Rex Ryan was surprised when the NFL approached him, asking if he’d go overseas to visit U.S. troops. “I was like, wow, really?” Next Monday, the colorful former head coach will headline a group going on a weeklong tour through Italy and Germany, visiting troops as part of the annual NFL-USO tour.
Before he leaves, The MMQB caught up with Ryan and talked all things NFL draft. It so happens that two of Ryan’s former teams—the Jets and the Bills—figure to be main players come draft day. In this edition of Talking Football, Ryan dishes on who the Jets should draft at No. 3, his opinion on the Bills’ moves this past year, and who should go in the top five picks of the draft.
The MMQB: Your old team the Jets made an aggressive move trading up to No. 3. What do you think of the move? Do you think they’re going to take a quarterback?
Rex Ryan: I think it’s a great move. They get up to three—obviously they’re in love with three players in the draft. I think everybody is assuming it’s going to be a quarterback. Now it could be Saquon Barkley, too. They might say, hey, that’s one of the [top] three guys. It’s a win-win for the Jets. I like what they’ve done. They bring back Josh McCown, a veteran quarterback, and he can be a bridge guy if they do get a rookie quarterback in there.
It’s hard to win with rookie quarterbacks, as I know. I think I’m the only guy in NFL history who coached two rookies as starting quarterbacks with the same franchise [Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith]. That was something, but it’s not recommended! I think quarterback is probably where the Jets will go, but it could be the fact that they really love the running back as well.
The MMQB: Is there a quarterback who you think would fit well with the Jets?
Ryan: I don’t know [the prospects] as well as their scouts, but I love Josh Allen. He’s got a huge arm. I like the makeup of the young man. Sam Darnold, obviously, would be another one. Those are the two top guys in my opinion. I’m really high on Josh Allen. He reminds me of Ben Roethlisberger. He’s got the big arm. He’s a very good athlete. He’s got some movement skills. And I think he’s got the makeup of what you’re looking for in a quarterback.
The MMQB: You former quarterback Tyrod Taylor got traded to the Browns. What do you think of his situation there? How will he do in Cleveland?
Ryan: Tyrod’s a hell of a lot better quarterback than people give him credit for. He’s had the one of the best touchdown-to-interception ratios [2.83] in the history of the National Football League, so I think that bodes well for the Browns. You know, the Browns turn the ball over, their quarterbacks, whoever they’ve had, they seem not to understand that there’s a responsibility that you have, and that’s to protect your team. Tyrod Taylor understands it, and he has ability.
Remember, this guy hasn’t exactly been blessed with the best receiving corps. In Buffalo, when [Sammy] Watkins was healthy, that was a different story. When Sammy was healthy, Tyrod did a tremendous job. You had Robert Woods and [Watkins], and obviously that was great. But when he wasn’t there, we didn’t have the weapons.
Tyrod’s a leader. I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. Now in Cleveland’s situation, they’re obviously going to take a quarterback. So he’s probably not going to get a true deal, but I think the whole league will see who this kid is—he’s going to be hard to run out of the building, I can promise you.
The MMQB: The Bills are sitting there at the No. 12 pick. They’re probably trying to trade up for a quarterback. What have you seen from the new regime and the overhaul in Buffalo?
Ryan: Well, I think statistically they don’t look very good from last year, but they went to the playoffs. When you win, that corrects everything. The defense went from 19th to 26th, and the offense went all the way to 29th. It looks like there’s room for improvement, without question. But the fact that they won, I think, number one, speaks volumes about Tyrod Taylor, but also, Sean McDermott’s found ways to win.
I like the fact that they’ve unloaded some money, some guys who weren’t fitting in the long-term plan. You don’t want to throw good money after bad money, and they were able to fix their [cap] situation. I think that bodes well for them.
I do expect them to make a huge offer to the Giants and move up to No. 2. And if I was them, I would take Josh Allen. You need to have a guy to throw the ball in windy conditions, and no one has a bigger arm than that kid.
The MMQB: How do you see the top five picks of the draft playing out? What’s your top-five mock draft?
Ryan: Well, I think Darnold goes No. 1. I don’t think there’s a doubt about that. And depending on who is there at that No. 2 position, you would think Josh Allen is the next pick. And then a lot of people like Josh Rosen. Maybe he goes high. But Barkley is certainly going to go.
The guard from Notre Dame [Quenton Nelson] is outstanding. You know, all the Giants talked about was building that offensive line and defensive line. That guy, could he be a Hall of Fame player? Yeah. But how much does the guy move the needle if you’re a guard? I get it, he’s outstanding. He reminds me of Steve Hutchinson. Obviously it’s going to be a great pick. He’s going to multiple Pro Bowls. But when you’re picking at No. 2, I think you really want a dynamic player.
The MMQB: Are you excited to be going on the USO trip? What’s going to be the nature of the trip this year?
Ryan: Absolutely, I’m excited to go over there. I’m excited to meet some of the people there and see what they go through. I’ve always had a huge appreciation of the military. Obviously my dad served in the Korean War. He was a Master Sergeant when he was 18 years old.
The MMQB: Did you father ever tell you stories about the Korean War?
Ryan: He told me a few stories. I talked to somebody who actually gave my dad the rank of master sergeant. He said that my dad wasn’t a good shot or anything, but what my dad did, when he went to war, he traded his weapon for a tank machine gun. He figured he wasn’t a great but shot, but that’s what he ended up doing. And he lugged that thing around forever.
Master sergeants would go on patrols, and they’d ask for volunteers and nobody’s hand would go up. But when my dad would ask for volunteers, every hand went up. There was something about my dad then that the troops respected. He was a guy that would lead from the front.
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