Doug Whaley's apparent rock-solid safety as general manager in the midst of uncertainty surrounding Rex Ryan's future as coach of the Buffalo Bills indicates that:
One, Whaley has seemingly convinced Terry Pegula a coaching change, rather than a player-personnel department shakeup, is what is needed on the way to a second season of falling short of playoff expectations set forth in 2015, Pegula's first full season as the team owner.
Two, Pegula is satisfied that by keeping his GM, he would maintain some semblance of continuity, which, in his few public utterances, he has repeatedly cited as vital to having success.
So what does that mean to the Bills' plans to replace Ryan?
On the assumption "continuity" will continue to drive Pegula's thinking, the obvious move is promoting offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn to head coach.
That is easy to envision as the first major talking point in how this would be sold to the public.
Lynn knows the players, the players know and like and respect him. He already has a good idea of what works and what doesn't with the current roster, and what changes he wants to see going forward. He is offensive-minded, which would be the logical type of replacement for the defensive-oriented Ryan. Lynn also is known for being strict and demanding with players, and detail-oriented, which is the exact opposite of Ryan's approach.
Selling Pegula on Lynn doesn't figure to be difficult at all. Pegula and his wife, Kim, sought player input before the decision was made two games into the season to fire Greg Roman as offensive coordinator and promote Lynn from assistant head coach/running backs.
The Pegulas were impressed with the universal support Lynn received – especially from prominent players such as LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins, and Tyrod Taylor – and they have to like the fact the strong running game from a year ago has gotten even stronger under Lynn's watch. True, there are serious issues with the passing game, and Lynn would be under intense pressure to resolve that, but so would anyone else getting the job. Besides, the decision of what to do with Taylor's contract – the most important piece in addressing the woeful passing attack – is a burden Whaley carries more than anyone else in the building.
Promoting Lynn again would also allow the Pegulas to avoid going through another coaching search, a process with which they do not seem the least bit comfortable. They wouldn't necessarily be leaning on Whaley or team president Russ Brandon as heavily as they did after Doug Marrone walked out on them after the 2014 season.
This would feel more like their choice, with the bonus of having had more than two years of getting to know him on a professional and personal level. And while it's easy for the rest of us to say money is no object to the Bills' billionaire owners, Lynn is likely to be a decidedly cheaper option than a so-called bigger name (if one is even available), knowing that they would still be on the hook for $16.5 million of Ryan's $27.5-million contract.
Ironically, one of Lynn's strongest supporters at One Bills Drive has been Ryan. And even if this were to play out with one of the assistant coaches he brought with him from the New York Jets taking his place, it's conceivable Ryan would be OK with it. Despite his hear-no-evil-see-no-evil act in press conferences, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that Ryan (who has said this will be his final coaching job) is aware of the potential Lynn scenario and has already given it his blessings.
Another significant talking point if this is the way the Bills go will be that Lynn, who already has interviewed elsewhere to become an NFL head coach, would be a candidate for other head-coaching spots in the league.
Why, to borrow what Brandon reportedly told his bosses before they hired Ryan, allow him to leave the building?