Rex Ryan vows to build Buffalo Bills into ‘bully’
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — New team. Same old brash and bold Rex Ryan.
The Buffalo Bills’ new coach opened his inaugural news conference with the team Wednesday by tapping the microphone and saying: "Is this thing on? Because it’s getting ready to be on."
Outlining his objectives, Ryan said the job is his last chance to prove himself.
He vowed to build the Bills into "a bully" and said he has an additional chip on his shoulder after being fired by the New York Jets. Ryan maintained the New England Patriots, not the Jets, remain the AFC East team he wants to beat the most.
Though he stopped short of guaranteeing Buffalo winning a Super Bowl, Ryan did "guarantee" winning a championship as being his sole pursuit.
"We’re not afraid of it," Ryan said. "My message to the players is get ready. We’re going to be playing games in January and so forth. We’re going to build a bully and we’re going to see if you want to play with us for 60 minutes."
The entertaining, provocative front comes as the Bills search for relevance. Though coming off a 9-7 season, which matched Buffalo’s best finish in 10 years, the team still missed the playoffs to extend the NFL’s longest active drought to 15 seasons.
Ryan spent the previous six seasons with the Jets, where he had a 50-52 record, including 4-2 in the playoffs. He was fired along with general manager John Idzik following a 4-12 finish.
Ryan replaces Doug Marrone, who shocked the Bills by stepping down Dec. 31. The second-year coach opted out of his contract after Terry and Kim Pegula purchased the franchise in October.
Ryan made a veiled reference to Marrone’s departure by saying: "This football team deserves a loyal coach."
Ryan’s background is on defense. He inherits a unit that has been among the NFL’s most aggressive over the past two years. Last season, Buffalo finished fourth in yards allowed, led the league with 54 sacks and produced three Pro Bowl linemen.
That’s not good enough for Ryan, who expects the defense to finish first next season. Many members of Ryan’s defensive staff with the Jets are expected to fill vacancies in Buffalo. That includes Dennis Thurman taking over as coordinator to succeed Jim Schwartz, whose contract was terminated by the Bills on Tuesday.
Ryan faces his biggest challenge on offense. The unit finished 26th in yards gained.
Kyle Orton, who replaced second-year starter EJ Manuel five games into the season, said he intends to retire, leaving Manuel as the only experienced quarterback currently on the Bills roster.
Ryan said he and his staff, including newly hired offensive coordinator Greg Roman, are beginning to evaluate the roster and it’s too early to make any determination.
Ryan is no stranger to Buffalo. His father, Buddy Ryan, previously served as the University at Buffalo’s defensive coordinator in the 1960s.
Rex Ryan and his two brothers spent their teen years in Toronto, a two-hour drive from Buffalo. Ryan avidly followed the Bills because many games were broadcast across Southern Ontario.
He listed off many former Bills greats from the 1960s and ’70s, including fullback Cookie Gilchrist, Hall of Fame offensive guard Billy Shaw, and an offensive line dubbed "The Electric Company," which paved the way for O.J. Simpson.
Ryan spent his first day getting a literal taste of Buffalo after flying into town Tuesday morning.
He had a beer with Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly at the Big Tree Inn, a longtime Bills player and fan hangout near Ralph Wilson Stadium. Ryan also visited a local pizza spot where he was handed a large pie with the words "Welcome Rex" printed on top.
Tuesday night, he was in a suite to watch the Pegulas’ other team, the NHL’s Sabres, retire former star goalie Dominik Hasek’s No. 39 before losing to the Detroit Red Wings.