Rex Ryan led the New York Jets to the AFC title game in his first season at the helm in 2009. He repeated the feat in '10, posting an 11-5 record in the regular season and falling just six points shy of a Super Bowl trip.
Despite Ryan's fiery presence, the wheels fell off after that. Saddled by never-ending issues at quarterback and some highly questionable personnel decisions from the front office, Ryan's Jets managed a combined 26-38 record from 2011-'14, leading to the two sides cutting ties last month.
"We’re in the win business," said Jets owner Woody Johnson in announcing Ryan's firing, "and we’re not winning."
It did not take long for Ryan to land another shot. As reported Sunday morning by several outlets, Ryan is expected to be named the Buffalo Bills' next head coach. Like a touring company of a Broadway play, Ryan will shift his office from New York (well, technically, Florham Park, N.J.) to Buffalo -- a move that keeps him in a familiar AFC East surrounding and immediately pushes the Bills close to must-watch territory.
With Marrone opting out of his Buffalo contract on New Year's Eve and Jim Harbaugh off to Michigan, the number of appealing options for Buffalo in its coaching search were limited.
Ryan had to be atop the list. Not only does he know this division well -- his matchups against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been nothing short of tantalizing -- but he meshes well with the current Buffalo roster. It has been five years, however, since Ryan produced an above-.500 record, a dismal streak catalyzed by his inability to churn out a consistent offense.
The Bills team awaiting Ryan's arrival resembles his former Jets roster -- that is, the Jets' roster from 2009-'10, which Ryan took to those back-to-back conference championship games. There are far fewer trouble spots in Buffalo than there were, and still are, back in New York.
Of course, the area that helped lead to Ryan's undoing with the Jets -- quarterback -- will be priority No. 1 for Buffalo this offseason. Veteran starter Kyle Ortonopted for retirement following an up-and-down 2014, leaving '13 first-round pick EJ Manuel as the de facto quarterback for the moment.
Don't plan on Manuel being there for too long. Although the Bills don't have a 2015 first-round draft pick because of last year's trade for WR Sammy Watkins, GM Doug Whaley (who is responsible for that Watkins-inspired roll of the dice) has no choice but to explore all quarterbacking options in the coming months. The draft may not help much, but there are some intriguing free-agent names and guys like Jay Cutler and Nick Foles could find themselves on the trade block.
In case any reminder is needed, Ryan's 2009 and '10 Jets teams found their success with one of the soon-to-be free agents, Mark Sanchez, at the helm. Sanchez's subsequent battle with Geno Smith, and then Smith's head-to-head with Michael Vick, proved fruitless. Will the Bills be able to do any better than Manuel vs. a veteran journeyman?
If the answer is yes, then there may not be much separating the Bills from ending their 15-year playoff drought.
They came close in 2014, with Doug Marrone at the helm and the Orton-Manuel combo slogging through at quarterback. Ryan's arrival guarantees that Buffalo will continue to lean on its defense, which finished fourth in both points and yards allowed during the regular season.
DE Jerry Hughes (10.0 sacks) and LB Brandon Spikes are impending free agents. The rest of the Buffalo defense could return more or less intact, with standout linebacker Kiko Alonso expected back from the ACL injury that cost him the season. Ryan reportedly will retain defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, another outspoken personality but one that proved more of a fit as an assistant than a head coach.
The challenge of pushing the Bills' offense forward will fall to ex-49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, according to multiple reports. Roman has relied in the past on a run-heavy approach, which pairs well with the talent he will inherit in Buffalo.
How well Roman performs in his offensive-coordinator duties and who his quarterback will be are the variables that will determine how well this Ryan-to-Buffalo marriage works.
We've already seen Ryan thrive as an NFL head coach with decent quarterback play. We've also seen him falter badly with subpar performances there, especially this past season when the talent-starved Jets defense failed to implement Ryan's usual aggressive scheme with much aplomb.
Will Ryan's second take as a head coach, under somewhat familiar conditions, be any more of a success? Perhaps not, but the Bills have to be excited about their starting point as Ryan takes charge.
GALLERY: NFL HEAD COACHES: ONE JOB TO ANOTHER
NFL Coaches: One Job To Another
Chip Kelly | From Eagles to 49ers
Fired by the Philadelphia Eagles before their final game of the 2015 season, Chip Kelly landed on his feet less than a month later when he was hired by the San Francisco 49ers. He led Philadelphia to a 26–21 record in nearly three full years on the job, with one playoff appearance. Here are some other head coaches who went directly from one top job to another.
John Fox | From Broncos to Bears and from Panthers to Broncos
John Fox has pulled this one-job-to-the-next feat off twice. Barely a week after he and the Denver Broncos agreed to part ways in January 2015, the Chicago Bears made him their new head coach. Earlier in his career, Fox was let go by the Carolina Panthers and was quickly snapped up by the Broncos. He led both of those franchises to a Super Bowl. Can he do the same with the Bears?
