Terry Pegula and Stan Kroenke are good billionaire buddies. Small-market ties notwithstanding, Pegula was one of Kroenke's more vocal supporters among NFL ownership when the real-estate developer moved the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles.
But don't expect Pegula to follow Kroenke's lead when it comes to parting ways with his head coach before the end of the season, regardless of how inevitable Rex Ryan's firing might appear.
Could a loss to the Cleveland Browns Sunday accelerate the process? Could the sheer humiliation of the Buffalo Bills becoming the first team to lose to the Browns in more than a year make it simply impossible for Terry and Kim Pegula to tolerate even two more weeks of Ryan on the sidelines?
It's possible, but unlikely.
By all indications, the Pegulas intend to take a mostly methodical approach to assessing exactly what they have (or don't have) after the Jan. 1 season-finale against the New York Jets.
On Jan. 2, we'll probably see Ryan and General Manager Doug Whaley sitting side-by-side, just as they did a year ago, to meet with the media for the annual postseason post mortem. After that, there probably will be the "big meeting" with Ryan, Whaley, team president Russ Brandon, and the Pegulas.
And after that?
We'll see, although barring any miraculous turn of events that would allow the Bills to beat steep mathematical odds and make the playoffs, a coaching change seems bound to happen.
And one area that almost certainly will be discussed in great detail by the Pegulas is how much they provided Ryan in the way of resources.
Whaley, whose job appears safe, is going to make the case in the form of what he and his player-personnel director, Jim Monos, have told the media before each of the last two drafts: "Working with Rex is simple. He tells us what players he wants, and we get them for him." Thus, the defensive trio at the top of this year's haul.
Something else is also bound to come up: No NFL coach can match the size of Ryan's staff of 27 assistant coaches. (There were actually 28 before Ryan fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman after the second game of the season and promoted Anthony Lynn to the spot; the Bills are on the hook for the balance of Roman's $2-million-per-year salary through 2017).
The Bills have so many coaches that the assistants have assistants. Rex wanted to bring aboard his brother, Rob, as assistant head coach/defense even though Rex already had a defensive coordinator (Dennis Thurman) and supposedly is running his own defense anyway? The Pegulas said no problem.
Rex wanted to bring aboard Ed Reed, a former standout safety who played for him in Baltimore and with the New York Jets, as a first-time coach at any level to become the Bills' assistant defensive backs coach? The Pegulas said no problem.
Rex wanted to give special-teams coordinator Danny Crossman additional help beyond special-teams assistant Eric Smith by promoting Kathryn Smith from an administrative assistant role to quality control-special teams assistant (and making her the first full-time coach in NFL history)? The Pegulas said no problem.
To help put the Bills' 27 (28 paid) assistant coaches in context, Mike Tomlin, whose Pittsburgh Steelers soundly beat the Bills Sunday, has a mere 17.
This wouldn't be much of a talking point if the Bills weren't 6-7 and on the verge of missing the playoffs for a 17th consecutive season. Or if Rob Ryan, whose duties have always been vaguely addressed, helped bring dramatic improvement to the defense, and if the one area where he gives most of his focus (the red zone) was as strong now as it was earlier in the season when he was getting props for that performance. Or if there wasn't so much chaos on game day with late defensive substitutions, repeatedly leaving the defense with 10 men on the field just before or after the snap. Or if members of the secondary weren't constantly talking about a "lack of communication" on busted plays.
When a head coach has a small army of help, details – such as the "miscommunication" concerning Charles Clay's decision to not make the trip to Oakland so he could be present for the birth of his first child – should be thoroughly covered.
The fact they often aren't with the Bills figures to at least be part of the conversation when the Pegulas do their postseason assessment to ultimately decide Ryan's fate ... and that of a whole bunch of assistant coaches.