Rex Ryan Is Hired as Buffalo Bills’ Coach After Firing by Jets

Rex Ryan has joined the Buffalo Bills two weeks after being fired by the division-rival New York Jets, filling the first of the National Football League’s six head coaching vacancies.

Ryan, 52, succeeds Doug Marrone, who opted out of the final two years of his contract with the Bills on Dec. 31. The Bills and Jets play twice each season.

Terms weren’t disclosed by the Bills in a statement.

Ryan had a 46-50 record over six seasons with the Jets, taking the team to the American Football Conference title game in his first two years and then missing the playoffs the final four. In Buffalo, he’ll take over a defense that ranked fourth in the NFL in points and yards allowed last season, yet faces the same problem that helped lead to his exit with the Jets: the lack of a successful starting quarterback.

The Bills are coming off a 9-7 season, their first winning record since 2004, although they failed to make the playoffs. The franchise hasn’t been to the postseason since 1999.

Two days before Marrone left the team, veteran quarterback Kyle Orton retired at age 32. Orton started 12 games this season following the benching of E.J. Manuel, who was the first quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL draft. Manuel, who is 6-8 as an NFL starter, and Jeff Tuel, who in 2013 was an undrafted free agent out of Washington State, are the only quarterbacks currently on the Bills’ roster.

Ground and Pound

Ryan reached the AFC title game his first two seasons with the Jets on the strength of the team’s defense and its “Ground and Pound” run-focused offensive philosophy that took pressure off quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Although the Jets traded up to select Sanchez with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft, they released him after he committed a total of 52 turnovers the next two years while compiling a 14-17 record as a starter. Geno Smith, a second-round pick in 2013, had 42 turnovers and an 11-18 record over his first two seasons. Ryan and General Manager John Idzik were fired after the Jets went 4-12 this season.

The Jets’ deficiencies at quarterback under Ryan were highlighted during an era of an increased focus on the passing game in the NFL. A record nine quarterbacks threw at least 30 touchdowns this season, breaking the previous record of five.

Player’s Coach

Although he had a 26-38 record over his final four seasons, Ryan remained popular with his players and is widely considered one of the league’s top defensive coaches. Ryan also spent 10 years in Baltimore, including his final four as defensive coordinator, and helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl title. Jets defensive back Dawan Landry, who also played under Ryan in Baltimore, said last month that Ryan is a “player’s coach” who inspires with his energy and passion.

“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 the statement.

The Bills, led by a defensive line that includes Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes, led the NFL this season with 54 sacks and gave up just 18.1 points a game. They ranked 26th out of 32 teams in offensive yards.

Ryan had also interviewed for the Atlanta Falcons’ coaching vacancy.

In addition to the Falcons and Jets, the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders are also conducting head coaching searches.

Other Candidates

The Bills, purchased in September by Pegula and his wife for an NFL-record $1.4 billion, had also met with former Denver and Washington coach Mike Shanahan, and his son, ex-Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Others to interview for the Bills’ job were Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich and the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive and defensive coordinators: Darrell Bevell and Dan Quinn.

Ryan will probably bring Roman to Buffalo as his offensive coordinator, ESPN reported, citing an unidentified person familiar with the situation.

Ryan becomes the first NFL coach to change teams within the same division since Bill Belichick ended his one-day tenure as Jets’ coach and joined the New England Patriots in 2000. Bill Parcells was the last to actually coach two teams within the same division in successive seasons, joining the Jets in 1997 after four seasons with the Patriots.

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