After going 9-7 in 2014 and signing Rex Ryan that offseason, the Buffalo Bills, analysts said, were legitimate threats to win the Wild Card or potentially unseat the New England Patriots in the AFC East. Instead, the Bills regressed, finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs for the 16th straight year.
We’re only one year into the Ryan tenure in Buffalo, but you’ve got to wonder: Is he the right man to turn the franchise around?
“Boy, you know what? I think the one thing about Rex is he hasn’t learned his lesson,” Bills Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas told Damon Amendolara, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “After coming in and saying, ‘Yeah, they were fourth in the league in defense last year and they wanted to be No. 1. We’re striving to be No. 1’ – he put a bullseye on his back. People got excited about that and it didn’t happen for, what, the 16th year in a row the Buffalo Bills haven’t made the playoffs? When you bring a coach in like Rex Ryan, (he’s got to realize), ‘You know what? I can’t be saying stuff like I did in the past. I’ve got to really go out and prove that I’m worthy of still being a head coach in the National Football League.’
“So I think this year coming into it, you’re going to see a different Rex Ryan,” Thomas continued. “I know that’s going to be a shocker to a lot of different people around the country, but I think he’s learned his lesson. You have to perform on the field. When you talk as much as he did last year and the performance wasn’t there, a lot of people are going to doubt (whether he’s) the right coach for the Buffalo Bills. I think now that he’s into his second year, I expect him to go to the playoffs. But we’ll wait and see on that.”
The Bills haven’t won a playoff game since 1995 and haven’t made the playoffs since 1999. The city is starving for a taste of the postseason.
“It’s been 16 years – 16 years,” Thurman said in disbelief. “With free agency and with draft picks, it’s just not supposed to happen this way. This is a community that strives on guys going out, working hard (and being) blue-collar guys. And don’t get me wrong. I think all the guys that they had on the team in the past 16 years, those guys have been hard-working, but things have not fallen into place for them. Like (I’ve said) every year for the last 16 years: Maybe this year will be our year.”