At one point Wednesday morning during his weekly news gathering, Rex Ryan raised his right hand like he was placing it on the Bible. He had heard enough after being interrogated like he was some defendant who was undergoing a cross-examination under the bright lights of the witness stand.
Ryan had claimed after the game Sunday that he knew nothing about reports saying he was going to be fired. It was hard to fathom that he wasn’t warned about the reports after walking off the field and before facing the media. Finally, after being asked to pinpoint when he was told, he surrendered.
“I can honestly say, and I’ll put my hand on the Good Book, and I’ll say that I swear that I don’t know if I did or not,” Ryan said. “I can honestly say I did not know anything about it during the game or whatever, OK guys?”
In fact, he never really did answer the question.
This may come as a surprise, but part of me actually felt sorry for Ryan on Wednesday. He looked and sounded like he did during his final days with the Jets, when he was emasculated and lost his swagger after losing too many games. He was reduced to answering questions from people like me who have grown accustomed to him lying.
Ryan wasn’t the first coach who told a fib or 30. Lindy Ruff told a few whoppers in his day back when the Sabres were in the playoffs. Coaches are like many politicians when dealing with the public. They’re skilled artists when it comes to talking around questions and saying plenty while offering little in terms of substance.
The point is Ryan could be forced to endure the process for another few weeks when his fate has been sealed. Barring an unexpected U-turn from ownership, he's getting fired. If reports of his demise were inaccurate, the Bills would have released a statement saying his job was safe, that the media had it all wrong.
Let me be clear: The Pegulas are making the right decision on Ryan. It couldn’t have been more obvious after the Steelers ran all over the Bills’ defense a week after the second-half meltdown in Oakland. Buffalo has a minuscule chance of reaching the postseason, between 1-3 percent depending on the playoff simulator.
Ryan claimed he was satisfied with the effort Sunday, but it sure looked like he lost his players. He definitely lost the fan base. By all accounts, he lost ownership after his team crumbled against the Raiders. If he didn’t completely lose his hold after the Oakland debacle, it slipped away like Le’Veon Bell on Sunday.
So why is he still here?
It doesn’t make sense, which is part of the reason I sympathized with him Wednesday. Ryan should have hit the exit one day after their decision was made, or in this case no later than Monday. By keeping him here, Ryan is being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. It's bad form. And it’s completely unnecessary.
The Rams handed Jeff Fisher a contract extension months ago and recently realized they made a big mistake. But once they concluded he wasn’t their guy, they fired him. There was no reason to postpone the inevitable. Plus, making the move gave them a jump on hiring their next coach.
Buffalo also plans to walk away from the five-year, $90 million contract agreement they reached with Tyrod Taylor. Again, it’s the right decision. The quarterback is expected to start against the Browns on Sunday. Ryan believes he gives Buffalo the best chance to win. No argument here.
It would be a major mistake if Taylor suffered an injury that kept him on the shelf when his extension is exercised in March. A long-term injury would force the Bills, or their insurance company, to pay him $27.5 million for next season. However, even if he was placed on injured reserve, every penny would count against the salary cap.
Basically, we had Rex talking about the Browns with Taylor designated to start and a franchise lacking focus and foresight.
The proper course of action is firing Rex now and benching Taylor rather than prolonging the agony. Far be it from me to suggest they should show some compassion for Ryan. But his players also don't need the aggravation that comes with answering questions about the coach after they failed him on the field. It's time for the Bills and their diehards to move forward and begin working on the next stage of their wretched history.
Ryan deserves his share of the blame. So does Doug Whaley. So does Russ Brandon. It has been said repeatedly in recent months, and now let me repeat this: The Pegulas don’t know where they’re going or how to get there. They're left to depend on Whaley and Brandon, which hasn't exactly worked.
Kim Pegula has suggested she would rather work with people she likes on a personal level. Darcy Regier is a nice man. Brandon is a good guy. Whaley is pleasant enough. I could see why ownership personally likes each of them and why Rex won them over. That approach might work in the real world, but it’s different in sports.
Professional sports can be cold and unsentimental. Sometimes, you need to keep people who you dislike. You also might need to dismiss others who are fine at dinner parties but ineffective in their jobs. It makes for tough decisions. Sometimes, feelings get hurt. Winning always comes first.
Well, it should, anyway.
Their decision to retain Whaley looks eerily similar to how they handled the Sabres and kept the faith in Regier.
He was given an open checkbook, if you remember. It took the Pegulas years to figure out what most already understood: He no longer was suited for the job. By the time they realized the organization was in ruins, they came up with a master plan that called for the Sabres losing as a path to success.
Whaley had more money for personnel after the Pegulas took over. Last January, he was further empowered with a contract extension on the advice of his buddy, Brandon. Brandon was granted custody over the Bills and Sabres, which gave him and Whaley even more leverage.
None of this is a secret around the league. People talk. Word gets around about their hiring practices. It makes for a tough sell when you’re looking for a new coach. Doug Marrone walked away because they gave him $4 million, yes, but he also left because he didn’t believe he could succeed so long as Whaley remained.
Ryan is an entirely different story. He was looking for one more job before he retired from coaching. He admitted as much when the Bills hired him. He should have been the last guy they hired, but instead they pounced. With $27.5 million already secured, he took the laissez faire approach that will contribute to his exit.
What did they expect?
Ryan acknowledged Wednesday that he was calling defensive plays the Bills hadn’t practiced during the week. He said they were trying to adjust on the fly to “stop the bleeding” while the Steelers ran wild. He sounded like he was drawing up defensive schemes on a napkin over dinner.
Let’s agree that enough blood has been shed. The playoffs have been placed on life support and reduced to a prayer. The sooner the healing process begins, the better for everyone.