Rex Ryan | From Jets to Bills
Rex Ryan was on the unemployment line for less than a month after getting canned by the New York Jets in December 2014. That's because the Buffalo Bills know talent when they see it, and swooped in to hire Ryan as their next head coach on Jan. 12, 2015.
Andy Reid | From Eagles to Chiefs
Almost all season long, Eagles fans had been calling for the organization to axe longtime head coach Andy Reid. On Dec. 31, 2012, after watching their team go 4-12, the Philadelphia fans got their wish, and Reid was fired. Four days later, the 54-year-old already had a new destination -- Kansas City.
Eric Mangini | From Jets to Browns
Mangini, one of the more prominent branches from Bill Belichick's coaching tree, started with a bang in 2006, leading the Jets to the playoffs. But after missing the postseason boat the following two seasons -- including a late-season collapse with Brett Favre at QB in 2008 -- Mangini was fired. Within weeks, he assumed the Browns' coaching reins and was also given the rare opportunity to hand-pick Cleveland's next general manager (George Kokinis). But a 5-11 season in 2009 changed everything. Kokinis was dropped for nebulous reasons, and then the Lerner family tapped Mike Holmgren to become the franchise czar, usurping any personnel powers that Mangini previously enjoyed. Mangini kept his coaching title in 2010, but another 5-11 campaign sealed his fate in Cleveland.
Herm Edwards | From Jets to Chiefs
Edwards led the Jets to three playoff appearances in his first four seasons as head coach (2001-04). But a woeful 4-12 campaign in 2005 became his undoing in New York. Still under contract with the Jets, Edwards was traded to the Chiefs for a 4th-round draft pick before the 2006 season. With Edwards in Kansas City, the Chiefs made a surprising 9-7 run and squeaked into the playoffs in the final week of the regular season, before bowing out to the eventual-champion Colts in the wild-card round. In his final two seasons, Edwards won only six games, before getting replaced by Todd Haley.
Steve Mariucci | From 49ers to Lions
Mariucci may have gotten a little too greedy after his sixth season in San Francisco (2002). Upon leading the 49ers to their fourth playoff berth in six years, Mariucci apparently sought a dual role as the club's director of football operations -- a request that didn't flatter GM Terry Donahue, who summarily fired Mariucci after San Francisco's blowout loss to Tampa Bay in the divisional playoff round. The Lions, in turn, were thrilled to land the Michigan native, handing Mariucci a five-year, $25 million deal -- the highest of any NFL coach at the time. Mariucci disappointed though, leading the Lions to only a 5-11 record in 2003. Two years later, Detroit fired Mariucci after a 4-7 start to the 2005 season (15-28 overall record).
Jon Gruden | From Raiders to Bucs
Gruden is the only coach in this gallery to win a Super Bowl in his first season with a new franchise. Before coming to Tampa Bay, Gruden led the Raiders to two division titles, losing to the eventual Super Bowl champs in the 2000 and '01 seasons. The sought-after coach went to the Buccaneers in a landmark deal -- with Tampa Bay forfeiting two first-round picks, two second-rounders and $8 million for Gruden's services. The Bucs' investment paid off with a Super Bowl victory in January 2003 -- against Gruden's old team, the Raiders.
Tony Dungy | From Bucs to Colts
Dungy revitalized the forlorn Bucs in the 1990s, especially on defense, leading the club to four playoff appearances in six seasons (1996-2001). Despite the turnaround, Tampa Bay dropped him for Jon Gruden before the 2002 season -- a move that would result in the franchise's first Super Bow victory. But Dungy wouldn't be unemployed for long, as the Colts hired him to reverse the fortunes of a team long on offensive talent (Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James) but short on defensive presence. The result: Dungy converted an also-ran into a 10-6 contender in 2002, while bringing stability to a franchise that would win its own Super Bowl in the 2006 season.
Marty Schottenheimer | From Redskins to Chargers
NFL fans may have forgotten that Schottenheimer coached the Redskins in 2001, only to be dropped by hands-on owner Daniel Snyder after one hot-and-cold 8-8 campaign. But the D.C. debacle paved the way for Schottenheimer to join the Chargers the following year, while getting the opportunity to lead Junior Seau, LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees, among others, to AFC West titles in 2004 and 2006. In five seasons with San Diego, Schottenheimer posted a 47-33 record, but failed to win one playoff game.
Mike Holmgren | From Packers to Seahawks
Holmgren's tenure in Green Bay was one for the ages. From 1992 to '98, Holmgren ruled the Packers to a 75-37 record and two Super Bowl appearances, including one victory in 1996. However, he left the Packers after the 1998 season in favor of the Seahawks' blockbuster offer to be both GM and coach. His eight-year contract initially gave Holmgren absolute power over the franchise; and he repaid that confidence with a playoff berth in 1999, his first full season in Seattle. Six years later, after being stripped of his GM duties, Holmgren led the Seahawks to their one and only Super Bowl appearance.
