence behind the scenes in his role as president of both pro franchises.

It was Whaley and Brandon who led them to Ryan in the first place, at a time when both were fearful of losing their jobs. Ryan turned out to be a mistake, but from what I'm told, the Pegulas are thrilled with Whaley. His job is secure.

So we're back to where we were two years ago, with the Pegulas unhappy with the direction of their football team and looking to the same old guys to fix it. Brandon and Whaley found a head coach who was such a bumbler that it made them look more capable in the owners' eyes.

On Sunday, the Bills lost to the Steelers for the sixth straight time during their 16-year – and soon to be 17 – playoff drought. They have done it with six different head coaches and six starting quarterbacks.

Around and around we go. The Pegulas spin in circles, while the fans' heads simply keep on spinning.

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