Jets vs Bills: Comparing Rex Ryan's Coaching Style to That of Chan Gailey
When the New York Jets travel on Sunday to face the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the game will feature two head coaches that couldn't be more far apart than any other NFL head coaches I can think of. Chan Gailey, head coach of the Bills and Rex Ryan, head coach of the Jets, will match wits with each other. Ryan has been afforded two weeks to prepare for this game, thanks to their bye week last week.
This is a key AFC East rivalry game, and the winner of this game takes one step closer towards improving their chances to win the division and/or securing a playoff berth in the 2011 NFL playoffs.
We will take an extended look at both head coaches and compare and contrast their coaching styles.
Chan Gailey Background
Chan Gailey is going to turn 60 years old just after the regular season ends. He was born in Georgia and went on to be a quarterback in college. He played for the University of Florida from 1971-1973.
Gailey has a wide array of head coaching experience, ranging from college football to the NFL. Gailey has been the head guy at Troy State, Birmingham Fire, Samford, Dallas Cowboys, Georgia Tech and the Buffalo Bills. He has been the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs. Gailey doubles as the offensive coordinator for the Bills, as he is the guy that calls the plays on offense. Curtis Modkins is the offensive coordinator by name only.
Gailey's head coaching record in the NFL is 27-28. He is 0-2 in the playoffs, losing each playoff game when he coached the Dallas Cowboys in 1998 and 1999. He has been an assistant coach on the staffs of Dan Reeves, Bill Cowher, Dave Wannstedt, Herman Edwards and Todd Haley.
Rex Ryan Background
Rex Ryan is 48 years old and will turn 49 before the regular season ends. He was born in Oklahoma and was a defensive end in college at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
Ryan is the son of ex-NFL head coach Buddy Ryan. His twin brother, Rob, is the current defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys.
Ryan paid his dues, as he had coached for 22 years before finally landing the head job with the New York Jets. He worked under his father Buddy and also worked for Brian Billick. Ryan worked his way up the ranks. His stops as a defensive coordinator included: New Mexico Highlands, Morehead State, University of Cincinnati, University of Oklahoma, Kansas State and the Baltimore Ravens.
Ryan's record as a head coach in the regular season is 24-15, and he has a record of 4-2 in the playoffs.
Coaching Philosophies: Chan Gailey
Chan Gailey is a low-key, no-nonsense type of coach. He tells it like it is and doesn't pull any punches. If you check out the video section of Buffalo Bills.com, you will typically see two to three press conferences or interviews a week with Gailey, and if you have seen one, you have pretty much seen them all.
He will talk about the things he knows and will readily admit it if he doesn't know the answer (usually injury report updates). He puts up with the Q&A because he knows it is part of the job, but you have the feeling that he really would prefer to be doing something else.
Gailey focuses on being a creative mind on offense. He looks for whatever are the best qualities of a player, and then he draws up plays that focus on the strengths of his players. He tailored plays for Roscoe Parrish when he took over the Bills, just like he tailored plays for Kordell Stewart when he was the offensive coordinator for Bill Cowher and the Steelers.
Gailey has found his niche with the spread offense and has a tall, intelligent quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick that can run his spread offense to a very high level of efficiency. All you have to do is look at the average points the Bills score each week and how high they rank in the NFL in red zone offense.
The Bills love playing for him. He gives them the opportunity to be successful and to carve out a career. Most of the key Bills players on offense were undrafted or no-name type of players that Gailey was able to mesh together into a potent, cohesive unit. They take on his persona, and everyone is pulling on the rope in the same direction.
Coaching Philosophies: Rex Ryan
While Gailey excels on the offensive side of the ball, Rex Ryan is a master on the defensive side of the ball. As Buddy Ryan created the Chicago Bears killer 4-6 defense, Rex is following in his dad's footsteps.
