Rex Ryan has always been a "hang-your-hat-on-it-coach" in his bluster and in how he shapes his teams. Ryan’s beliefs, his anchors, are where he stands most comfortable, most firm. He starts with that. The rest, nearly all of it, is created on the fly. It just rolls.
His mantra? He knows defense. His guys are bullies. Blitz, blitz, blitz. Running game wins. Real football players love to play for him. Talk it up. Tweak the opponent. Grin a lot. Always have a one-liner handy.
Rex Ryan has been very good at it.
The rest of the league falls between fond of him (Rex being Rex) or deems him a joke.
After his Buffalo Bills’ opening loss at Baltimore, Ryan was hanging his hat on a few things with the Jets coming. He beat them twice last year and knocked them out of the playoffs. His defense was 8-1 in games coached against Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ryan was hanging his hat on the Jets being spooked. He used to coach them. Now he owned them.
But the Jets won 37-31 on Thursday night.
Ryan’s bully defense was scraped by Fitzpatrick’s 374 passing yards and Matt Forte’s three-touchdown, 100-yard power.
Buffalo is 0-2.
Now, it is Ryan who looks – and is acting – spooked.
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When you fire your offensive coordinator only two games into the season – as Ryan did on Friday with Greg Roman – you are spooked. You are on fire. You are feeling pressure that your head could soon roll. You are looking for an immediate anchor.
Anthony Lynn, Ryan’s assistant head coach/running backs coach, is that new anchor.
In some ways, Lynn has been for a while. It is curious that Ryan has not gone there sooner.
When Ryan was Jets coach, he frequently mulled firing offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer in-season. Ryan considered the same in-season jolt with another of his Jets offensive coordinators, Marty Mornhinweg.
That he would actually do it now, two games into this season, and with an 8-10 record overall as Bills coach? Yes, Ryan is spooked.
Lynn is likely committed to showing Ryan that Ryan might still be Jets coach, that Ryan might not be 8-10 now in Buffalo if he’d given Lynn this shot much earlier. Lynn’s philosophy – a run-centric offense that plays physical in style and piercing in the passing game – is as Ryan-hat-hanging as it gets.
Here are some things that will happen with this Buffalo offense under Lynn’s direction:
- There will be an emphasis on remaining on schedule in drives. That means more offensive play calls complementing each other. More emphasis on reaching third-and-short situations.
- There will be a patience and insistence on running the football. He will not abandon the running game just because a play or two loses a yard or only gains a yard. The pounding will be constant.
- The offensive players will respond to him. Lynn will be clear, precise and demanding. Not only does he speak their language, but he also stirs their passion. Expect a bolder, more confident Buffalo offense.
If Lynn, in this bigger role, can help Ryan fashion a team that halts the mind-numbing penalties and the clumsy clock management, and one that orchestrates an offense that complements the defense, the Bills have a chance. Ryan has a chance.
Ryan desperately needs something new to hang his hat on. He just gave Roman the hook. He finally fully hung his offensive hat on Lynn in the eighth season of their work together.