Sunday 25 February 2018 / 06:53 AM


As the Buffalo Bills trotted back to the locker room following another disappointing finish – a 37-31 loss to the New York Jets – Rex Ryan looked as determined as ever. The coach has been excellent at deflecting criticism and the pressure during his time in New York. His ego and bravado made him a big target, but also diverted attention.

This is the same guy who told his team that if they didn’t start winning this season, “I’ll be the first m—–f—– to go!”

But on Friday, those words proved hollow. The Bills fired their offensive coordinator Greg Roman after the 0-2 start. And while it’s not to say that the Bills didn’t need a change on offense – they certainly did – but rather that the change of pace is much larger than one needed on offense.

First, let’s look at what the Bills did right. Roman was hired as the offensive coordinator before the start of last season, and in doing so it marked a position of weakened autonomy by Rex.

Which was the design.

See, Ryan’s offenses had slowly petered while he coached the Jets, and the hiring of Roman marked a hands-off approach to the offensive system that would allow for more separation for Ryan from the playbook. Rex had long been criticized for his bad offenses, and this posed a way to absolve himself from that blame.

Roman’s play calling didn’t work, and it certainly wasn’t right for Buffalo. The Bills have one of the fastest receiving corps in football, with Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins, and Marquis Goodwin. They’ve also got LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush at tailback, and the mobile and talented Tyrod Taylor at QB.

And yet the Bills’ offense has managed nothing in the last two seasons. They’ve been inconsistent, and have mismanaged the talent they have, colossally underperforming. So, in that respect, it was the right call to make a change at OC.

There was a lot of criticism of the Bills for firing Roman after the outburst they had against the Jets, but two of the touchdowns came off busted coverage. And then another was a defensive touchdown. The offense still struggled, rinse and repeat, under the Ryan era.

But it wasn’t THE change that needed to be made. See, Rex Ryan has gone through five offensive coordinators in six years. It’s a testament to his inability to get a staff that can rally around him, and his inability to concoct a system of winning.

When Ryan took the Bills over in 2015, he inherited a defense that was one of the best in football from the departing Doug Marrone. He then took the unit to average, placing it near the middle of the league in 2015. He responded by bringing in his brother, Rob, who was just run out of town in New Orleans after producing the league’s worst defense.

After adding more pieces to the defense in the draft this year, the team is again struggling to do much of anything, giving up yards en masse to the Jets. The dominant rush of the Bills is long gone, with a totally different defensive set, and a totally different philosophy that had produce a worse result. So of course it made sense to install Ryan’s brother, of the same philosophy, to reinforce the same failed beliefs again.

If it was indeed Ryan who fired Roman, as the original story was reported (and Ryan himself suggested) it shows nothing more than the targeting of a scapegoat for a failed coaching regime. But sources suggest that Ryan wasn’t the one who fired Roman, and that instead it was the ownership that met with players to determine the fate of Roman, and opted with their input to can the coach.

And this signals the attempted solution to the overarching problem: Ryan isn’t calling the shots anymore, a solid tug of the leash from ownership that the rope is getting shorter. But still, Ryan now has his longtime coach from New York as OC, his brother as DC, and himself running the shots. There is no longer a scapegoat – just Ryan holding the bag and direction the ship with no one to blame.

Which may be exactly where ownership wanted it.

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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