The circumstances that led to Rex Ryan being fired before the Buffalo Bills’ Week 17 game have been revealed, and they are fascinating.
Heading into the latter stages of the season, it was pretty much known that Ryan was already gone, but owner Terry Pagula did not want to fire his coach until after the season (more on that here). Then suddenly, Ryan was axed after the team’s Week 16 loss to the New York Jets.
According to Jenny Vrentas of The MMQB, the reason for the about face is simple, and it revolved around a promise Ryan had made to Tyrod Taylor, who was benched for the team’s final game.
“According to multiple people with knowledge of the conversation, Ryan, Pegula and Whaley had had their standard weekly conversation last Tuesday. That’s when Ryan learned of the organization’s decision to bench Taylor, the starting quarterback the past two seasons.”
Now, it’s important to know it’s been reported that Taylor had been playing with a severe groin injury. Another report also suggested the Bills had made the decision to ultimately move on from the quarterback, set to cost $27.5 million to keep on the roster if he’s still there when the new league year starts, weeks ago.
Despite all that, Ryan reportedly did not like the news that his hand-picked quarterback would be benched for the final game of the year.
“So Ryan, who for a few weeks had been hearing reports of his impending firing, asked to speak to Pegula one-on-one. Ryan had made a promise to Taylor, telling him that he’d be the Bills starting quarterback as long as Ryan was the coach. Ryan didn’t want to break his word, and he was worried how the team would respond. If you are already planning on firing me next Monday, Ryan told Pegula, then you might as well fire me now.
“So Pegula did.”
There are a couple of things at play here. First off, Ryan’s loyalty to his players is shining like a beacon here in this scene. Whatever flaws he has as a head coach, he has always been a player’s coach. The second thing that stands out is that Pegula, who’s very involved in the way the organization is run, probably should have fired Ryan before this exchange.
The Bills have long been one of the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchises. It’s going to be interesting to see if this remains a trend under the Pegulas, who have owned the team a couple of years now. The early returns are shady, but then again, perhaps that points to the mistake of hiring Ryan in the first place. Time will tell.