Less than two years after he arrived in Buffalo vowing to “build a bully” and to not let fans down, Rex Ryan last week was fired as Buffalo Bills head coach. Some thought general manager Doug Whaley also might lose his job, but the team said he would lead the search for Ryan’s replacement.
That does not sit well with many respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll. More than half said Whaley deserves the most blame for another season—the 17th in a row for the Bills—without a trip to the NFL playoffs. Thirty percent pointed a finger at Ryan. Fewer than one in five blame Terry and Kim Pegula, who bought the team in 2014.
With Ryan at the helm, the Bills were 8-8 in 2015 and 7-8 through 15 games in 2016. Led by interim head coach Anthony Lynn, the team lost to the New York Jets on Sunday and finished the season 7-9. Ryan was hired in January 2015 after Doug Marrone—who led the team to a 9-7 record in 2014—opted out of his contract with the Bills.
Lynn, who started the season as running backs/assistant head coach and became offensive coordinator after the team lost its first two games, is a top candidate for the job. The Bills led the NFL in rushing for a second straight season and tied for 10th in points scored. Still, eight in 10 poll participants think the team should hire a head coach from outside the Bills organization.
On another looming question—whether to keep quarterback Tyrod Taylor—views were mixed. According to ESPN, the Bills must decide by March 11 whether to exercise Taylor’s option for the 2018-2021 seasons. If they do, Taylor will be guaranteed $30.75 million; if they do not exercise the option but keep him on the roster, Taylor will be guaranteed $27.5 million.
More than 580 people took part in this week’s poll, which was conducted Jan. 3.
Among the team’s leadership, who deserves the most blame for the Buffalo Bills’ failure to reach the playoffs for the 17th straight year?
General manager Doug Whaley: 53%
Former head coach Rex Ryan: 30%
Owners Terry and Kim Pegula: 17%
Should the Bills promote Anthony Lynn to head coach or hire someone from outside the organization?
Hire a head coach from outside the Bills organization: 80%
Promote Anthony Lynn to head coach: 20%
Should the Bills keep quarterback Tyrod Taylor or cut him?
Keep him if he agrees to renegotiate his contract: 51%
Keep him: 25%
Cut him: 24%
Drain the swamp.
—Ed Rosen, Fairport
Doug Whaley’s news conference (on Monday) was less than informative, and his attitude was that of someone that thinks he’s untouchable. His drafts have been less than successful. Neither he nor the Pegulas seem to have much football savvy.
In addition to axing Doug Whaley, they should also look at Russ Brandon—managing partner and president of two extremely disappointing sports franchises. Where does the buck stop?
It seems preposterous to me that the Bills do not understand how to run a successful organization, given the example that has stared them in the face for the last 17 years … namely the New England Patriots! Granted they have a future HOF QB, but one need only look at the moves they make each year on draft day and free agency to see what a good organization does to maintain success in this era of free agency. That starts with a smart head coach and even smarter GM, and the Bills, in my opinion, have not had either since they let Polian/Butler leave. They got rid of Rex; now it’s time to get rid of Whaley as well. The Pegulas need to bring in a smart football professional, like a Bill Polian, or someone of that ilk to fix what ails this team. Short of that, you can blow all the marketing smoke you want, but this team will continue to have the longest playoff drought of any professional sports team.
The Pegulas are clearly the reason for the Bills’ continuing demise. They own the Bills, the Sabres and the Amerks—all are perennial losers. They clearly don’t have a clue when it comes to sports. They let the only good Bills coach in recent years, Doug Marrone, get away by not offering him a contract when they purchased the team. They continue to employ Doug Whaley, the worst GM in the league. Message to the Pegulas: Do the fans a favor—sell all the sports franchises that you own.
—Harry Caruso, Caruso Asset Management
Epic disaster with no end in sight.
They all share the blame, but Rex Ryan took a top defense and ruined it despite having better players than Jim Schwartz had. Doug Whaley also needs to go. He has not drafted well (e.g., EJ Manuel) and doesn’t do a good job in contract negotiation (eg., Tyrod Taylor’s ludicrous bonus). Anthony Lynn may be a good head coach someday, but to go from running backs coach to head coach is a huge leap. I would much rather have someone with head coaching experience! The fan base is running out of patience.
—Karen Zilora, Creative Scanning Solutions Inc.
The Bills, love ’em or hate ’em, they will always be my team. The most to blame are the new owners; problems always start at the top. Next, Rex and his talk; he only was able to bring the Bills what he did for the Jets. Don’t even ask me why we threw away a defense and brought in Rex’s brother. I think now is another year of opportunity for all, but anyone that wants out, get out; we need a team, not one individual. No one person can ever create a winning team. The heart of the Bills is always found in the linemen, backs that step up and those who rally around each other. This a team I want to see next year.
