Eventually, if a ship is taking on enough water, a couple of buckets aren’t going to help.
The Bills found their scapegoat for a disappointing 0–2 start in head coach Rex Ryan’s second season, firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman on Friday, less than 24 hours after a 37–31 home loss to the Jets. That decision will do little to prevent what now feels almost inevitable: Ryan’s own dismissal.
A change at offensive coordinator—RBs coach Anthony Lynn will take over for Roman—flies in the face of Thursday night’s reality. The Bills’ offense accounted for 24 of its team’s 31 points against the Jets, while the defense, save for Nickell Robey-Coleman’s fumble-return TD, was ripped to shreds by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Forte. Fitzpatrick threw for 374 yards, often to wide open receivers, while Forte rushed for 100 and two touchdowns.
That’s not to say the Buffalo offense has been lights out to start 2015. It hasn’t. The Bills were limited to just seven points in a Week 1 loss at Baltimore, and they relied on home-run plays Thursday as opposed to extended drives. There also was a crushing sequence late in the game, in the which the Jets stuffed the Bills on an unimaginative and ineffective fourth-and-1 attempt.
Still, one does not have to pull back the curtain far to realize the explanation here: Ryan needed someone to blame; the obvious choice, the man he brought in this winter to oversee the defensive side of the ball, just so happens to be his brother, Rob.
Rather than cut bait on his own flesh and blood, the Bills probably booted to the curb Ryan’s last hope of turning things around this season.
Taylor’s surprising 2015 performance just so happened to come with Roman calling plays. The Bills were impressed enough with their first-time starting QB that they handed him a new contract in the off-season. The first trigger on that “five-year, $90 million” deal, though, is a team option for $15.5 million that the Bills must pick up ahead of the 2017 season. Should they choose not to, they could bail on the remainder of Taylor’s contract for pennies on the dollar.
So Roman’s dismissal not only highlights the trouble the brothers Ryan find themselves in, it could set the stage for Taylor’s departure after this season, should he and the offense continue to struggle under Lynn.
Either way, more changes loom on the horizon. The Bills host the Cardinals next weekend, then travel to New England in Week 4. Still ahead are trips to Miami, Seattle, Cincinnati, Oakland, Miami and a rematch with the Jets in New York, plus home games against New England and Pittsburgh. If Buffalo’s 8–8 finish a year ago was a disappointment, how would a 5–11 or 6–10 mark be received?
Part of the argument Rex no doubt will make in support of Rob is that the Buffalo defense is working shorthanded. Star defensive tackle Marcell Dareus will miss two more games as part of his substance abuse suspension, and his absence could linger beyond that timeframe after he checked himself into rehab last month. First-round pick Shaq Lawson (shoulder) cannot return until after Week 6. Second-round LB Reggie Ragland tore his ACL during camp.
Legitimate excuses all, but excuses nonetheless. Rex Ryan’s reputation as a defensive-minded coach has been his calling card, first with the Jets and now the Bills. After landing his current job, Ryan immediately fired former Buffalo DC Jim Schwartz and replaced him with Dennis Thurman. When that didn’t work, he turned to Rob, who serves as assistant head coach.
All the instability, on both sides of the ball, only further emphasizes what a mess Rex has made for himself. Always brash and confident publicly, Ryan arrived in Buffalo promising a postseason berth.
Now, he has mere days to pull the 2016 season—and likely his career as a head coach—back from the brink.
For as much as the NFL tends to recycle its head coaches, the 53-year-old Ryan would be unlikely to find another franchise willing to give him that responsibility if Buffalo cuts bait. His time with the Jets ended in dismal fashion: a 4–12 record capping four straight seasons missing out on the playoffs. He’s speeding toward an 0-for-2 postseason start with the Bills.
Roman’s removal means there is nowhere left for Ryan to turn. His next move would have to be to let go of his brother, and that’s assuming the Bills give him the time or authority to make those decisions.
An 0–2 start doesn’t necessarily doom a season, no matter how stacked the odds may be against reaching the playoffs from there. This 0–2 start, however, may have done in Rex Ryan. Firing Roman after Thursday’s loss to the Jets signals that he knows it, too.