The Buffalo Bills made the inevitable move Tuesday by firing head coach Rex Ryan after just 31 games. In two seasons, Ryan led the Bills to a mediocre 15-16 record, extending the franchise’s league-worst playoff drought to 17 years. Additionally, he failed to get above the .500 mark for the sixth straight year given that his last winning record came in 2010 with the Jets.
Now that Ryan is out, the Bills will begin their search for his replacement. Anthony Lynn, the interim head coach, is one of the top candidates, but Buffalo will undoubtedly expand its search beyond the walls of One Bills Drive.
Here are the top seven candidates to replace Ryan in Buffalo.
Teryl Austin, Lions defensive coordinator
Austin isn't well known by fans, but he was a target of several teams last offseason. He interviewed for four head coaching gigs a year ago, which shows how much interest there will be in him again this offseason. Detroit has dealt with several injuries this season, namely to cornerback Darius Slay, but the Lions still rank in the top half of most defensive categories. Austin would be a good candidate to get Buffalo’s once-dominant defense back on track, especially with solid personnel already in place.
Kyle Shanahan, Falcons offensive coordinator
Shanahan is a similar candidate to Josh McDaniels, just without the head coaching experience. He’s a young, offensive-centric guy who’s done a terrific job with his team. He and Matt Ryan have really meshed this season, giving the Falcons the best offense in the league. Having a Pro Bowl quarterback has helped, but there’s no doubt Shanahan could have success in Buffalo – even with a guy like Tyrod Taylor. With Taylor likely to hit the open market, considering his lucrative option in 2017, Shanahan would probably be able to bring in his own quarterback.
Matt Patricia, Patriots defensive coordinator
There’s a chance Bill Belichick will lose both of his coordinators this offseason, though Josh McDaniels is the more likely to go. Patricia, unlike McDaniels, doesn’t have any head coaching experience. However, he’s done a remarkable job with the Patriots’ defense, which has seen Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins depart in the past year. Despite the losses of those players, the Patriots still have the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL thanks to Patricia’s mastery. If the Bills want to get back to their roots of playing great defense and running the ball with success, Patricia is among the most ideal candidates. The personnel is there on defense – it just needs better leadership.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
Tom Coughlin, former Giants, Jaguars coach
With some of the character issues the Bills have on the roster, a veteran voice with years of experience might be what the team needs. Coughlin is a guy who could command respect from his players and rid the Bills of the problems they’ve had in recent years: a lack of cohesiveness and chemistry, especially on defense. Coughlin has said that he’s interested in returning to coaching after taking this year off, and the Bills could show some interest in the former Giants leader. What could prevent the Bills from going after the 70-year-old Coughlin is their potential desire to bring in a younger voice.
Jim Schwartz, Eagles defensive coordinator
In 2014, the Bills had one of the best defenses in all of football. They were first in sacks and ranked in the top three in most defensive categories. It’s no coincidence Schwartz was the man at the helm of the unit that year, and it’s not surprising that he’s had success with the Eagles this season. He was fired by Ryan when Rex joined the Bills in 2015, but the front office would be smart to bring him back as the head coach this time around. Schwartz, who coached the Lions from 2009-13, should be a target for the Bills, as well as other teams with vacancies.
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator
The hottest coaching candidate this offseason will be McDaniels -- with the Rams, Jaguars and Bills all likely to give him a look. Why? Because he’s a great offensive mind and did an admirable job with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett while Tom Brady was suspended, leading the Patriots to a 3-1 record. The Bills are great at running the ball, but the passing offense could use some serious help. McDaniels might just be the guy Buffalo needs to take it to another level.
Anthony Lynn, Bills interim head coach
One of the top candidates to replace Ryan in Buffalo is the guy who’s doing just that for the final game of the season: Anthony Lynn. He began the year as Buffalo’s running backs coach but was quickly elevated to offensive coordinator when Greg Roman was fired. Immediately after his promotion, the Bills improved offensively, and they have the NFL’s No. 1 rushing attack for the second straight season. He’ll get a brief one-game audition this weekend, which could go a long way for his head coaching future – be it in Buffalo or elsewhere.