—Daniel Herpst, Rochester (heart from Buffalo)
Like many others, I’m stunned by the fact that Whaley is still employed. The Pegulas appear to be committed to him, but not enough to consult with him before terminating the coach? This organization is a train wreck, masked by mediocrity.
Who created this survey, (Bills president) Russ Brandon’s brother-in-law?? Where is his name in the choices? Russ Brandon’s fingerprints are all over this mess. And he is like the proverbial manipulator many of us have worked with in the IT business. They’ll say, “This really isn’t my problem. The network folks missed their target dates and that threw ALL the schedules off.” Or, “My team would have made the dates and under cost, but those damn business analysts kept adding must-have requirements and we had scope-creep.” Leaders like Russ are great at cocktail parties and meetings in Florida or New York City. They never get backed into corners; it’s never their problem. They spin the old adage, “When you talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk!” The closest Russ should be to football—or hockey, too, for that matter—operations is directing the buses at summer camp at Fisher!
—Jerry McCabe, Irondequoit
It is insane to fire Ryan and keep both Whaley and Brandon who have been involved in this fiasco since before Ryan arrived. I say clean house and start all over again. PS: We are thinking of releasing Tyrod, when most of the Bills’ problems are defense!!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
It is not fair to dump the blame all on one person. I believe everyone is responsible, from the Pegulas to the players. Everyone needs to stop making excuses and take responsibility for their part, then come together as a team working together and leaving egos at the door.
Rex was the perfect hire at the time for the new owners from a business perspective. He was a PR machine that put the Bills back in the national conversation and generated an incredible amount of ticket sales. Like any brand positioning or advertising campaign that’s big on promises and doesn’t come close to delivering on them, there is long-term damage to the brand. And sometimes a mutiny with loyal customers/fans. I fear the Pegulas will regret the Rex effect for the next few seasons as they look out at a half-empty stadium on game days. Rex was given all the tools and a remake of the roster over the last two years and all he could do was 19th in defense? Throw in the lack of discipline of some of the players and you get stupid penalties and the inability to stop any team except the likes of the Browns and Jaguars. With 28 assistants (the most in the league by a lot) it is hard to believe that they couldn’t get calls in on time, manage the game clock or have the players truly prepared. My fear when they brought Rob Ryan in and their father passed was the two coaches would be like mad scientists trying to cook up some new “legacy”-worthy schemes. While some of it worked, there were too many cooks in the kitchen when you include Dennis Thurman (what exactly did he do anyway?). Unfortunately, they came true. As far as Tyrod goes, he is head and shoulders above anyone on the roster or what is available on the free agent market. Pair him with a top 10 defense and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
—Carlo Jannotti, Canandaigua City Beer Thru
Blame? Who cares who to blame for the 17 years of our broken hearts, which we can never get back! We should be asking about who is going to get our hearts pounding again instead of weeping more. It is up to the Pegulas to hire a take-charge GM and a coach who knows how to win. Third step: get rid of all the players who play with no heart and no professional pride and really don’t have playing for the Buffalo Bills as a first priority. Start with (Marcell) Dareus. Find more Kyle Williamses. Find a quarterback with quarterback talent. Taylor is no Dareus, but Taylor is a quarterback with athletic talent, not quarterback talent. Mr. and Mrs. Pegula, you rescued our Bills for Western NY. You rescued the Sabres for Western NY. Now rescue our broken hearts. Taking charge starts with the two of you.
In the game of football, the winning teams generally have the best quarterbacks, and a coach that is able to keep the team’s offense and defense balanced on the field. Penalty mistakes generally are a low statistic with a winning team!
The “merry go-round” of coaches has to stop so the Bills can have some stability. It wasn’t all Ryan’s fault. Whaley and Brandon have been there through the 17 years, more than any coach.
The Bills need to keep Tyrod Taylor. Draft a mid-round QB or bring in a free agent to compete with him to be safe, but do NOT let this talented QB go. It would be a HUGE mistake. He is the best Bills QB since Jim Kelly—hands down. The guaranteed money is not just for one season, so it is worth it and we have the cap space to cover it. I have stuck with the Bills for decades through some pretty bad times, but if they cut Tyrod, they may lose me because I will be furious.
—Joe Cronin, CooperVision (a lifelong, loyal, long-suffering Bills fan)
The Bills need a complete house cleaning! The Pegulas have only been owners for two years and I doubt they know much about football. They may have a lot of money, but the NFL is an order of magnitude more competitive than their experience in the NHL
—Hal Gaffin, Fairport
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