Bills hire Ryan; Schwartz's status uncertain
Orchard Park, N.Y. — Rex Ryan is officially going from Broadway to Buffalo.
The Bills announced in a news release Monday that Ryan has been hired to take over as coach. The news came a day after the former New York Jets coach tentatively accepted the Bills' contract offer. Ryan replaces Doug Marrone, who stepped down abruptly on Dec. 31.
"Rex brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the position that we feel will be a tremendous benefit to our players and the entire Bills organization," owner Terry Pegula said in a statement released by the team. "He was very impressive during the interview process, as were many of the candidates to which we spoke. And we feel Rex is the best fit for our team."
Ryan will be formally introduced during a press conference scheduled for Wednesday.
The 52-year-old is a defensive specialist, and noted for a brash personality and having a deep loyalty to his players. Ryan had a 50-52 record, including 4-2 in the playoffs, in six seasons coaching the Bills' AFC East rival. He was fired along with general manager John Idzik following a 4-12 finish last season.
The Jets reached and lost the AFC Championship game in each of Ryan's first two seasons, but failed to make the playoffs since.
The Bills are already making plans to assist Ryan on offense.
A person familiar with negotiations told The Associated Press that the Bills are finalizing contract discussions to hire Greg Roman as their offensive coordinator. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because Roman has not yet been signed.
Roman spent the past four years as the San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator, and was among the 12 candidates interviewed by the Bills last week. He is regarded as a good fit under Ryan, because the two share a similar run-first philosophy.
Ryan's hiring provides stability to a team that endured a tumultuous 10-month stretch, which began when Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson died in March. Wilson's death raised concerns that the franchise might relocate under new owners before the Pegulas — who also own the NHL Buffalo Sabres — purchased the Bills for an NFL-record $1.4 billion in October.
Then came Marrone's surprising departure following a 9-7 finish. Buffalo matched its best record in a decade, but missed the playoffs to extend the NFL's longest active drought to 15 seasons.
The second-year coach quit by exercising an opt-out clause in his contract that kicked in once the Bills were sold. Marrone, who will be paid $4 million this season by the Bills, had concerns of were where he fit in the team's hierarchy. The Pegulas had expressed interest in hiring a veteran NFL presence to oversee the team's football operations.
Former Bills general manager Bill Polian was a candidate to fill the newly created position before informing the Pegulas on Jan. 1 that he preferred staying in broadcasting.
Marrone, coincidentally, has interviewed with the Jets, where he previously served as the team's offensive line coach.
The Bills became the first of six NFL teams to fill their coaching vacancy this offseason.
Ryan was also a coaching candidate in Atlanta and San Francisco.
In choosing the Bills, Ryan is following in the footsteps of former understudy, Mike Pettine, who left the Jets two years ago to become Buffalo's defensive coordinator. Pettine spent a year in Buffalo before being hired to coach the Cleveland Browns.
The Bills defense thrived under Pettine, and continued to be the team's strength under coordinator Jim Schwartz last season. Buffalo finished fourth in fewest yards allowed, and the defense produced three Pro Bowl linemen.
Schwartz, the former Lions coach, was a candidate for the Bills job, and his status is now uncertain under Ryan.
Improving the Bills offense is Ryan's top priority, and no different than the challenge he faced in New York.
Buffalo finished 26th in yards gained last season, four spots behind the Jets. And the quarterback position was a concern for both teams, and involving two players selected in 2013 draft.
The Jets faltered behind Geno Smith, who was eventually benched and replaced by Michael Vick for three games before finishing out the season. In Buffalo, EJ Manuel was benched after four games and replaced by 10-year journeyman Kyle Orton, who has since said he plans to retire.
Manuel has two years left on his contract and is the only experienced starter on the roster.