Ray Rhodes | From Eagles to Packers
Rhodes, who directed the Eagles to two wild-card berths in 1995-96 before the club's regression in 1997-98, had the unfortunate task of following Mike Holmgren in Green Bay. In 1999, the Rhodes-led Packers finished a disappointing 8-8, prompting his dismissal after one season and ushering in the Mike Sherman era, where Green Bay captured four straight division titles from 2001 to '04. Unfortunately for Rhodes, the '99 season would be his last as an NFL head coach.
Bobby Ross | From Chargers to Lions
Chargers fans will remember Ross as the first coach to lead the franchise to a Super Bowl (1994) and the one who deserted sunny San Diego for Detroit, after the 1996 season. As for Lions fans, they'll identify Ross as the leader of two playoff teams (1997, 1999) and Detroit's last permanent head coach ... before Matt Millen assumed control of the club in January 2001.
Bill Parcells | From Patriots to Jets
Parcells was furious with Patriots owner Robert Kraft after he overruled him in the 1996 draft (apparently over wide receiver Terry Glenn). This prompted Parcells' classic response of, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries." The Big Tuna was livid enough to leave New England -- on the heels of a Super Bowl season -- for the rival Jets in 1997. After a near-miss for the postseason in '97, the Parcells-led Jets won the AFC East in 1998 and almost knocked off the eventual-champion Broncos in the AFC title game.
Dan Reeves | From Giants to Falcons
Reeves rekindled his old Denver magic in Atlanta. Following a mediocre 7-9 mark in 1997, Reeves captained the Falcons to their greatest season in franchise history -- a 14-2 record, an NFC West title, a shocking victory over the heavily favored Vikings in the '98 NFC title game, and a berth in Super Bowl XXXIII, ultimately losing to John Elway's Broncos. But that loss could hardly dull the brilliance of Reeves' work in that dream season, especially since he underwent heart surgery midway through the campaign. Reeves would coach Atlanta for five more seasons before retiring to the lucrative world of franchise consulting and NFL broadcasting.
Rich Kotite | From Eagles to Jets
Kotite got burned by the notion of speaking too soon. In 1992-93, he led the Eagles to consecutive double-digit-win seasons and then started '94 with a 7-2 record. It was then that Kotite revealed he'd be exploring his coaching options at the end of the season ... which perilously ended with seven straight defeats. Owner Jeffrey Lurie dismissed Kotite soon thereafter, enabling him to take over the porous Jets. Much to owner Leon Hess's chagrin, Kotite helmed the Jets to four total victories in 1995-96 -- his only two seasons in the Big Apple. The good news from this disaster: The Jets hired Bill Parcells in 1997, who eventually made winners out of Keyshawn Johnson, Wayne Chrebet and Vinny Testaverde.
Dan Reeves | From Broncos to Giants
An alleged dispute with franchise QB John Elway contributed to Reeves' exile from Denver after the 1992 season -- despite six playoff berths, five division titles and three Super Bowls appearances in 12 seasons (1981-92). Reeves seamlessly restored the Giants' pluck in 1993, leading a veteran team to a 11-5 record and collecting Coach of the Year honors. The good times in New York, though, were short-lived for Reeves, whose Giants won only 20 games from 1994 to '96.
Chuck Knox | From Rams to Bills; from Bills to Seahawks; from Seahawks to Rams
Knox's first tour-of-duty with the Los Angeles Rams (1973-77) was comprised of five NFC West titles in five seasons. Fast forward to 1992, as Knox could only squeeze a 6-10 record from the hollowed-out Rams, with diminishing returns in the following two seasons. In Knox's final NFL coaching stop, he learned that even coaching legends can't go home again.
Sam Wyche | From Bengals to Bucs
In eight seasons with Cincinnati (1984-91), Wyche had one of the game's best young quarterbacks (Boomer Esiason) and a Hall of Fame left tackle (Anthony Munoz) anchoring a talent nucleus that was only seconds away from a world championship in 1988. But with Tampa Bay from 1992-95, the fiery Wyche had to endure a club that was bereft of talent and easily the weakest link of the highly competitive NFC Central. The best example of the Bucs' ineptitude: Wyche's three starting quarterbacks during his Tampa Bay tenure were Vinny Testaverde, Craig Erickson and Trent Dilfer.
Jerry Glanville | From Oilers to Falcons
The abrasive, yet colorful Glanville got his first turn in the spotlight after being promoted from Oilers defensive coordinator to full-time head coach in 1986. He led Houston to three straight wild-card berths from 1987 to '89, but his inability to push the team past the first round prompted his eventual dismissal. With the Falcons (1990-93), Glanville endured three losing seasons, but he did claim one NFC West title in 1991. In that season, the Elvis Presley-loving Glanville had the opportunity to coach -- but not necessarily play -- another icon, rookie Brett Favre. In 1992, Glanville supported Favre being traded to Green Bay for a first-round pick -- a move that was widely trumpeted as a steal for the Falcons ... that is, until Favre took the world by storm that September (and for the next 19 seasons).