Ryan isn't afraid to tell you what his team will do to you. We see what your team is best at, but we are going to take that away from you and make you beat us by doing something you are not as good at doing.
Ryan is outspoken and has no problem in trying to get into the head of the upcoming opponent. If he can transfer pressure off of his team and place it on his own back, that is fine with him. He has no problem dealing in the spotlight, and it is that charm that he has with the media that helps to create his jovial image. Free agents say that they want to play for Ryan, so he is in many ways a recruiter as well.
It is funny, though, that when free agency started, Chan Gailey told free agent Wildcat-quarterback Brad Smith about some of the plans he had for him, and Smith quickly jumped ship from the Jets to become part of the Bills organization.
Other Contrasts Between Gailey and Ryan
Gailey is the type of head coach that doesn't believe in making waves. You will never hear him coming out with something that the next opponent can use as bulletin board material.
Gailey put players like Shawn Nelson, Aaron Maybin and James Hardy on notice when he took over the team that he needed to see more from them. He gave them chances to prove that they belonged, but if they didn't do the job in practice, they weren't going to be seeing the field in games. It is rather interesting that both Nelson and Maybin are now part of Ryan's current Jets team.
You don't see Gailey singling out any players on other teams to try to get them riled up or anything like that. The exact opposite is true with Rex Ryan. He has no problem in getting his opponents riled up, and if he can throw them off of their game in the process, all the better.
Ryan keeps his team loose with his antics and jokes. He likes to laugh and does a good job of injecting his personality on his team. He also has no problem in making bold predictions, and while that may help to motivate his team for a given year, it is the type of thing that will start to lose importance over the years of not being able to deliver on his word. Kind of like the boy that kept calling "wolf."
Sideline Demeanor and Other Intangibles
You will see a very animated Rex Ryan most weeks on the sidelines. He is clearly into the game and will be barking at players all game long. He will also be cracking jokes to his coaches or players to keep things loose.
Gailey, on the other hand, is rather serious, talks to his players on the sidelines and rarely smiles or cracks a joke. He is also very much into the game and trying to figure out how to improve his attack on offense.
Gailey is the type of coach that doesn't get overly excited about wins, but at the same time, doesn't get overly excited about losses, either. He tries to use every game as a learning and teaching experience, and it was that type of teaching last year that allowed him to turn around a team that started out the year at 0-8 last year to finish at 4-4 in their final eight games in 2010. Now they sit at 5-2 and in a first-place tie in the AFC East.
Ryan is more of an emotional coach. Emotions can run high, but they can also crash and hit low points as well. It is hard to keep a team sky high for an entire 16-game schedule. That is why I think you see some games when the Jets come out flat. You also see games where they are sky-high. Again, that is a reflection on their coach.
Short Term Versus Long Term
In looking at these two uniquely different head coaches, it is a tribute to both that they can impose their will and style upon their team and have their teams play hard for them every week.
I think in terms of future (short term vs long term), Rex Ryan is the type of coach that can come in and turn around a team that is not playing inspired ball and get them to run through a wall for him. His act might cause him to burn out sooner than later for one specific team, but would be able to quickly bounce to another team, where he can apply his methods all over again. I also think that he might want to rethink his predictions, as those can come back and not give him much wiggle room with the media or his players.
Gailey was a solid choice to turn around the Buffalo Bills team and spearhead their rebuilding effort. He was able to teach them how to win and how to believe in themselves. Gailey should have a longer run with the Bills, with all things being equal, but I have no way of knowing that for sure. That is more of my personal opinion.
It is interesting to see the Bills big comeback wins earlier this year, as they had huge rallies to beat the Patriots and the Raiders. Those wins are consistent with Gailey and his style. Low-key, keep your nose to the grindstone and keep plugging and fighting, and good things will happen to you.
It will be interesting to see how these teams play on Sunday and what impact each coach has on their team, and what kind of adjustments they make throughout the game to counter what the other coach is trying to do to his opponent.