Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula announced head coach Rex Ryan and general manager Doug Whaley will return for the 2016 season in a statement released Wednesday, per the team's official Twitter account:
A statement from Bills Owner Terry Pegula. pic.twitter.com/SiLnexGwNr— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) December 30, 2015
The Bills are 7-8 heading into the final game of Ryan's first season at the helm. He was hired by Whaley last offseason following a six-year run with the New York Jets. Whaley has been Buffalo's general manager since succeeding Buddy Nix in 2013.
The decision to bring Ryan back shouldn't come as much of a surprise. He was the first coach hired by Pegula since purchasing the franchise last year, and it would stand to reason that Ryan gets every opportunity to succeed despite a disappointing campaign.
Seen by some as a potential challenger to the New England Patriots in the AFC East, Buffalo fell out of the playoff race by losing four of five games after a 5-4 start. While some of that was due to injury—quarterback Tyrod Taylor, running back LeSean McCoy and wideout Sammy Watkins all missed time this season—it was actually Ryan's defense that left a lot to be desired.
Buffalo sits 31st in total sacks a year after leading the NFL in that category. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown twice as many touchdowns (28) as interceptions (14), and the Bills are in the middle of the pack in most rushing and takeaway categories. Football Outsiders' DVOA metric ranks Buffalo 29th on defense heading into Week 17.
"Defensively, we did take a step back. We know that," Whaley said on WGR 550, per Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News. "But you have a head coach that's been a defensive coordinator and a head coach for 11-plus years. This is only his second time out of the top 10 and the other time was 11th...He's not a bad coach. He's going to improve that defense. So we have a basis to take a step forward. Did we take a step back? Yes. Disappointment. But disastrous? No."
Ryan admitted in a meeting with reporters Wednesday that he "failed miserably" to live up to his own expectations, per Darryl Slater of NJ.com. Before the season, Ryan had guaranteed the Bills would make the playoffs.
Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report didn't seem impressed with Pegula's decision to bring back Ryan and Whaley:
Translation of Bills owner statement: bringing everyone back because I'm not sure what else to do.— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) December 30, 2015
Overall, the Bills have the talent to be a playoff team. Their defense suffered amid a schematic change that took players out of their comfort zones, and Ryan either needs to make changes that reflect his talent or make big personnel shifts. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman did a masterful job of coaxing perhaps the best offense a Ryan-led team has ever had; 2016 will be the time when he'll need to get both sides playing at a high level.
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