The Bills confirmed Ryan's dismissal on Twitter and announced offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn will serve as the interim head coach in Week 17. Assistant head coach Rob Ryan was also relieved of his duties, according to the team.
Bills owner Terry Pegula issued a statement on the firings and wished Ryan well:
I spoke with Rex earlier today and we mutually agreed that the time to part ways is now. These decisions are never easy. I want to take this opportunity to thank Rex for all his efforts and wish him all the best moving forward.
Kim and I and our entire Bills organization share in the same disappointment and frustration as our fans, but we remain committed to our goal of bringing a championship to Western New York.
The Bills announced GM Doug Whaley will lead the search for Ryan's replacement.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Ryan felt his firing was "inevitable" and decided not to go through a week and get fired after. Jeff Darlington of ESPN reported "many players" found out of Ryan's firing when the Bills announced the news on their Twitter account.
Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News reported Whaley convinced Pegula to split with Ryan and pushed for Lynn as his replacement. Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reported Dec. 11 that Whaley and Ryan's relationship was a pain point within the organization:
Ryan's relationship with general manager Doug Whaley and other Bills executives has always been rocky, and that has continued through this season. The front office continues to maintain that the team has superior talent than the results indicate, a message that has been repeated to owner Terry Pegula regularly.
"I like Rex personally," Bills star Marcell Dareus said, per Josina Anderson of ESPN. "I don’t like to see anyone get fired. At the same time I feel like everybody’s job is on the line. Everyone is fighting for their positions; so, we're at a point where we have to make a change."
The Bills hired Ryan in January 2015, and his arrival figured to rejuvenate a team that had floundered since the turn of the century as an AFC East also-ran before he was brought on board.
However, the Bills didn't flash much discernible improvement in 2015 despite wielding a high-powered offense that featured a star-studded triumvirate of Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins.
Although the Bills finished the season ranked 12th in points and 13th in total yardage, the defense finished 15th and 19th in those same categories, respectively. Those middling numbers were particularly alarming after the Bills finished fourth in points and yards allowed in 2014 under head coach Doug Marrone.
Dareus commented on the defense's issues, per Josina Anderson of ESPN:
“I feel like we should’ve been just more aggressive on defense…because that’s the kind of players that we have. We want to put our foot on the pedal and keep it down knowing what we’re doing, and being strategic on what we’re doing. Not trying to matchup with this team, or that team. We want to have our identity (knowing) this is who we are, and what we’re going to do.”
“It was just too much detail for a lot of guys, and I feel like for a lot of guys it was too much going on for them to check here and check there, if this happens and that happens. Then nine times out of ten, a team will throw something out there that we weren’t prepared for, and then the adjustment to it, we had to get use to and try to make it happen and make plays.”
Buffalo's struggles continued at the start of the 2016 campaign.
An anemic offensive performance in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens was concerning enough, but a defensive collapse in Week 2 against the New York Jets reinforced the notion that Ryan hadn't done enough to retool the Bills.
And while Buffalo did respond to a 0-2 start with four straight wins, three straight losses from Weeks 7-9 defused optimism that had started to crop up throughout October.
A pair of wins over the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars in Weeks 11 and 12 cooled off the hot seat just a bit, but back-to-back losses to the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers in the heat of the playoff chase over the ensuing two weeks sent Buffalo tumbling back below .500.
Counting 2016, Ryan has now failed to qualify for the playoffs in each of his last six seasons as a head coach after leading the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship Games in his first two years with them. The Bills, meanwhile, are still pining for their first trip to the postseason since 1999.
Based on the way his time with the Bills and Jets ended, it would be surprising to see the 54-year-old turn around and land another head coaching job in short order. Ryan didn't have a track record of sustained success in New York, and inconsistencies across the board marred his stint in Buffalo.
However, it wouldn't be surprising to see Ryan garner interest on the open market as a defensive coordinator for teams in need of scheme and attitude overhauls. Ryan's still regarded as one of the league's more aggressive defensive tacticians, and he could use a prosperous stint as a coordinator as a springboard to another head coaching gig in due time.
And with the Ryan experiment officially over, the Bills desperately need to find a viable and stable long-term solution on the sidelines following unproductive trial runs with Ryan, Marrone and Chan Gailey.
Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.