There’s a new face of the Buffalo Bills. It’s jovial, jowly, and gets red and sweaty whenever someone takes off their shoes. Rex Ryan, the highly-quotable former king of NYC, takes his talents out west (about 350 miles to the west) to ring in a new era for the Buffalo Bills. The new owners, Terry Pegula and (apparently) his wife are definitely dedicated. To keeping the Bills in Buffalo? We’ll see. To making splashy personnel moves? Definitely.
There were other options out there for Buffalo. They interviewed a slew of coordinators from both sides of the ball. The deep, dark, sentimental part of me that still can’t let go off the 1990’s success was rooting for Frank Reich, a name any Bills fan would recognize. He’s currently the Offensive Coordinator in San Diego, and lord knows it would take a lot to get anyone to move anywhere from San Diego. Unless they offered a billion dollars and a harem of supermodels, I’d have to say, “You know what? I’ll live here where it’s pleasant, 70 degrees every day, and continue to make my slightly-less millions of dollars. But thanks for the offer.”
Oh would it have been glorious. Hiring Frank Reich, the steady, dependable back-up everyone in Buffalo sometimes secretly wanted to replace Jim Kelly. He engineered that magnificent comeback against Houston all those years ago. He was the steady-handed second-stringer an entire city knew they could count on. The Homeric poetry of having him return as the head coach, and leading his old team on to glory the way we all know he should have 25 years ago. I had a little bit of football wood. I can’t lie.
Yet the Bills, in an uncharacteristic move, managed to grab the sexiest name (and all the headlines) off of the Head Coach name from the unemployment line. After a decade of “under-the-radar” guys, capped off by hiring a Syracuse coach with a mediocre college record, we may finally have a real coach. He’s led teams to the playoffs this century, is apparently a defensive genius, and puts Buffalo in the headline section of the ESPN app before the season even starts. Maybe he can bring some swagger to an oh-so-swagger-less team. Perhaps he can make an already strong defense into something historic (as he’s already claiming).
What the team needs, however, is a quarterback, and here’s where Reich may have been the better choice. Strong defense? Check. Talented skill players? Check. What’s the one thing missing from the Seattle-style formula for success? A functional quarterback. Kyle Orton was plugged in halfway through the season and we went 9-7. If someone can come in and fix EJ Manuel, we’re a shoe-in, right? Or maybe we go grab a young free agent or someone’s back-up and develop them, right? Or maybe we hire the defensive guy who strung along Mark “Butt-Fumble” Sanchez and managed to turn him into…a butt-fumbler. Now that sounds like a Buffalo move.
2014 was a season of hope for us hapless Bills fans. They finished over .500 for the first time in…way too long. They had Playoff relevance into week 14 (until we blew it by losing to the Raiders in typical Buffalo fashion), a defense that put the screws to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers late in the season, and an offense that managed not to lose more games than it won. Doug Marrone, the aforementioned mediocre college coach, miraculously had the team on the right track. And then he walked away from the team, the same way our 2014 vagabond quarterback did.
After years of hating your guts, and mocking you and your team, and saying oh well at least we aren’t the Jets…I have to cheer for you. I have to like your superior smile and irritating mannerisms. I have to feel positive about a move my team made that makes me feel slimy and in need of a long shower. I have three words for you, Rex Ryan. On behalf of all Bills fans. Three words, that, six months ago, I would only have said within the confines of a straitjacket inside of a round, padded room:
Save Us Rex.
Ick…Time for that shower.